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Posted on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 2:04 p.m.

American Harley-Davidson dealership in Ann Arbor closes due to falling sales

By Janet Miller

American Harley-Davidson dealership on Jackson Road, selling the iconic heavyweight motorcycles in Ann Arbor for nearly 25 years, has closed.

The store's operations have been consolidated into a sister location on Whitmore Lake Road near Brighton, a location visible from US-23.

harley pix.jpg

This note is taped to the door of the Ann Arbor store.


The weak economy proved just too much for Harley buyers, many of whom work in the hard-hit auto and other manufacturing industries, said George Delanuez, general manager of both the Ann Arbor and Brighton stores.

Sales at the Ann Arbor store have fallen 30 to 40 percent for each of the past two years, he said.

The store’s last day was Saturday, and equipment and merchandise from the Ann Arbor dealership was still being moved today to the Brighton store, located about 20 miles north.

The 20,000-square-foot building - located on Jackson Avenue, just east of Zeeb Road - will be placed on the market, Delanuez said.

The Ann Arbor store was the first in Michigan to follow Harley-Davidson corporate request to consolidate dealerships, Delanuez said. “There just aren’t the motorcycle sales for so many dealers.”

Unlike many other dealerships, Ann Arbor was in a position to merge with a relatively close sister store, Delanuez said. Both stores are owned by Charlie Stephenson, who lives in Tulsa, OK. Stephenson bought the Ann Arbor dealership four years ago. Nine of the 17 employees from the Ann Arbor dealership will be transferred to the Brighton store, Delanuez said. He said he is trying to secure jobs for the rest at other Harley dealerships around the state.

“Michigan Harley dealers are very close and work to help each other,” Delanuez said.

Harley-Davidson as a company has suffered from the economic downturn. Harley sales in the United States dropped 26 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to the company’s annual report. The company projected the number of motorcycles shipped in 2010 would fall another 5 to 10 percent. A production facility in York, PA was restructured and the number of test facilities was reduced from three to one in 2009, according to the report.

In the past two years, 50 Harley dealerships around the country have closed, Delanuez said, with another 50 headed for closing.



Sun, Aug 22, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

I knew this crap was going to happen. The owner is from out of state and has a brand new building in Brighton. I will not be going there anymore. I will ride down to Techumseh or Toledo for parts and service.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 11:58 a.m.

I don't see this as a 'American-Made' or a union issue, but just more of the same 'lack of money' issue. You can have all the branding you want, but without people spending money it will not matter. And there aren't many jobs in Ann Arbor (much less Michigan) that pay 30k or over. You want businesses to stay and flourish? Increase wages. People can't really spend the money they don't have anymore.


Thu, Aug 19, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

@ russellr, a lot of Honda motorcycles are actually built, here, in the US, just like all the Honda cars you see cruising the highways, so it stands to reason that the shop is closing because people can't afford to buy motorcycles, not that International companies are saturating the market with cheaper and higher quality products. Just saying...

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 9:52 a.m.

@stunhsif "You couldn't be more wrong, you obviously don't know motorcycles. As for Buick, it is selling like hotcakes having reinvented itself much like Harley has the past 10 years. Harley's sales are down because of the poor economy, period! Harley has a very diverse lineup with bikes from just under 10k to over 40k." Really? Where do I buy and HD made sport bike, sport touring bike, dual sport, standard, street fighter, commuter, enduro...? If you want a chromed up cruiser or a chromed up cruiser touring bike HD is one of the many options. If you want something else then just about every other bike maker makes something for everyone. How about engine and transmission options? Where's the HD inline 4 or inline 3 or a 600 or parallel 650 or V4? Compare their technology in engines and transmissions to BMW, Honda, Yamaha... HD is dated old and forgotten. Oh and their bikes are overweight and cannot lean. Police departments even moved to BMW because HD would not make an ABS bike. By the time they did the police fleets had moved on. HD is flatfooted and anchored by an aging demographic. They are on the life support of a customer base that choose them for fashion and buying 'merican.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 8:05 a.m.

@scotthadley, "HD as a motorcylce is dated" You couldn't be more wrong, you obviously don't know motorcycles. As for Buick, it is selling like hotcakes having reinvented itself much like Harley has the past 10 years. Harley's sales are down because of the poor economy, period! Harley has a very diverse lineup with bikes from just under 10k to over 40k.Buell never sold enough bikes in the USA to fill a parking lot,period! Buying Buell was probably the single dumbest thing Harley has ever done. Current customers are not killing the company, the economy is as well as their unions that won't allow part time workers. Harley will have no choice but to move production to the south or perhaps south of the border. As for Harley being "chuck full of foreign parts" I think you mean "chock full" that is rubbish. From what I have read about 12% of parts are imported ( brake components and electrical parts), while 100% of the bikes are assembled in WI and PA. Honda is moving all their motorcycle production out of Marysville OH to outside the USA.

Mike Nowak

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

Does anyone know what will happen to the the HOG chapter that was headquartered at the dealership?

Mike Nowak

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.

I'll miss Jesse and the other guys in the service center and the convenience of getting my bike serviced nearby. I have enjoyed their open houses too. I'm really sad to see them go.


Wed, Aug 18, 2010 : 3:52 a.m.

A few years ago, I heard that the owner's plan was to build a bigger/better store in Brighton (Lee Rd.?) and combine his two stores.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

russellr, I don't think it's a case of that 40 percent reduction in sales over the past two years going to a Japanese manufacturer, I'm pretty sure the buyers just dissapeared. Are you a government employee? I'm finding that government employees have no need to educate themselves on the economy because they lead sheltered and protected lives. Wolverine is right, as folks tighten their financial belts, they have to choose between their needs and their wants. Going out to eat less and buying cheaper prodcts. This is why Proctor and Gamble is having some issues keeping profit margins up. Stunhsif, I wonder how those union negotiations are going to work out. Private unions have been waking up to the reality of their jobs disappearing if they don't make some concessions, so let's hope the union leaders see the light for the sake of their members.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

HD's a chuck full of foreign parts like all "american made" vehicles. Stop kidding yourselves. HD as a motorcycle is dated. If you want a 25 year old bike go buy a new HD. Their attempt at domestic made sport bikes was killed by them. They sacrificed the better performing Buell to slow the sinking of the HD brand. They are the Oldsmobile or Buick of motorcycles. If they try to pick up a younger demographic they will alienate their current one. It's ironic that their current customers are helping to kill the brand.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Harley Davidson Corporate in in serious negotiations with their unions to get concessions to stay afloat. Most of their production facilities are in the state of WI with a few other in MO,OH and PA. Harley has told the unions they must concede on some work rules and allow for part time workers or they will have no choice but to move operations from the rust belt to the south or perhaps even to Mexico.Hopefully their union production workers will do the right thing as it is good to have Harley making all their bikes in the USA plus all their suppliers are in the USA.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 8:17 p.m.

Since the note taped to the door is too small and illegible in the photograph, some type of transcript of the note would be appreciated. The picture, with the caption "This note is taped to the door of the Ann Arbor store." does not tell us anything more than that there was a note taped to the door. Not helpful. Sad to see this business go, but glad to know they'll still be around up in Brighton!


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 5:45 p.m.

That's bad news. It seemed whenever I went by that place on Jackson Rd. on weekends, there were lots of riders and activity. I guess it didn't translate to sales. It makes me wonder whether motorcycle sales in general are trending downward. Probably in this part of the country, if people have to choose between owning both a car and and motorcycle, OR just a car, they're picking the latter. Harley-Davidson is still a powerful brandname - they sell a lot of accessories and logo merchandise. But, that's not enough to keep a dealership open.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Another sad story of people buying foreign made motorcycles. Harley is American made and the profits stay here. Harley is a great bike so all you Americans buy American to keep our people in jobs. That goes for Cars also. Where the profits stay here not going back to Japan or China. Wake up, your job could be next.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

I'm sad to see this business go, too. 25 years is quite significant. I enjoyed driving by the business in the spring/summer and seeing the get-togethers the business would host in their parking lot for motorcycle riders. Sometimes I was able to wait at the red light and enjoyed watching the beautiful bikes and the riders in their motorcycle attire. It looked like a fun group. Sorry to see this piece of Ann Arbor history end.


Tue, Aug 17, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.

This is really too bad. The people working in the service department are great. I'm sure a lot of people will be bummed about this. I hope the 8 employees who weren't offered jobs at the Brighton store can find jobs elsewhere. Sad day indeed.