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Harley throttles into Cambodia

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Cambodia’s first Harley-Davidson dealership is under construction and will open later this year in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Harley throttles into Cambodia

Harley-davidson, the iconic and globally recognised US motorcycle manufacturer, will soon be roaring into Cambodia with the country’s first dealership set to open in the next few months.

Located across from the Phnom Penh International Airport, the Harley-Davidson dealership is expected to open this June, according to Steve Beattie, general manager of Harley-Davidson Phnom Penh. The franchise rights for Harley are owned by HGB Group, a local investment firm that already has a foothold in the Kingdom’s luxury motorcycle and automotive market.

Beattie was quick to note that the famous motorcycle line is more than just a brand name and has over the decades evolved to invoke a lifestyle among avid Harley-Davidson riders worldwide. He hopes that the showroom will act not only as a dealership but provide a place for riders and enthusiasts to gather before cruising on the Kingdom’s roads.

“The whole point with Harley-Davidson is that it is not purely motorcycle focused,” he said. “When you buy a Harley-Davidson, you then make it your own. You will spend time, thought and money on making that bike something that is very personal for you.”

Cambodia already has a few Harley-Davidson riders who are well acquainted with the brand and they will form the company’s core customer base, Beattie explained. The group will then primarily target the more affluent segment of the population who can afford the costs of high-end motorbikes and gear, he added.

“We are tapping into an existing market with the existing riders because they are our core customers,” he said. “They are the guys that have supported the brand in Cambodia despite not having a dealership, but obviously we also want to broaden that appeal and we want to encourage new customers.”

The dealership will be comprised of a shop offering a wide array of Harley-Davidson motorcycles as well as brand merchandise, accessories, spare parts, riding gear and a full-service mechanic that will be able to handle customisation demands.

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Beattie explained that for HGB, the growth of the Cambodian economy and the country’s growing middle class made the country an attractive market for high-end motorcycles, though it will take some time for a return on investment.

“We may be a little ahead of the curve but that is precisely where we want to be. We want to help create that iconic market that people buy into,” he said. “Once you hear a Harley-Davidson riding down the highway, you will want to know more.”

Lengchan Socheat, director of operations and research at market research firm TNS Cambodia, said he believed the Harley-Davidson brand was easily recognisable by foreigners living in the country but that local knowledge remained limited. He said HGB would need to offer a variety of differently priced models in order to create consumer demand and expand its market reach.

“[Cambodians] have limited awareness and knowledge of such customised products like Harley-Davidson and budget limitations are still a key barrier for them to buy high-end and luxury motorbikes,” he said.

“All in all, the demand size for such luxury and high-end motorbike has still not aggressively gone up so the brand should take a bit of time to educate the market and increase the awareness before gaining a market share.”

Sean Wong, founder and director of the official Phnom Penh Harley Owner Group (HOG) chapter, said there is a small but dedicated Harley-Davidson community in Cambodia, with only 10 members in the official chapter and several more in other motorcycle groups.

“Cambodia is such a small country but there is a passionate group of Harley-Davidson riders,” he said. “With the new dealership, we hope to have easy access to technical support, new models and new technology.”

Wong noted that in the past, some riders would need to ride to Vietnam or Thailand to service their bikes, adding that with the new location, Cambodia-based Harley owners can have access to the services in “our backyard”.

Tommy Christensen, who drove his Harley from Singapore to Cambodia and is a lifetime member of the global HOG group and vice president of the Cambodian Biker Club, estimated there were between 50 to 80 active Harley-Davidson riders in Cambodia. He added that there already is a demand for more Harley motorbikes, especially as the country’s infrastructure and roads improve.

“Harley-Davidson is a brand that people want,” he said.

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