What Harley Davidson has Learned from Open Source (I Think)

Progress is inevitable. Change is constant. Yadda yadda yadda…

I keep telling myself these trite proverbial cliches to keep my spirits up after selling off one of my babies – my 40 year old British wonder – a beautiful 1969 Triumph motorcycle. She just wasn’t being given the attention she needed, given my other bikes, and she has gone to a better home (I sound like I’m telling my kid a BS story about their dog being sent to a farm).

Anyway, moments after seeing my baby ride away in the back of someone else’s truck, I began looking for a new candidate to take its place. So, I quickly found myself checking out the 2009 Harley Davidsons – since a new bike with low maintenance was the anti-thesis of my 40-year old oil-leaking, cable snapping labor of love.

On the site I saw a cool bike I think I might check out, but more interesting was a new program Harley is promoting. They call it the Ride Free program. Essentially, you buy a low-end model Harley, and in 12 months if you want to trade up, you get the original price for the bike in trade-in value.

Now, this is obviously more economy-driven than anything else. But anyone who has ever traded in a vehicle at a dealer knows that getting anything even remotely close to MSRP is unheard of.

In a way, this one year test drive is a lot like commercial open source. Harley is putting itself out there – for little investment by the end-user (they have lots of zero-down options) – and looking to prove its value to the consumer. Open source does the same thing.

Like we have always said, commercial open source is a lot about the commercial as well as the open source. But by doing well, while also doing good, you do two things. You can help forge a more value-driven commerce model, and also keep the economy moving in the right direction.

I think we will continue to see more of the freemium and open-source derived manufacturing and marketing models, spurred on by the economy, but sticking around long after because they simply make sense.