Harley-Davidson’s Paul de Jongh, Country Manager MENA, takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to chat with Beirutnightlife.com about Harley-Davidson, its expansion in the Middle East and more so Lebanon, as well as learn more about the passion that exist in every Harley-Davidson owner…
Let’s ride together…
Tell us about your experience as head of Harley Davidson, a brand that’s has now become a cultural phenomenon to society?
I am very proud and privileged to lead the Harley-Davidson team across MENA. It’s a wonderful company with a great history going back to 1903 and of course today the brand is known throughout the world. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with our Dealers and customers throughout the MENA region. Because the brand means so much to people on a personal level it is always exciting to hear of peoples’ experiences and their passionate views. I find that wherever you go in the world, if you turn up on a Harley-Davidson or even wearing a jacket or a T-shirt it gets people talking. I am not sure what other brand works that way?
More so with the Lebanese market/ Compare Lebanon’s love for Harley Davidson with others in the world and others in the Middle East.
The premium, distinctive Harley-Davidson experience is chiefly provided by our dealerships. We opened a dealership in Beirut last year and so far Marwan Tarraf (Owner and dealer principal) and his dedicated team have done a fantastic job. The camaraderie created by dealerships in the MENA region separates Harley-Davidson as a brand and Marwan and his team have done just that. Marwan and his team challenge themselves to find ways to “go even further” in their efforts to deliver a memorable customer experience. The people of Lebanon enjoy coming to this dealership and actively take part in their events and rides, and our experience point to Lebanon as being one of the best places in the world to enjoy the freedom of the open road. The dealership treats customers uniquely and truly lives up to the Harley Mission of fulfilling dreams. Our customers in Lebanon share the same passion as their Harley friends across the region. The brand has its roots in customisation and our customers in Lebanon share the same excitement as the rest of the region regarding the possibilities of customization; and this is complimented by Marwan and his team’s dedication to help people turn their motorcycle into an artistic self expression.
Tell us about HOG. What is it and what does it represents.
HOG the Harley Owners Group is the official enthusiasts group for owners of Harley Davidson motorcycles. To be a HOG member declares that you have a passion to take the relationship with the brand a little bit further. Everyone who buys a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle is automatically enrolled in one years free membership of HOG, after this you choose whether you wish to renew or not. HOG members are our most passionate and loyal customers. You can sometimes identify HOG members at rallies and events because of the distinctive patches they would sew into their jackets, although you don’t have to wear a patch to be a member. As well as general membership of HOG each Dealership operates their own HOG Chapter. Chapters organise group rides and events affiliated around the Dealership and often travel away together as a group. At our rallies and events no one has a better time than the Chapter Groups! We have a very strong HOG chapter in Lebanon and they host world class events where people can enjoy the camaraderie and brotherhood that the brand delivers. Every dealership invests in training programs for their respective HOG chapters with regard to road safety and all chapters have safety officers.
We heard you are trying to have Lebanon enter the Guinness Book of world records. What does this entail exactly.
Our dealer in Lebanon have researched the world’s largest rolling rally on motorcycles and found that The Lebanon HOG tour is the largest of its kind worldwide. There’s a lot of stationed rallies around the world that host numbers reaching several hundred thousand bikes, but that’s all stationed in one location. There are also motorcycle parades that count over 50,000 bikes, but they all run in a parade mode and last a few hours max. A rolling rally is when you take a number of bikers on travel for more than one day and you stay in different locations throughout the trip. The GWR organization does not have a category for such events, so our dealer is trying to have the Lebanon HOG tour be listed as the “World’s Largest Motorcycle rolling rally”. The tour had over 300 participants last year; they all traveled across Lebanon on their bikes in one chunk over 3 days.
Today, many brands try to compete with Harley Davidson. What deffreciates you from others?
Authenticity. 108 years of history. A customisation catalogue of 815 pages. The look, the sound, and the feel of a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. Instantly becoming part of the biggest group of friends in the world. And beyond this; our dealerships – I believe we have the best Dealers network in the automotive / leisure industry and the customer experiences through our events, rallies and tours are what really give us a unique and differentiated position
What should we look out for this summer?
Look out for bikers! Take care when you are driving of those on two wheels. Our newest bikes in the Dealers are the 1200 Custom and the Blackline. These were launched this Spring so take a look. Also take a look at our seasonal clothing collection. In July we have our worldwide Summer Dealer meeting where we will preview the 2012 model bikes, but I am afraid I can’t tell you anything more about those at the moment – you’ll have to wait and see!