Vaughn Beals honored for turning around Harley Davidson

By Curtis Riggs | October 8, 2008

CAREFREE – Vaughn Beals will be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame later this week. An insightful executive, Beals will be recognized for his role in turning around the Harley Davidson motorcycle company in the 1970s and 80s.

Vaugh BealsBeals, who has lived in Carefree with his wife Eleanore since the early 1990s, led the leveraged buyout of Harley Davidson from former owner AMF. He served as Chief Executive Officer of the Milwaukee-based company from 1981 to 1989, and was chairman of the board of Harley Davidson from 1981 to 1996.

The Motorcycle Hall of Fame is located in Pickering, Ohio. Hall of Fame Executive Director Mark Mederski said “the people behind the machines” will tell their stories at the induction ceremony taking place on Saturday, Oct. 11. He called Beals “a strong character.”

When he was in charge of the company, Beals remembers Harley Davidson’s main competition was the Indian Motorcycle Company and the Japanese “who started out making small motorcycles, but they kept getting bigger and bigger.”

The investment in Harley Davidson for Beals and his partners was around $70 million by the time they started to turn the company around. When he retired in 1988, Harley Davidson did $400 million in business annually. Harley Davidson now manufactures about 300,000 motorcycles a year.

He calls the turnaround of the company “unbelievable.”

“Not only did we achieve all our goals, we met them faster than we expected,” he said while adding he’ll be proud to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. “It took a lot of effort to turn Harley Davidson around.”

He feels the pride in his accomplishments every time he sees weekend Harley riders go through Carefree.

“It makes you feel good,” he said about being reminded of his success. He will be even prouder when he receives the Hall of Fame membership before many of his friends and family on Saturday night.

“Nothing makes you happier when you have devoted a significant part of your life to something to be honored for it,” he commented about what the Hall of Fame distinction will mean to him.

Photo caption: Longtime Carefree resident Vaughn Beals has received many national honors for his role in turning around the Harley Davidson motorcycle company. He will be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Photo by Curtis Riggs