Scot Harden Husqvarna Interview

February 24, 2010
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Scot Harden 

Scot Harden
Scot Harden
Born in California, 1956.
Inducted to Motorcycle Hall Of Fame in 2008
Factory off-road racer and management (1973-1986)
Sales and Marketing Manager/Head of Racing Department, Husqvarna North America (2008-Present).

Scot Harden is in a unique position. He first played a role in Husqvarna’s American success as a factory off-road racer before transitioning to the job of corporate businessman. From there he was painted into a corner and forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines as the company stumbled and fell. Although he removed himself from the debacle of the late 80’s he has recently reconnected with the brand, picking up where he left off and impacting its recent return to prominence.

Like many others, Harden was influenced by Husqvarna as a young man from the moment the credits rolled on the epic film, On Any Sunday. Pursuing his love affair with two wheels earned him a support ride in 1974 to race Husqvarna in the 250 division. He was promoted to the factory Baja squad in ’76 and picked up his first Baja 1000 victory the following year. From there he continued to rack up titles at the Baja 500, SCORE championships and eventually turned his attention to International Six Days Enduro from 1980-‘82. He used Husky equipment to score a silver medal in France, then gold in Italy and finally a bronze in Czechoslovakia as part of the highest-finishing American Trophy Team in ISDE history.

Using Blackwell as an example, Harden made a successful transition from racer to management in 1982 as a District Sales Manager. When Alberto and Daniela Carnelli were appointed to run the American operation in ‘86, they tapped Harden as National Sales Manager. During the time of the Cagiva takeover, Scot realized that major changes were bearing down. But, unlike his mentor, he refused to see the writing on the wall, doggedly going through the motions of moving the company and arranging the dealer meeting for the 1987 model launch. As it turned out, that dealer convention, held just outside the Los Angeles International Airport, proved a pivotal moment for Husqvarna in America.

“At that meeting there was a lot of tension because the dealers were all concerned about what was going to happen,” remembers Harden. “They (new Cagiva management) had already dismantled the company that they (dealers) knew and loved. Everybody loved Husqvarna – the way it was run, the management there… The Carnellis and Castiglionis turned all that upside down.

“That period was a pretty ugly period. It lasted four months for me and it was the worst four months of my life. There was a lot of dishonesty, a lot of lying about certain things that were going on. We were all so passionately committed to Husqvarna; it was all I ever wanted to do, to be a part of Husqvarna all my life.”

Scot, for one, had finally seen enough. Shortly after the Cagiva takeover, he quit – no severance, no bonus for 1987 bike sales, no prearranged job replacements – he quit.

“At a point in time, I realized that what they were asking me to say wasn’t true… and I just couldn’t,” he says. “It was a really rash, emotional response by me – something I learned a good lesson from because it put me in a bad spot for awhile… I was thinking with my heart more than my head at that point.”

Unlike his motocross counterparts  Scot Harden expanded the tradition of Husqvarnas desert racing dominance. With Harden back at the US helm  its no suprise that Husky is re-establishing a strong emphasis within the off-road community.
Unlike his motocross counterparts, Scot Harden expanded the tradition of Husqvarna’s desert racing dominance. With Harden back at the US helm, it’s no suprise that Husky is re-establishing a strong emphasis within the off-road community.

Scot spent the next two years living in Europe and racing rallies around the world along with Danny LaPorte before signing on with burgeoning KTM. After nearly 20 years with the Austrian brand, in what he describes as a tremendous experience, Scot was ready to rekindle his relationship with Husqvarna. Once BMW purchased Husqvarna he started working his way back into contact, hoping for the opportunity to guide the company back to prominence.

“I knew that when BMW did it, it was going to be a serious program and there was a real opportunity there. I just felt like it was something that I was supposed to do.”

Over the past year, Harden has been impressed by the soberness of BMW’s approach, noting that it does things on a level he hasn’t seen before in a lifetime of motorcycle industry experience. To him, that will ultimately be the concrete difference; citing product development, strong corporate leadership and a motivated dealer network (currently at 84 in the US) as the driving forces behind Husqvarna’s revival.

“BMW doesn’t do anything without a serious plan behind it, and BMW is one of the most financially solid companies in the world. It’s definitely in it for the long haul. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of challenges ahead of us, but I really like our chances.”