In the early 1980s, Raleigh had first refusal rights over any proposed Raleigh-labeled models Huffy tested... However, Huffy ended up importing all high-end frames and bikes from Raleigh UK for LBS sales because Raleigh did not want to alienate loyal LBS and customers with lower quality frames. Raleigh started its world-wide decline in sales in the early 1980s and found the USA market too cost competitive to effectively sell Raleighs - maybe Huffy would have better results... Huffy also had manufacturing and advertising cost concerns they only realized after the franchise agreement was signed that did not compel them to market high-end frames in the USA. Prehaps it is best said that Huffy knew how to sell to mass-merchants like K-Mart or Sears, but had no clue about selling to the LBS market in the early 1980s other than pushing low prices for complete bikes. Raleigh wanted to let a successful manufacturer such as Huffy build Raleigh USA market share and if necessary, Raleigh still controlled the brand name and could take it back to sales went extremely well or if sales went sour.
Some people thought Huffy to be a rookie to the high-end bike biz and believed that Raleigh International would show them more about the business. Raleigh International ended up gutting their early 1980s USA sales organization and to my knowledge, no one moved to Huffy to assist with marketing Raleigh in the USA. Prehaps a difference in Raleigh/Huffy corporate cultures did not mix well because Raleigh ended up providing little if any help to Huffy to market Raleigh bikes. Some claim that Raleigh never offered comprehensive marketing assistance, while others claimed that Huffy never asked for marketing help. Huffy ended up trying to "go it alone" to teach themselves about this segment of the consumer bicycle market with disappointing results. These are probably the reasons why you could not find LBS Raleigh bikes during your 80s California stay - Huffy did not effectively sell to the LBS and underestimated the sales impact.
Huffy soon found the higher quality frames were too expensive to make in quantity in the USA and tried experimenting with manufacturing in Asia. This is when "cro-mo" frames started to appear from Asia. Here, Huffy found mid-level frames could be made economically, but the anticipated return to to the early 70's road bike sales boom never materialized due in part to BMX popularity and Huffy's unwillingness to advertise the Raleigh brand name without Raleigh assistance. I always wondered if Raleigh International felt concerned that they were "feeding a monster" because a major USA bike producer such as Huffy was starting to encroach on Raleigh world-wide sales by manufacturing in Asia.
Regards, Steve Neago
I can understand why Raleigh would license its name to Huffy for increased profits, but wouldn't Raleigh suffer undue damage if Huffy started putting the Raleigh name on gas pipe, ugly trash? If Huffy wanted to break into the up-scale lightweight biz, then why not just invent a new upscale name and market under that. By the mid 80's, Raleigh was already starting to show signs of becoming insignificant in name recognition for those seeking a lightweight race machine, or even a trendy touring model. When I was looking for a new race bike in the early 80's, I rode everything I could in the many San Francisco stores, but I never even came across a single Raleigh model anything. There were Schwinn, Lotus, Centurion, Fuji, Sikai, Shogun, and Bianchi and others in the mid price group, and a handful of super bikes made by Japanese and Italian manufacturers, but no Raleigh shops on the scene. It seems by the mid early 80's a manufacturer needed a complete line of race bikes and touring bikes in all price steps. Huffy had only the worst reputation, and that's the price you pay for selling your wares to Sears and K-mart. At least Raleigh died a noble death, after a brave fight in the late 80's to be recognized for being a fine manufacturer. Many people even consider their current line of race bikes to be the best value around, I believe this just may be true for those looking for a great value on a 105 or Ultegra aluminum model. (OT final sentence) Garth Libre in Surfside Fl.