There's no real shortage of dissenting opinions on motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HDI). The skeptics will tell you that this is a big-ticket item that is vulnerable to both market saturation and higher interest rates. Optimists will point out that buying companies with enduring brand value at good valuations is a long-term recipe for success.

And, to some extent at least, they may both be right, depending on the time frame you wish to use.

Certainly this wasn't a stellar quarter for Harley (though no one thought it would be). Revenue was up barely more than 3%, and operating income and net income were both up by basically similar amounts. There wasn't any particular margin strength to be seen, and EPS growth was largely a product of share buybacks.

Looking at the shipment and retail sales numbers, dealers continue to work through their inventories. Harley shipped only about 3.5% more bikes this quarter than last year, but the retail dealer network sold 10% more. Interestingly, the company experienced a retail inventory drawdown in the U.S. (where shipment growth was below retail sales growth), but the reverse overseas (where shipments were up almost 20% versus 17% sales growth).

Although Harley-Davidson sells a distinct and much-loved product, let's not pretend there is no competition. I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd only consider a Harley when buying a new bike, but there are many others who'll check out the offerings from Polaris (NYSE:PII), Honda (NYSE:HMC), BMW, and others before making a decision. Likewise, people won't pay just any price to get one -- interest rates and such do matter, even if motorcycles can be a more fuel-efficient mode of transportation.

So long as you believe that Harley-Davidson will be good for high single-digit growth for the next 10 years or so, the shares may well be cheap enough to buy. That, of course, also assumes that you're comfortable with the company's dealer/shipment management and financing activities. For while Harley-Davidson is no doubt one of the strongest brands in America, that doesn't give Fools an excuse to skimp on the due diligence before buying shares for themselves.

For more related Foolishness:

BMW is a recommendation of Motley Fool Stock Advisor , where Tom and David Gardner are always on the lookout for the market's best investments. Try it out for yourself -- it's free for 30 days .

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).