Harley Davidson CEO asks investors for calm as sales, batch slide

MILWAUKEE • To Harley-Davidson Inc’s investors, a arch executive has a elementary summary – be studious with his plan to spin around a unemployment in direct for a iconic motorcycles.

In an talk with Reuters, Matt Levatich pronounced a association is not exploring a partnership with a opposition or a private equity buyout, as some investors have speculated.

Instead, Harley is spending millions of dollars on product expansion and offered efforts, including compelling a learn-to-ride academies during showrooms, where Harley-Davidson approved coaches yield roving and reserve lessons.

In January, a association announced it would close a Kansas City, Missouri, plant as partial of a cost-cutting pierce as it sells fewer of it iconic motorcycles. The pierce will meant 800 layoffs during a Kansas City facility, commencement midyear, and it will tighten by a third entertain of 2019.

Levatich pronounced a ridership module would renovate a motorcycle-maker into a “customer-creator.” But he does not have an answer when it will lapse Harley to sales expansion in a United States, a biggest market.

“Mindset shifts are not something that occur overnight,” he pronounced in a talk in his bureau during a company’s headquarter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “But that’s really many core to a 10-year plan for a company.”

However, scarcely 3 years into Levatich’s reign as Harley CEO, investors are removing restless. Harley’s batch has depressed over 23 percent given mid-March final year.

Since Levatich came to a helm, a shares are down 14 percent, and Harley is losing share in a disappearing marketplace for motorcycles in a United States.

Harley investors and executives have disturbed for years about what would occur in a destiny when a company’s clinging Baby Boomer got too aged to ride.

Now, Harley has reached that demographic cliff. The association final month projected shipments to dealers could thrust to their lowest spin in 8 years in 2018 after sales fell in each segment final year.

Go it alone

Falling sales have done Wall Street assume either a company, that symbolized a counterculture transformation of a 1960s, would find retreat in a buyout or spin private to redo a product lines and branding though a vigour from shareholders to defense a distinction margins.

Levatich, however, sees no choice to a stream tenure structure.

“The moment, however, we feel that a tenure structure of a company…is starting to foreordain a strategy, that’s a impulse to cruise either that tenure indication is a right model,” he said. “So, it is not a case. We are really transparent in a strategy.”

In 2017, a ridership module combined 32,000 new riders in a United States. Levatich sees it as a “positive” trend and wants to build on it.

More riders, however, do not indispensably meant aloft sales.

Bill Koester, a ubiquitous manager during a Harley dealership in Illinois, says usually 35 percent to 40 percent of a riders lerned during his dealership final year bought a new or pre-owned bike.

To woo a subsequent era of riders, final month Levatich denounced his large gamble on a tiny though flourishing marketplace for electric bikes.

Yet, a new record is still really costly and not as essential as automakers might have to scapegoat margins to attain in offered battery vehicles.

“There are some unsentimental problems with EV that still many automobile companies are also struggling with,” pronounced Levatich. “It is really expensive.”


Harley is still a widespread actor in a heavyweight motorcycle marketplace in a United States, though a marketplace share has usually depressed to 50.8 percent from 58 percent in 2013.

In a final entertain alone, a marketplace share shrunk by 2.6 commission points, forcing it to announce a closure of one of a 4 U.S. factories and 800 pursuit cuts.

Harley’s hurdles are in partial associated to demographic shifts bigger than a plan or products. Overall, new motorcycles sell sales in a United States have some-more than halved given 2006 as younger people evade large motorcycles, according to a Motorcycle Industry Council.

Harley has also stranded to a plan of safeguarding distinction margins and tying bonus offers, even as rivals such as Polaris Industries Inc are undercutting Harley prices to pierce bikes out of their showrooms.

Polaris enjoyed a 30 percent on year burst in North American sell sales in a final quarter, since Harley’s sales dived 10 percent.

Levatich attributed a anomalous opening to “math.”

“Growth percentages of a tiny bottom are easy to achieve. When we have a high bottom like ours, a small bit of decrease shows adult really quickly,” he said. “We are not going to bonus to boost a marketplace share.”

Analysts during RBC Capital Markets pronounced Harley’s diseased performances in a past have dented a credibility.

“We won’t sweeten it. HOG has a tough highway forward of them,” RBC Capital Markets said.

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