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Jason Momoa (i.e. “Aquaman”) collaborates with Harley-Davidson

How often have we recently heard… “We continue to face challenges during these unprecedented times.” — Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz opening statement during the July 28, 2020 financial call.

I’m not a grammar nerd, but “unprecedented times” is a tiresome word.  Stop saying it Mr. Zeitz – and it’s also inaccurate!

We are not in an “unprecedented” time.

This isn’t the 1930’s Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. There’s been no dot-com bubble (i.e. Internet bubble) that was caused by excessive speculation in Internet-related companies in the late 1990s. It’s not the real estate bubble of 2008 and the follow-on market crash, recession and unemployment that was linked to the “subprime mortgage crisis.” There is no automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010 where declining automobile sales and scarce availability of credit led to General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford facing insolvency without major government intervention. It’s not the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans and the worldwide death toll was estimated at 100 million. One pandemic death is too much, but the COVID-19 deaths are currently nowhere close to that, thankfully.

Q2 2020 HOG Earnings Report

So, stop using these new most-hated sayings: “unprecedented” times, it’s the “new normal” and “we are in this together” mantra.

And, who’s the “we” here? The point is “we” are not all on the same team in this pandemic. Everyone is dealing with it in their own way. The restaurant employee who’s been unemployed for months isn’t in this together with a Fortune 500 CEO.  The nurse on the front-line treating pandemic patients isn’t in this with the marketing manager who can work from home.

It’s not “unprecedented” for me to rant about something while being largely sequestered at home for nearly five months. But it is what it is, I guess.

Back to the Q2’20 financial call… and some key comments made during the call:

  • The Harley-Davidson culture has suffered. The company has seen five consecutive restructuring’s every year in order to basically chase the downward trend in sales.
  • The Rewire” strategic vision is now being replaced by “The Hardwire.” (more on this at the bottom of the post)
  • Extending the 2020 model year through fall (historically launch was late August) and now new bikes will arrive in dealer showrooms early 2021.
  • Used motorcycle pricing increased about 6% throughout Q2, certainly, higher than Harley has seen in any previous quarter.
  • Harley continues to see strong potential in Adventure Touring and will launch Pan America globally in 2021.
  • Harley has streamlined the structure, which now requires approx 700 fewer positions and approximately 500 employees laid off.
  • H-D is not willing to sacrifice the strength of their legacy in a quest for pure volume growth going forward.
  • Increased recognition on the role of digital technology as a critical priority in the future for Harley-Davidson.
  • H-D will focus on roughly 50 primary markets that generate the vast majority of their retail sales and shipments.
  • Surprise!  Planning to add a Sustainability Officer to the team who will further H-D commitment to the planet and to society.
  • New brand building approach and social media campaign directed by “Aquaman” i.e. Jason Momoa (video of Mr. Momoa touring H-D Museum)

Q2’20 Numbers:

  • Harley-Davidson posted a loss of $0.60 per share for Q2’20
  • Worldwide retail sales of new motorcycles were down 26.6% versus prior year and Q2 revenue of $865 million was down 47% year over year.
  • U.S. retail sales in Q2’20 were down 26.7% versus prior year.
  • EMEA declined 29.8%, Asia Pacific was down 10.2%, and Latin America saw declines in Mexico and Brazil and finished the quarter down 51%.
  • U.S. market share of new bike registrations was 38.5%, down 8.1 percentage points
  • Motorcycle mix shifted from touring to cruising versus Q2’19, which reduced average motorcycle revenue per bike.
  • Credit losses were down due to lower delinquencies and lower repossessions helped by H-D offering of payment extensions to certain customers.
  • While Q2 results were again terrible, Harley-Davidson was still able to sell over 31,000 motorcycles in the U.S. during a global health crisis that closed off its retail stores.

During the financial call, Mr. Zeitz announced Harley will have yet another roadmap to follow: “The Hardwire,” the motor company’s third visionary plan in two years.

You might recall “The More Roads to Harley-Davidson” plan unveiled in July 2018 which stated the development of 100 new models over 10 years, giving more attention to international markets than in the U.S. market, and putting a much greater focus on electric vehicles.

That plan was largely abandoned earlier this year when then CEO Matt Levatich abruptly left the company and was replaced by chairman Zeitz. The “More Roads” was replaced by the vague and loosely defined “The Rewire” plan, which incorporated some of Levatich’s plan, but would instead focus more on key markets and products to drive the bike maker’s profitability and growth potential.

Now we can look forward to a new 5-year strategic plan; “The Hardwire,” which will be grounded in enhancing the desirability of Harley’s brand and protecting the value (i.e., keep pricing elevated) of the iconic products.” The Hardwire roadmap is expected to take over in the fourth quarter and serve as the strategic plan for the company to follow through 2025.

Photos courtesy of Asphalt & Rubber and Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Remember that outsider who kept Harley-Davidson on the road?

Keith E. Wandell (retired H-D CEO) grabbed the handlebars at the company in the heart of the economic crisis in 2009. Harley lost $55 million that year, as buying a motorcycle stopped being an option for many consumers.

Wandell made some big statements. “Don’t let Harley-Davidson become General Motors!” Look in a mirror, he told staff – Harley was already so far down that same path [as GM] “it wasn’t even funny.”

Wandell took bold action and made quick decisions to focused the company on doing what many say it does best: Making big, powerful, premium-priced cruisers.

Keith Wandell

Keep in mind, this was when the great recession and credit crisis sent shockwaves through Harley-Davidson. In less than one year, bike shipments dropped about 25 percent.

Wendell cut the workforce – at least 2,700 hourly workers and 840 administrative employees. The economy was in the tank, the motor company had a big union labor force and old manufacturing processes.  People were just churning and everything was upside down at the company.

Imagine…

I’m not talking about celebrities’ filming themselves singing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, from their multi-acre estates and whining about their COVID-19 pandemic isolation.  Never has disproportionate privilege been so apparent and I for one am really fed up with their self-serving need to be in the public spotlight with style-over-substance videos.

But, I digress…

Mark-Hans Richer

It is equally important to recall Wandell’s right-hand “stunt man” — you may remember him as that over-the-top marketing genius who had women screaming, grown men crying and Oprah jumping up and down, chanting: “Everybody gets a car!

I’m talking about Mark-Hans Richer, who was Sr. VP, Chief Marketing Officer at Harley-Davidson, prior to his 2015 departure. Granted, Richer is currently employed at Fortune Brands, but with the mass exodus at Harley-Davidson and salary decreases across the executive staff it’s plausible to pull him back into the H-D team.

Richer, generated the most bankable kind of publicity: controversy.  He made the difference between a motorcycle brand being a rock star versus more employees working in the rental lot.

He’s the charismatic dude that dropped a Dyna Super Glide on Pope Francis at the Vatican.  Then turned around at a press briefing and said, I would be really upset if you felt our strategy was about “meeting the nicest people on a Harley” because I can tell you that ain’t the strategy.  Later he pontificated that a Harley costs less than “another tattoo, a parking ticket, a gas station burrito, and a lip ring” in an appeal to what makes millennials tick.  In 2002, he helped the company get named Company of the Year by Forbes magazine.

110th Anniversary Celebration

In a university commencement speech, he stated: “Everything I ever learned from business, I learned from Willie the Wildcat stuffed animal,” a business he started right out of college.  Richer secured the first major worldwide sports sponsorship for Harley-Davidson at UFC and was instrumental in X-Games marketing.

No, I don’t have a man crush.

Richer was a key contributor of the “Ride Home” anniversary events.  Do you remember when returning to the mecca of motorcycling in Milwaukee was truly an EVENT i.e. the 110th Anniversary festivities featured 60 bands, including Aerosmith, Kid Rock and ZZ Top.  Remember that 3 ½-hour set by Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band at the 105th Anniversary?   How about when Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, committed a major sin on stage by cracking open a Coors in Miller Town?

100th Anniversary Celebration

There was the surprise headliner (Elton John) and outright disaster for the centennial anniversary. Musical highlights included Billy Idol, Kid Rock, Joan Jett, Poison, REO Speedwagon, the Doobie Brothers and Tim McGraw for the 100th anniversary so, people booing and walking out might have been overstated in the media.

Then came 2018 and time to celebrate 115 years of the open road.  Harley-Davidson CMO, Heather Malenshek tells the media the event is all about returning to its roots with a focus on the motorcycle, not the entertainment.  Huh?!  It was an unmitigated flop for entertainment.  She very quietly departs the company in October 2019.  Coincidence?

Indian is challenging Harley’s cash cow, the Road Glide.  BMW has market segment share in the ADV or “adventure motorcycle” sector and recently introduced the new R 18 touring, cruiser configuration to compete head-on with Harley-Davidson and Indian.  Rumors started circulating recently that Honda is introducing a new 1100 Rebel to compete directly with Harley-Davidson.

Pan American

Harley needs more than anything a fast start for a new model to become a breakout hit.  Is that the Pan American, ADV?

The ADV segment is crowded and entrenched with BMW, Honda, KTM, and newcomer Ducati, among others with decades, of dirt-tested refinement.  Harley doesn’t have the luxury of burning up stacks of cash on a another “vanity project.”

The Milwaukee motor company has a very narrow window to establish that hit. Gone are the days when a slow seller can be nurtured into a hit.  Here’s looking at you LiveWire and the “Field of Dreams” marketing of distressed or stigmatized merchandise!  I truly wonder if acting president and CEO Jochen Zeitz or Harley-Davidson management really understand why the LiveWire product is failing?

It’s logically time to recall Mr. Wandell and “CMO head-honcho,” Richer back from spending their days taking lunch at the Polo Lounge and crank up the H-D buzz machine.

What the media’s hourly drumbeat of “panic porn” on the COVID-19 trauma has shown us, cannot be unseen.  A motorcycle-less Los Angeles.  Coyotes wandering on the empty Golden Gate Bridge.  A quiet New York, where you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue.

We’re in it. Stores are closed. Restaurants are empty. Streets and multi-lane freeways are barren.  Body bags in tractor trailers.  The Oregon beach is an eerie ghost town.  The economy has collapsed and a devastated 22+ million Americans have lost their jobs in four weeks.  It’s a dark feeling of rust, rot and ruin.

Illegitimi non carborundum.” The Latin phrase loosely translates to, “Don’t let the [COVID] bastard get you down.”

Motorcycle enthusiasts are the ones who understand why dogs stick their heads out the window.  In the famous words of a previous H-D CEO, Jeffrey Bleustein, “We (Harley) have to pretend ten fiery demons are chasing us at all times,” and “make the right bikes, at the right time, and get them to the right place!

Let’s all take a deep breath and get ready for a potential Harley-Davidson tsunami. What is about to be unleashed will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again.  Every brand will come to our rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis.

The great American return to normal is coming and you won’t be able to ignore that deafening motorcycle exhaust noise.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Harley-Davidson and Wikipedia.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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New Year’s Eve is one of the largest global celebrations, marking the last day of the year and for this year marking the end of the decade.

Are you one of those? You know… the type who likes to argue that 2019 isn’t *really* the end of the decade. Because there is no year 0 in the Anno Domini system which our calendars are based on and the first year ever was year one (1) therefore, the first year of any and all subsequent decades is the one ending in one (1).

Merriam-Webster offers up that it’s defined by popular culture and common usage so, decades end after the 9 year and I’m holding steady with that definition to close out the decade!

Lets move off the Anno Domini system.

A new year is a naturally introspective time, it’s a renewal—starting with a clean slate so’s to speak. Most will consider the year’s past challenges, celebrate the year’s past accomplishments and look forward to the future. It often provides a time to set new goals. Maybe a new motorcycle adventure, new gear, a new project bike, set a new mileage goal, turn the motel miles in and really tent camp at the 80th Sturgis Rally or maybe you dream of a cross-country adventure on Harley’s new Pan America(ADV) motorcycle and resolve to ride the Trans-America Trail across the U.S. from coast to coast—off road!

I don’t typically make a New Year’s resolution, but I think if pushed for something in 2020, I am going do more of what I enjoy—ride more, learn something new with a wrench, and improve my riding. Then again, I resolve to ride more often than annually anyway.

Some of you are already aware of this, but for those who aren’t, Team Oregon has an outstanding rider training program for all skill sets. Check them out.

Happy New Year to you and yours! Lets ride into a happier year and watch out for yourselves and watch out for your brothers and sisters in the wind.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Pan America™

At the EICMA (Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori), motorsports show in Milan, Italy, earlier this week — Harley-Davidson debuted two new bikes.  Important to note is the difference in the terms “launch” vs. “debuted.”

The Milwaukee MoCo has aimed one of motorcycles at a market segment in which Harley-Davidson has never really participated.

It’s my view that Harley-Davison is slowly trying to build higher walls to keep “enemies” (competitors) from invasion. Marketing types call this “relevance” and “barriers to entry.”  Multiple financial reports from the company clearly indicate a struggle to fire up a new generation of riders.  The growing presence of electric vehicles is undeniable, but the premium-priced electric (LiveWire) motorcycle — is a non·start·er in terms of revenue!

And at the same time, there’s been an invading army (BMW, KTM, Triumph, Yamaha, Honda or Ducati counterparts) of adventure touring bikes (ADV).  Importantly, this segment is where customers seem particularly excited to buy new models year-after-year.  Even Italy’s floundering boutique bike builder, Moto Guzzi, has had to double the workforce in its Mandello del Lario plant to keep up with demand for the new V85 TT adventure bike ($12,990).  It’s simple.  A fresh new design, a fresh new motor, and a capable around town, comfortable on freeways and durable enough for off-road riding gets customers excited to put down money!

We could have a long-debate on why Harley-Davidson spent millions of R&D dollars much too early as part of their electrification strategy and if the mainstream motorcycle market is ready to encourage motorcyclists to switch to electric vehicles.

But, lets return to the point at hand.

The first new motorcycle is an adventure touring bike (ADV) called the Pan America™.  Astute readers are likely to have déjà vu as it looks very similar to the Pan America concept motorcycle teased out back in 2018.

The Pan America has a new liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine labeled the Revolution Max that displaces 1,250-cc and is reported to make 145 horsepower and more than 90 pound-feet of torque. Impressive stats, especially for the MoCo, which typically has built larger displacement engines with less power and more torque.  The new ADV motorcycle differs from traditional Harley models.  The first item, is exchanging the belt-style final drive for a chain drive that allows simpler gearing changes and improves on the ability to repair if something goes sideways on the trail.  The ADV also leverages a rear trellis-style subframe for strength and reduced weight, which allows motorcyclists to mount different types of adventure-isk luggage to it.

Other advancements include new radial monoblock four-piston caliper brake system developed in collaboration with Brembo and an inverted fork setup, which is common on ADV bikes.  From a styling perspective, you’ll either love the bird-beak nose and squinty cyclops-like headlight or not.

Harley-Davidson® Bronx™

The second new motorcycle is a middleweight class and called the Harley-Davidson® Bronx™. It’s reported to have a smaller 975-cc version of the Pan America’s Revolution Max engine and produces 115-horsepower and 70 lb.-ft. of torque.  Style wise, the Bronx looks somewhat cookie-cutter in this crowded “streetfighter” market segment.  From press photos the motorcycle appears to be belt-driven.  Both motorcycles will roll on new co-branded Michelin tires.

Harley-Davidson says that it’s aiming to have both the Pan America and the Bronx in showrooms by the end of 2020.

Huh?!  A year away?

I like the adventure touring bike (ADV) lineup, but if I was in the market to purchase, it’s unlikely that I’d stall buying for a year to purchase an unproven ADV motorcycle.  I also think it will be a mistake if the MoCo expects its Harley-Davidson name to garner an ultra-premium price in this new segment as it has in the EV market with the LiveWire.

The Pan American should launched and be in showrooms in March 2020, not “late” 2020.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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