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Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) reported the third quarter 2019 financial results in a press release HERE.

Key indicators the motor company reported was revenue from motorcycle and related products fell 4.9% Y/Y to $1.07B in Q3.  Motorcycle shipments were down 5.8% to 45,387 and gross margin fell one point to 29.9% of sales.  The company stated it expects shipments of 38,500 to 43,500 motorcycles in Q4 and 212K to 217K for the full year.

In other interesting financial sound bites; Harley’s Q3 marketing spend was up over 30% with efforts on the LiveWire and LowRider S television spots running in major markets across the U.S.  International retail sales were up 2.7% driven by growth in both developed and emerging markets.  In addition, Harley-Davidson gained 2.2 percentage points of market share during the quarter within the Touring and Cruiser segments, which represents approximately 70% of the total 601cc plus industry.

In the attracting more people to riding and keeping riders riding space (i.e. the 2027 strategic imperative) — in Q3 the company gained deeper analysis and insights on why people engage, participate and disengage from riding.

Lets call it a “participation lifecycle!”

H-D Marketing and Brand Amplification

Harley-Davidson now has an acute focus on how to influence each customer at their buying decision points to build the total number of committed Harley-Davidson riders.  By 2027,  the company will expand to 4M total Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S., grow international business to 50% of annual HDMC revenue, launch 100 new high impact motorcycles and do so profitably and sustainably.  Lastly, Harley added Amplified Brand as a growth catalyst in the More Roads to Harley-Davidson’s growth plans.

For example Harley-Davidson refreshed their brand look at major events during Q3 including Sturgis, World Surf League and Spartan races and recently announced we will be the presenting sponsor at next summer’s hotly anticipated Hella Mega music experience tour featuring Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy.  The Hella Mega Tour being promoted by Harley-Davidson is the co-headlining tour of rock bands Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer. The tour was announced on September 10, 2019 and includes dates from March to August 2020.

Navigating Section 301 Tariff Process

You can’t have a finance report these days and not talk about TARIFFS!  The dizzying series of trade and tariff events over the last few months has pushed the trade war front and center into Harley-Davidson.  How to navigate the Section 301 Tariff process, prepare for any impact etc., is a challenge in of itself.  For the full year 2019, Harley-Davidson now expect impacts of recent EU and China tariffs to be approximately $105 million. This is a $5 million increase from prior expectations and is driven by an increase in Section 301 tariffs, which continue to shift with the breeze as part of global trade negotiations.

It appears that some developed nations will slip towards recession, and governments and companies keep hoping the signs of economic weakness in China would push all the parties to a “deal” table faster.  Harley-Davidson looks to continue mitigating the impact of tariff increases through tariff classification, tariff engineering, first sale, and other methods.  Some of which may have an impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs.
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Q3’19 Press Release:  HERE
Investor Slides:  HERE
Transcript of Q3’19 Financial Call:  HERE
More Roads Plan:  HERE
Hella Mega Tour:  HERE
Section 301 Tariffs:  HERE
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Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson
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All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson LiveWire

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle was officially unveiled in January 2019 at CES.  A lot of marketing hype surrounded the unveiling of the motorcycle with claims of it being the start of “a new focus for the brand that would inspire the next generation of riders.”

Then yesterday, Reuters broke the news that Harley-Davidson had stopped production and delivery (temporarily) of the LiveWire electric motorcycles, after discovering an issue related to the vehicle’s charging equipment. It was reported that the company discovered a “non-standard” condition during the final quality checks of LiveWire, which it already started shipping to dealers in late September.  There were glitches found in the product which has prompted additional testing and analysis.

Interestingly, Webster defines glitches “as a sudden, usually temporary malfunction or irregularity of equipment.”  A glitch like this is not something riders want in a $30,000 purchase!

The LiveWire motorcycle uses a Combined Charging System (CCS), which is a single connector pattern that offers enough space for a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, along with space for a two-pin DC connector allowing charging at up to 200 Amps.  As part of the announcement, the motor company informed current owners to NOT charge the motorcycles through standard home outlets and use only ChargePoint (direct-current stations) charging stations at authorized Harley dealerships to reload the battery.

Well isn’t that “a jolt” of inconvenience?!

For most riders, you’d like to start your day fully charged!  Meaning home charging is normally done at night while you eat, play with the kids, watch TV, and sleep!  There are two Harley-Davidson dealers in the Portland, Oregon metro area that have installed ChargePoint stations.  Finding an alternative direct-current charging station to reload the motorcycle battery on the way to work and then waiting for a couple hours is certainly not ideal.

Charge Locations – Portland, Or. Metro

There are couple of things to know about public charging: the 3 different levels of charging, the difference between connectors and the charging networks.  Riders can go directly to a dealer or try and locate charging stations using ChargeHub.

Knowing your motorcycle’s capabilities is very important and consult the dealer if not understood!

Public Chargers Levels:
Level 1 is the standard wall outlet of 120 volts. It is the slowest charge level and requires tens of hours to fully charge a 100% electric vehicle.
Level 2 is the typical EV plug found in homes and garages. Most public charging stations are level 2.
Level 3 chargers, also known as DCFC or DC Fast Chargers are the quickest way to charge a vehicle. Not every electric vehicle can charge at level 3 chargers.

In general, electric motorcycles are in a phase of adoption known as “the chasm,” (See: Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve) a gulf separating early adopters from the majority of consumers.  It’s a treacherous position in the life of new technology/products, and often determines their success or failure.  One could debate that Harley-Davidson is targeting a market that does not really exist: young, “green” and affluent first-time motorcyclists.

This unattractive “glitch” will be over soon enough, but it does little to promote value creation and owning a Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle.

UPDATE:  October 16, 2019 — An unidentified H-D source tells Forbes:  “This is an issue with the 120v [charging] system, which includes an on-board charger, so it could be a vendor issue with that charger, a wiring harness issue, etc. The point I’d make is that the QC [Quality Control] process worked…there’s an issue, it was discovered before the bikes were shipped to dealers and customers, and I assume it will be fixed.”

UPDATE: October 18, 2019 — TechCrunch reported that Harley-Davidson has resumed LiveWire production.  “After completing rigorous analysis this week, we have resumed LiveWire production and deliveries,” Harley-Davidson said in a comment emailed to TechCrunch. “Customers may continue riding their LiveWire motorcycle and are able to charge the motorcycle through all methods. Temporarily stopping LiveWire production allowed us to confirm that the non-standard condition identified on one motorcycle was a singular occurrence.”

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson and ChargeHub

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Customize It And Stand Out

According to Reuters, Harley-Davidson Inc. has laid off 40 employees in Milwaukee at their general merchandise division.

It’s not a large number of employees, but most unfortunate if your career “rug” was just pulled out from underneath you as someone impacted by this reorganization.

Important to note is that Harley-Davidson’s second quarter earnings report, released July 23, 2019 reported general merchandise sales of $64.6 million, a 5.8% decline from 2018. The company saw a 4.2% decline in the first half of 2019 from 2018 in general merchandise.  It’s also no secret that Harley-Davidson continues to see a decline in motorcycles sales in the U.S. and abroad as it works to adapt to changing clientele.

In the Reuters report the motor company stated the general merchandise division re-org was to manage it’s business with “focus and discipline.”  That statement reads like a quote from the Six Disciplines playbook.  Was the division previously an over-committed reactionary one with no focus and discipline?  That euphemistic “focus and discipline” term seems to be more about flattering management because at the end of the day it’s a “reduction in force,” which is an old school straightforward term.

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE

And speaking of general merchandise — have you noticed the significant up-tick of emails from Harley-Davidson corporate or your local dealer?  I follow Harley-Davidson on multiple channels to stay current on their events and product announcements and always get a number of emails, but I’ve seen a dramatic drum-beat increase over the last couple of months.

It’s starting to have a feel of desperation to survive and meet sales quotas.  Here are a couple recent examples:

Motorclothes, Last Chance to Save Up to 50%…
Harley-Davidson VISA…Reap The Rewards…
End of Summer Sale…
Customize It and Stand Out…
Finance Interest Rate Specials…
Schedule a test ride today…
The 2020 Models are here…
Ride into Fall sale…
Performance Workshop this weekend…

Why is email solicitation so popular?  Because it’s a free alternative to tele-marketing and direct-mail campaigns.  The cost of sending an email is minimal compared to the cost of printing and mailing paper and the email “opportunity” goes directly to your inbox for review.

I predict we’ll see more and more sales email as the motor company works even harder to capture and retain our interest.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson email blasts

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It could be the title of Harley-Davidson CEO, Matt Levatich’s memoir on his failed 2017 year while in charge of the Motor Company.

I happen to be riding with the HOG Lewis and Clark Expedition last week when Harley-Davidson announced their disappointing Q2’17 financial results and late to weigh in:

* Harley-Davidson net income dropped 7.7%. Sales in the U.S. were down 9.3% and 6.7% worldwide.

* Harley-Davidson now expects to ship 241,000 to 246,000 motorcycles to dealers worldwide in 2017, which is down approximately 6% to 8% from 2016.

* Harley-Davidson expects to ship 39,000 to 44,000 motorcycles in Q3’17, which is down approximately 10% to 20% from 2016.

* Approx 180 U.S. based manufacturing jobs will be cut in Menomonee Falls and Kansas City.  This in addition to the 118 workers who were axed back in April this year at the York plant as some positions were being shifted to Kansas City.

For those keeping track, this is a continuation of a three-year slide by the motor company.  However, during the call Mr. Levatich described what can only be called an “alternative reality” in hopes (I assume?) to reassure the financial markets and stated “we are going to build bikers first, add 2 million new Harley-Davidson riders and launch 100 brand new models during the next 10 years while growing the international business by 50%.

Huh?

I’m being a bit snarky here, but his statement appears either woefully naïve to the point of negligence or a continuance of marketing spin.  Proclaiming an unprecedented future result of this magnitude smells like stunningly wishful thinking at best or at worst plain lying.  For reasons I can’t explain, why would Mr. Levatich climb up on a high-wire without a net given such an overly-optimistic prediction?  Even with nearly 8-million Americans that are “sleeping license holders,” — those who have motorcycle riding credentials, but don’t own a bike — it doesn’t pencil and seems unobtainable.

I don’t know if the boardroom folks in Milwaukee read the NW Harley Blog on a regular basis and/or  hang on its every word.  But, we know the motor company has been continuously producing motorcycles for more than a century,  yet seemingly everyone on the internet with a keyboard thinks they can do it better.

And it’s a well-established fact that internet bloggers and commenters are geniuses. They definitely know how to run a business better than a company that has been constantly producing motorcycles through two world wars, the Great Depression, and roughly 20 U.S. recessions.

Sure the motor company needs our help and I’ve got some feedback and plenty of comments.  But, until the motor company calls me asking for it, I’ll look for Mr. Levatich’s memoir, which will certainly be “a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale on the world’s most iconic motorcycle brand.

Slightly modified book cover courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson CEO Meets POTUS

Earlier this year, the President met with Harley-Davidson exec’s and put a spotlight on the company in his address to Congress, yet there was no “Trump Bump” as the motor company reported earnings which included sharp declines in revenue and profit for the first quarter of the year.

Some of the key Q1’17 stats:
— $186.4 million in net income, or $1.05 per share, for the period ended March 26, down more than 25% from $250.5 million, or $1.36 a share, in the same period a year ago.
— Revenue was $1.5 billion, down from $1.75 billion in the first quarter of 2016.
— Motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.7% in the quarter compared with a year ago and International sales fell 1.8%
— Reported motorcycle shipments fell 14.7% to 70,831 in Q1
— Market share in the 601cc-plus segment was up to 51.3%.  Execs stated that the Victory liquidation helped market share.

Nothing screams Americana more than deep vehicle discounts and Harley-Davidson jumped head first into that pool by offering its dealers financial incentives to clear out the leftover 2016 motorcycles.  And in an unusual move the company has purposely constrained the supply of its 2017 hottest-selling new models, including bikes with the new Milwaukee Eight engine, leaving some customers waiting to conquer the open road.  All of this is happening with only 4-months until the 2018 model-year launch.

If you listened to the earnings call this week there was a lot of “feel good” expressions from management about the way the company is performing yet, there are tepid sales, a downbeat outlook, and consumer confidence numbers that don’t reflect spending behavior.  Clearly households worldwide are slow to embrace new motorcycles as a way to enjoy life.

According to Harley-Davidson this is the 9th year in a row (based on IHS Market New Registrations) for motorcycles with 601+cc where they were the number one seller of new on-road motorcycles in the U.S. on both their “outreach” and “core” customers.  “Outreach” is defined as four segments — young adults ages 18-34, women, African Americans and Hispanics.  “Core” is defined as Caucasian men aged 35-plus.

Harley-Davidson reported that more people than ever before are discovering motorcycles and claimed that they are dominating the motorcycle market as well as being recognized as the leader in addressing key demographics — women, younger riders, African Americans and Hispanics, however, the patterns of growth remain elusive.

So whats going on?

Let’s drill down:
— Press and media continue to push negative motorcycle narratives (motorcycle crashes, distracted driving, club violence (last years Waco example) etc.).
— Increased pricing on new motorcycles have pushed out the average length of ownership.  For example new autos reached 6.5 years in Q1 2015.
— In the northwest along with parts of California the wet weather has limited the number of days to ride in 2017.
— Increasing Insurance rates  — on auto, home and health care biting into the discretionary funding of a motorcycle hobby.
— Income growth has declined.
— Interest rates have increased (in past years people pulled $$ from their house to buy a “toy” and now there is no where else to pull $$).
— Fewer “Outreach” customers (aged 18-34) own vehicles or don’t drive as much, they UBER.
— Apathy of the motorcycle hobby/life style as a form of entertainment

All or some elements of this could be weighing down new motorcycle purchases.  But I’m an optimist, and Harley-Davidson has a 10-year strategy to train 2 million new U.S. riders, grow international business to 50% of sales (currently about 32%) and launch 100 new “high-impact” motorcycles.

As it turns out and according to this report, about 22% of all new motorcycle purchases come from first-time buyers. This figure has remained relatively stable since 2001.  It’s very likely some of those 2M new riders will buy a new “high-impact” Harley.

Photos courtesy of CNBC and Harley-Davidson

Full Disclosure:  I don’t currently hold or intend to hold any $HOG shares.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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BITW-HelmetAs I write this I’m reminded that I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain about this time last year after a long work week at an industry event and that every year in business is different.

A few years are easy, some are hard, and most are somewhere in between. Each year you face a different set of circumstances: changing economic, political, social and what’s cool in the billet industry.

We know from the Discovery Channel which scripted a mini-series project about the history of Harley-Davidson, that in the early years the company really struggled to survive. From month to month, they worked hard to keep from getting further behind and sinking further into debt.  There were the AMF years and then came the housing bubble.  Those of you who have tried or are establishing a little business of your own know that success is much harder than you envisioned it should be. Many folks think there must be “one big thing” they are missing that if discovered and remedied would turn things around and put them on the path to major prosperity.

Clearly, that isn’t the case, and over the course of a few startup years often you learn that rather than “one big thing,” there are many functions throughout the business that had to get established in good working order for the business to really succeed.

After 114 years, this still holds true for Harley-Davidson. There are no guarantees or shortcuts to success. There is only doing the hard work that needs to be done, doing it to the highest standards, and identifying the next area to establish or improve in order to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson rides and riders to control their destiny.

All of this became acute over the last week when Harley announced their Q4 and full-year 2016 financial results (HERE).

Words like “intense competition, flat market, soft sales, and earnings miss” ruled the day.

These are just words.  I’m of the viewpoint that how well any company performs is a key factor in how well they succeed compared to their competition.  Since we’re a few days before Super Bowl — a sports analogy is in order — how well a team executes ALL aspects of their game has everything to do with whether they win or lose.

Obviously taste in motorcycle brands, styles, or in paint schemes, is subjective. Some in the press have beaten down the overall market with reports that seem to indicate the riding “fad” has ended. Granted there’s been negative publicity with Polaris shutting down the Victory Motorcycle brand and overall motorcycle industry earnings not being great, but there are many very nice motorcycles being made, and WE the riding enthusiasts/public have lots of choices.

Why do I bring this up?

I’ve notice in my travels that many successful companies have a sense that they are masters of their own fate; their success is within their control. They know it’s a myriad of little things done well that add up to their success. And no matter what their size, they realize that a company always has the resources at hand to take their next step. Isn’t that really the “art” of it: to creatively employ existing resources to advance the ride, the employees and the company?

Most of us know the answer to a problem is rarely found outside the company; it usually comes from within.  I’m confident that Harley-Davidson will find the answers and simply function better as an organization.  I predict they will do a more thorough job of performing the functions a successful motorcycle company needs to and roll out compelling new products that will be industry hits.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.42.14 AMI’m a bit late getting this information out, but you can read the company press release HERE.

From my experience you know it’s going to be a long day when the financial perspective includes statements about how we’re in challenging times…  “Political, economic and cultural forces working against the confidence and security for people everywhere in the world” — whoa, roll the eerie and scary sound effects!

Here is a quick synopsis:

The Bad:

  • Worldwide sales for the quarter were down due to significant declines in the U.S. industry which was a surprise and far weaker than expected. Worldwide retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Q2 were down 1.9%.  U.S. retail sales were lower than expected on surprisingly weak industry results.  Q2 retail sales in the U.S. were down 5.2% versus prior year, behind weak U.S. industry sales.
  • U.S. retail inventory was up at the end of the second quarter.
  • Manufacturing expenses were higher than expected, driven by startup costs related to the implementation of a new ERP system in Kansas City, and costs associated with plant retooling.  In addition, plant efficiencies were lower than expected due to lower production given soft sales in Q2.  This is an overly simple statement because in reality it’s complex planning and execution, including numerous down days, inventory bridges and careful new model ramp plans.
  • The motor company stated they are taking steps to lower expected 2016 shipments which is largely due to continued pressure on industry growth in the U.S.  Third quarter shipments are expected to be approximately flat to down 9% versus 2015 third quarter.

The Good:

  • Revenue was up slightly.  Net income was $280.4 million on consolidated revenue of $1.86 billion compared to net income of $299.8 million on consolidated revenue of $1.82 billion in last year’s second quarter.
  • Q2 market share of 49.5% in the U.S., was up a strong 2.0 percentage points. The gains came in all segments, Touring, Cruisers and the Street/Sportster segment size of motorcycles. And it came from all seven sales regions in the U.S. The market share gains were over double the nearest competitor and came largely at the expense of Japanese competitors.
  • Retail sales in international markets were up in Q2 in all regions except Latin America (Brazil).
  • The company added six new international dealerships in the second quarter and has a goal to add 150+ international dealers over the next 4 years.

Given this current environment one could wonder if Harley-Davidson is positioned appropriately for the flat/declining industry which seemed to surprise them in Q2 — management states they are prepared.

Full Disclosure:  I have NO personal stock holdings in HOG or plans to procure any.

Some parts of the above text are attributable to the Seeking Alpha transcript on July 28, 2016.  Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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