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TAKEAWAY: The Q4 2020 Harley-Davidson retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. — the company’s biggest market — fell for the 16th straight quarter!

FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE DETAILS: Yesterday, I posted that Harley-Davidson unveiled “The Hardwire” — a new 5-year strategic plan.  My snarky responses were largely based on what I viewed as the motor company ‘selling the news’ with a lack of granular detail or disclosure around a growth path forward. It was a brutal Q4’20 and full-year financial result. Followed by executive management’s murky 2021 outlook.  The street wasn’t happy and the result was a 17% drop in share price followed by another 2% today.

My blog post today will be on the fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 financial results with less commentary.

The Hardwire Highlights 

  • The Hardwire includes investing in the Touring and heavyweight Cruiser segment, expanding into untapped segments of Adventure Touring and creating a new division dedicated to electric motorcycles.
  • The motor company views Inclusive Stakeholder Management in the context of people, planet and profit, as all three are now embedded in the past and future success of the company.
  • The motorcycle maker plans to give stock grants to its employees, inspired by a program devised by KKR & Co Inc. executive Pete Stavros.

Q4 2020 Highlights

  • Reported fourth-quarter adjusted loss of 44 cents per share. A big miss and notable executive mismanagement of expectations as the street consensus estimate was for a profit at 24 cents.
  • The revenue decreased by 32% at $725 million compared to previous year.
  • The company suffered a net loss of $96 million compared to the previous year’s profit of $13 million.
  • The loss per share was 0.63 and the adjusted loss per share was $0.44.
  • Total revenues from the Motorcycle and Related products segment, which constitute the bulk of the firm’s overall revenues, plunged 39% year over year to $531 million in the reported quarter.
  • For Q4’20, Harley-Davidson retailed 33,925 motorcycle units globally, down 14.1% year over year. The company’s retail motorcycle units sold in the U.S. slid 14.5% from the year-ago quarter to 17,274. Sales in the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada and Latin America declined 2.2%, 9.6%, 30.2% and 50.9%, respectively, from the year-ago period.
  • Revenues for Parts & Accessories (P&A) were up 13.3% from the prior year to $146.4 million. However, revenues for General Merchandise (GM) — including Motor Clothes apparel and accessories — dropped 13% from the prior-year quarter to $49.7 million.
  • The selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) increased to $276.4 million from the $266.4 million compared to fourth-quarter 2019.

Full-Year 2020 Highlights

  • Consolidated revenues for 2020 came in at $4,054 million, declining 24% from the prior year’s $5,362 million. Moreover, the company’s adjusted earnings per share for the year came in at 77 cents, tanking 77% from the $3.36 per share reported in 2019.
  • The motor company streamlined the product portfolio, reducing the planned number of models by almost 30%.
  • Paid dividends of $0.44 per share for the full year
  • Re-set motorcycle model year launch timing to align with beginning of the year seasonality
  • Exited 39 markets to focus on the approximately 50 highest-potential markets
  • Reduced total dealer network by approximately 160 net global dealers in 2020

Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson summarized the financial call: “The entire Harley-Davidson team put forth tremendous effort in 2020 and we now have the right organization, structure and strategy in place to make step changes in our performance and enhance our position as the most desirable motorcycle brand in the world.”

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Harley-Davidson.  The author does not own or does the author plan to purchase and/or sell any $HOG stock.

Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Michelle Kumbier

When handled well, conflict resolution can save a company time and money and help maintain a healthy work environment. Unfortunately, conflict management at Harley-Davidson in the executive staff is imperfect, as they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to workplace disputes.

The latest example is Michelle Kumbier.  

In October 2017, Michelle Kumbier was appointed senior vice president and chief operating officer (COO) of Harley-Davidson Motor Co. with responsibility for overseeing the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer’s U.S. and international markets in addition to her current responsibilities leading product and operations. Previously, Kumbier served as senior vice president, Motor Company product and operations. In that role, she led a team of more than 4,500 employees worldwide to bring Harley-Davidson motorcycles, parts and accessories and general merchandise to market.

$HOG 10-Q Filing

Obviously she was a failure…  for the new Chief Executive Jochen Zeitz, and wouldn’t be part of getting the company on “a path to winning” —  the ‘scarcity strategy’ called ReWire — so, Kumbier departed Harley-Davidson on April 3, 2020.  In the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Harley-Davidson did not disclose a reason for her departure.

However, earlier his week, Harley-Davidson Inc. paid the former high-profile executive a settlement of $660,000 after she threatened litigation connected to unspecified events related to her departure, the company stated in a regulatory filing.  I’m not a workplace dispute solutionist, but the reason people sue is often not rooted in money as much as the person does not feel they are being treated fairly.

10-Q Filing Section 10.2

Kumbier, who had been a Harley-Davidson employee since 1997, and the company “have disputes over events that allegedly occurred relative to her resignation from the company,” the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer said in exhibit 10.2 included in its 10-Q quarterly financial report filed Nov. 5 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  

Harley-Davidson said it “has denied and continues to deny Kumbier’s allegations” and also denies that it has any liability to Kumbier on any of her “disputed claims.”

But, went ahead and paid her $660,000 for the general denial of those allegations.

The company will make a lump-sum payment to Kumbier after she signed the settlement agreement that was dated Aug. 14, 2020. The document also states that Kumbier acknowledged the settlement amount is more than she would otherwise be entitled to under the company’s normal policies and procedures and that Kumbier released the company, its executives and its board “from all claims, charges, demands, and liabilities of any kind.”  Kumbier also signed a noncompete clause that prohibits her from working for or consulting with a large list of Harley competitors or potential competitors.

It might be appropriate that Harley-Davidson devise a “conflict calculator” to augment their environmental profit-and-loss accounting method to put a figure on how much the company spends on conflict resolution and executive termination each year.

Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz Background

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Michelle Kumbier and US SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION — FORM 10-Q (November 5, 2020) Filing

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Good afternoon.

Election Day is a week away. There’s new evidence of water on the moon. Amy Coney Barrett is a Supreme Court justice, the fire hose of information continues to overwhelm even the most devout COVID-19 science junkies and Harley-Davidson shares soared 27% to $36.82 earlier in the day after reporting third-quarter net income of $120.2 million and post its best Q3 result since 2015.

A striking result after Harley-Davidson put a German environmentalist in charge and recorded a worldwide sales decline of 8%, which is the 15th consecutive quarterly decline.

Wall Street is reviving optimism about Harley’s future at a time when motorcycle sales are in decline. Talk about exaggerating your perspective.

Jochen Zeitz’s (CEO) “ReWire” (yes, a play on the LiveWire electric motorcycle) strategy cut 30% of the models in the lineup, exited 39 markets, eliminated 10% of its workforce including product teams developing new motorcycle models — were executed to manage down motorcycle volume and reduce its global presence due to low sales.  

The actions helped to stop discounting and drive dealership prices higher to MSRP in Q3.  It’s also a tacit acknowledgement that the motor company’s smaller scope and scale is the only way forward after multiple abandoned growth plans and over a decade long quest to appeal and reach new types of riders.

Abandoning affordable, youth-oriented motorcycles is a staggering reversal given Mr. Zeitz’s experience at Puma in connecting with the youth culture and claiming ownership of that generation in Europe. Remember “Puma chic” streetwear fashion?

Harley-Davidson Inc. is back!  Back, to making big, expensive motorcycles for its most devoted customers.

UPDATE: October 27 at 5:13PM PacificFull Disclosure: I don’t currently own or have plans to purchase HOG stock.

Photos courtesy of Bloomberg and Harley-Davidson

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In August 2016, Harley-Davidson agreed to pay a $12 million civil fine and stop selling engine “Pro Super Tuners” deemed illegal after-market devices that caused its motorcycles to emit too much pollution.  I previously posted about this topic HERE.

The motor company also agreed to spend about $3 million to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves to offset excess emissions from the sale of “tuners.”

It’s important to note that the EPA legal action had a significant chilling effect on the performance parts market at Harley-Davidson dealers and many other after-market manufactures.

As previously disclosed, the settlement resolved allegations with the EPA, that the company sold about 340,000 “tuners” enabling motorcycles since 2008 to pollute the air at levels greater than what the company certified. Harley-Davidson did not admit liability and has always maintained that it disagreed with the government, arguing that the tuners were designed and sold to be used in “competition only.”

Even though the settlement had not yet taken effect, a U.S. judge this week approved a revised settlement with Harley-Davidson and dropped the requirement that it spend $3 million to retrofit or replace wood-burning appliances with cleaner stoves to offset excess emissions.

Multiple environmental groups along with a group of 10 states sharply objected to the revised settlement by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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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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Some numbers to start your day and it’s not pretty.

The coronavirus pandemic, social unrest, and a scarred economy has created a tipping sentiment toward many jobs NOT coming back.

According to a Harley-Davidson press release, “The ReWire” strategy will now eliminate 700 positions globally of which 500 of the layoffs will occur this year. It will result in a $50 million restructuring charge in 2020, including $42 million in the second quarter. According to new Chief Executive Jochen Zeitz, getting the company on “a path to winning” also includes CFO John Olin leaving the company effective immediately.

Flashback – remember this abrupt CFO departure in 2009?

Some news outlets have reported Mr. Olin’s departure as a “retirement,” but color me skeptical since most retirements have a longer celebratory departure than immediately exit through the door. The current VP Treasurer, Darrell Thomas assumed duties as interim CFO until a successor is appointed.

I’m not sure why, but the CEO press release declaration of “a path to winning” reminded me of that time Charlie Sheen was winning HERE … maybe I just needed some humor?!

Harley-Davidson is not alone on the layoffs.  Below are just a few of the latest examples:

  • Macy’s announced it would lay off about 3,900 and shutter stores
  • AT&T will lay off 3,400 and shut down more than 250 stores.
  • Hilton Hotels announced it would lay off 2,100 corporate employees amounting to 22% of its corporate workforce.
  • Chevron announced it will cut 10% – 15% of its 45,000 global workforce.
  • Boeing announced it would lay off nearly 7,000 employees.
  • Uber announced it is cutting 3,700 jobs (14% of its workforce), then a month later announced they will cut 3,000 additional jobs and close 45 offices.
  • Airbnb announced it is laying off about 25% of its workforce, or 1,900 employees.
  • Virgin Atlantic (now part of Alaska Airlines) announced it would cut 3,150 jobs.
  • Hertz plans to lay off 10,000 employees.
  • Under Armour announced that it will lay off about 6,700 employees.
  • United Airlines will send layoff warnings to 36,000 employees — nearly half its U.S. staff.
  • ZipRecruiter laid off 443 employees.
  • GE announced it will be reducing approximately 10% of its aviation unit’s workforce, amounting to about 2,500 employees.
  • Cirque du Soleil announced it is laying off 95% of its 4,679 person staff.

You get the point.  Sadly, a lot of employees are expected to exit various organizations. In fact, since February, about 4.6 million Americans have stopped actively looking for work, and another 2.2 million are unemployed NOT on layoff.

And, then there are those companies that have taken an extremely tacky and classless route of laying off employees via Zoom.  Looking at you Bird, the electric scooter company, who laid off 30% of its staff via a 2-minute Zoom call.

Talk about a Nobel Prize-winning way to “Put a Bird on It” — From the “Portlandia” TV show.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson, Great Art and IMDb.

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Specifically, the motor company announced it will lay off approximately 90 employees at the York manufacturing plant and and 50 at the Tomahawk site in Wisconsin as part of an adjustment to its production volume.

The plant in Springettsbury Township just re-opened on May 20th as York County moved into Pennsylvania’s “yellow phase” of COVID-19 mitigation.

You might also recall that the motor company is pivoting from the “More Roads” plan to now focus efforts and energy to appeal to customers of premium-priced brands with limited availability.

I previously posted about this new success formula HERE.

Harley-Davidson has leveraged “scarcity” in the past. Underproduce motorcycles and limit distribution, which creates longer waits that in turn create an exclusivity mystique. Then up-sell consumers on the “premium-ness” motorcycle choice/brand.

As part of the new ‘scarcity strategy’ the company is adjusting its production volume (which to be fair, it routinely adjusts headcount), which will now result in a workforce reduction of York employees.

Previously, Harley-Davidson announced that it was reducing all non-essential spending and temporarily reducing salaries by 30 percent for executive leadership and 10 to 20 percent for most other salaried employees.

This reduction is nothing like the 2009 great recession when Keith Wendell cut the workforce by 2,700 hourly workers and 840 administrative employees.  Unless you are one of the laid off employees…then downsizing feels like cutting into “muscle” and is painful.

Laying off employees is difficult in normal times; but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic can magnify the tension and make coping with the turbulence very difficult. I hope Harley-Davidson makes the process equitable and those laid off have a soft landing.

Photo courtesy of Bradley Staffing Group.

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Sturgis City Council Release

The Sturgis City Council voted 8-1 last night to host the rally and announced today that the 80th Annual City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will move forward.

However, there will be significant changes designed to reduce the large crowd gatherings in the downtown core with the intent to “safeguard the community and residents.”

That there is a true definition of dichotomy.

The City Council decision, given most all other large outdoor events and indoor concerts around the U.S. have been canceled or rescheduled, is an interesting one. The annual rally will generate millions in revenues for the host city, but no mention of that trivia in the press release.

Buffalo Chip Email Blast

According to Sturgis Rally stats, in 2019 there were 490,000 rally visitors — at least 70 times the estimated 2019 population of Sturgis (6,500), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  In other words, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees in 2019 were the equivalent to half of the state of South Dakota’s estimated 2019 population of 884,659.

Read the full City Council release HERE.

A few items known as of today that will be implemented at the event:

  • Attendees will be asked to practice social distancing and follow CDC guidelines.
  • Enhanced safety/sanitization protocols will be carried out in the downtown area.
  • City sponsored events including opening ceremonies, parades, B1 Flyover, and live music at Harley-Davidson Rally Point are cancelled.
  • Photo towers will NOT be installed.
  • Temporary vendors will be required to abide by state and federal protocols and guidelines related to COVID-19.

I’m not trying to “COVID Shame” anyone thinking about or planning to attend the motorcycle rally.  But, remember a long, long time ago when the freedom of riding across the U.S. and attending a rally didn’t bring this type of risk?

Images courtesy of City Council and Buffalo Chip.

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According to an article by @bob_tita in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ – Paywall), Harley-Davidson plans to reopen its factories this week at lower production rates and stated it will be sending dealers an attenuated range of new motorcycles — meaning, time for a COVID-19 course correction.

You may recall that Harley’s U.S. assembly plants and most of its dealers closed in March as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Currently, as many of the company’s 698 U.S. dealers make plans to reopen, Harley’s director of product sales, Beth Truett, stated in a memo, which was viewed by the WSJ, that about 70% of them likely wouldn’t receive any additional new motorcycles in 2020.

The motor company is pivoting from the “More Roads” plan to now focus efforts and energy to appeal to customers of premium-priced brands with limited availability.

Speaking of availability… By definition, excellence is scarce.  Harley-Davidson has leveraged “scarcity” previously. Underproduce motorcycles and limit distribution, which creates long waiting lists that in turn create an exclusivity mystique. Will it work again?

And speaking of premium positioning…

Harley-Davidson Eau de Toilette – Example of brand dilution!

Price alone won’t make a brand premium and few companies can thrive on limited market coverage and low volumes by commanding premium prices in a particular niche.  One thing is sure: motorcycle customers are price-sensitive, even if they are ready to pay a premium price for a … Harley lifestyle.

This means Harley-Davidson has to be able to truly earn the added value.

Data supports what we already know to be true about premium brands: people with lots of money buy nice things. Whether you’re talking apparel (i.e. Phat Farm, Polo, Timberland and Tommy Hilfiger), Tequila, hand bags (i.e. Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada), restaurants or footwear, it’s easy to recognize the pattern that the nicest, most expensive brands are favored by consumers with the highest household income. What is less obvious, are the fewer instances when wealthy people opt for the less-expensive, or when average-income people make deep trade-offs to purchase really pricey things.  There are a whole lot more average-income people than there are excessively wealthy ones.

Strong brands have a strong identity. Mediocrity doesn’t captivate or win the motorcycle sales race. There is a rule of thumb that says that a company ought to be able to explain its brand identity in seven words, give or take a couple.

The clock is ticking Harley-Davidson!

So, what is it about “premium-ness” brands that are able to inspire consumers to say “no” to some things so they can say “yes” to a brand that’s often or slightly out of financial reach? That’s the Harley-Davidson opportunity.  Finding the nooks and crannies to up-sell consumers on “premium-ness” choices—especially a candy coated brand in the top tier of the motorcycle pack.

The Harley downside risk is the “Porsche Effect“… becoming known as an SUV manufacturer that also produces a few sports car models rather than the premier sports car brand that also makes SUVs.

I’d like to better understand how Harley-Davidson can retain a premium brand identity if combustion engines, once the top tier of American motorcycle engineering, are being replaced by e-motors (LiveWire) that can be built by almost anyone, and if motorcycles feel and act like smartphones that you no longer even have to own?  It’s likely that the V-Twin motors of the future will no longer be a distinguishing brand characteristic.

New competitors are knocking on the Milwaukee door and customers are better informed, have tougher requirements and are able to interactively rate and influence companies and their products.

In the end, what Harley-Davidson claims about it’s premium brand doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not consumers believe it enough to pay more for it.

Photos courtesy of Twitter Bob Tita/WSJ and Harley-Davidson.

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Jochen Zeitz with an electric Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle – Photo Credit: Joshua Kurpings

He saved Puma. Now he’s going to fix the Harley-Davidson global business!

I’m talking about Jochen Zeitz, the interim Harley-Davidson CEO.

The motor company today announced that Zeitz has been appointed President and CEO, effective immediately. You might recall that Zeitz assumed the role back in February when Harley-Davidson ditched CEO Matt Levatich for years of disappointing sales.

Before we ratchet up turnaround enthusiasm of new leadership, it might be good to peel back a layer on the mysterious Mr. Zeitz.  I’ve written a detailed background post HERE.

It’s been my experience that business leadership works much differently during a turnaround transformation.  Managers are less able to rely on practices that previously insulated them from criticism. In addition, a traditional consumer goods company is research driven, and don’t typically decide on action until research tells them to change – but the reality is that research doesn’t always tell you what the consumer wants.

Let’s check out some of the Zeitz FACTS:

  • Zeitz is on a combat mission to make the Harley-Davidson business sustainable in a way that improves both society and the natural environment, and that creates economic growth.
  • Zeitz was the driving force behind Harley’s sustainability efforts and approved former CEO Matt Levatich’s desire to “bet the farm” on electric motorcycles.
  • It took 8-years and the work of a thousand engineers to fully realize the LiveWire, the company’s first electric model, that finally went on sale at $30K.
  • Among the entire Harley-Davidson board of directors, there’s a total of ZERO years of motorcycle industry experience.  Coincidentally, ZERO is the top manufacturer of electric motorcycles for the street and dirt.
  • No public (via Google search) photo exist of Zeitz riding a motorcycle, attending a motorcycle rally or HOG event.
  • At Kering, Zeitz was known as the “sustainability Taliban” — Kering employees characterized him as impatient and demanding unrealistic standards.
  • Lack of gender equality on the Harley-Davidson board, yet Zeitz has been a board director and influential member since 2007.
  • Zeitz history of working with unions is murky.  In China workers don’t have the right to Freedom of Association and Asia remains Harley’s strongest sourcing region
  • Zeitz gets the gist of enlightenment after a dialogue with Benedictine monk Anselm Grün – yeah, yeah, you let go of attachments, dissolve your ego, and then you get enlightened and write a book.

Let’s gain some additional insight of the Zeitz thinking from his previous statements; “My belief is that every company has an opportunity to innovate by creating business solutions for services or products that significantly reduce your impact and create more demand for your product.”  “Well, unless you are an extracting business. In that case, you’re a dinosaur and you’re dying.”  The solution is to marry sustainability with growth. “It’s a question of what we grow and how we grow, and how we can reduce our impact significantly and still grow,” he went on to say, “We have to grow within planetary boundaries.

Planetary boundaries?  Huh?

I’m as green as the next fuel/air motorcycle enthusiast, but I had to do a deep dive on this one…  It seems the 11,700-year-long Holocene epoch (“Age of Man”) is the only state of the Earth System (ES) that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies. The planetary boundary (PB) concept, introduced in 2009, aimed to define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate.  The planetary boundary (PB) framework contributes to such a paradigm by providing a science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilize the Earth system (ES) at the planetary scale.

Whoa, this is heavy!

I would assume that in Harley-Davidson parlance and every day practice, this means that instead of making short-term profits that may incur costs later on (an obvious example being depleted resources leading to higher raw material prices, or social inequalities reducing at-work performances and purchasing power), businesses need to spread some of that growth to the wider world around them, for the sake of the planet – but also themselves.

Who would’ve thought… buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the sake of the planet!

Zeitz might actually be on a path similar to Alfred Ford.  Currently known as Ambarish Das, he is a great-grandson of Henry Ford and heir to the Ford Motor Company who has converted his earthly consciousness to helping build the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, which was largely funded by Ford’s $35M donation.

I don’t want to appear like I’m self-serving, but as you get gray hair in the beard you tend to focus the “More Roads” plan on which rides you are really trying to accomplish in life.  Maybe it’s time to published a memoir, meet-up in Alachua County, Florida and reflect in one of those “healing” pools.

I hope this transcendental awakening works out for Harley-Davidson.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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