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Concerns over ongoing restrictions forced the cancellation of the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally planned for July 9-12th 2021.

Organizers came to the decision due to the State of Oregon’s restrictions, and having no line-of-sight to a method of safely hosting this event while still being in compliance with the state’s guidelines. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, we are now working through the ramifications of this unfortunate situation.

I’m of the viewpoint that organizers likely made the decision that hosting an event for a few thousand people with mandated indoor/outdoor occupancy limits and social distancing requirements was too risky due to enforcement and liability issues. Additionally, the pandemic’s adverse impact on manufacturers and industry vendors has led to significant supply delays and shortages, which adds even more risk for small businesses.

Maybe in 2022…

Images courtesy of Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s real, and it’s spectacular. Fastest I’ve ever clicked “buy.”

Wait! Not so fast. What are you talking about Mac?

Today was historic. The original film starts out greeting thrillseekers, music lovers and conversationalists all across the frozen plains.

You had me at; “You’re here by the grace of your lineage.

But, I’ve wandered off the main trail.

Our “movie hero,” Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO Harley-Davidson, was an actor riding — yes, RIDING — an actual motorcycle.  That in of itself might be a first?!  There he was in the scenic landscape of Kenya, Africa no less.  Traveling to the vast wildlife preserves to lasso the FIRST twin Adventure Motorcycle and bring it back to Made in America!

Nothing to see here Buell owners.

The emotional exhaustion of this past year must have gripped Mr. Zeitz’ soul, as he peered out onto the Segera Retreat, where a herd of zebra graze, swishing their tails in unison to keep the flies away.  Where a long giraffe at the outer edges of the garden keeps him company as he ploughs through a lengthy to-do list waiting for the Milwaukee employees to wake up.

Today Mr. Zeitz must be just thrilled of simply being alive and to share his wisdom with the motorcycle adventure world.

At the film preview, Journalists cheered… remotely of course.  There were tears and applause, then more tears as the press fell apart during the historical Harley-Davidson Pan America launch today.  Harley-Davidson told a syrupy sympathetic story with dramatic musical overdubs on how the motor company always made off-road bikes. The film narrator described that this isn’t Harley’s first dirt rodeo. You might recall, that back in the 1960s and 70s, Harley offered a variety of small dual-sports, and even briefly got into the motocross game. Harley filled the gap in their lineup by purchasing the Italian motorcycle manufacturer Aermacchi. Not too long after, Harley gave up on the idea of small dirt bikes and sold Aermacchi, which eventually became the company we know today as Cagiva.

It’s fairly evident that the motorcycle press has become nothing but “exhausting love letters to consumerism.” I’ll save my cynicism as a more legitimate response to a product launch once I have a chance to fully review the stats vs. just post another emotional reaction.

We all know that Harley-Davidson is trying to break into the popular adventure motorcycle scene with the 2021 Pan America 1250 and Pan America 1250 Special. The motorcycle and dealer network will compete with some of Europe’s top players, including the BMW GS 1250, KTM 1290 Adventure, and the Ducati Multistrada V4. Harley-Davidson pricing begins at $17,319 for the base model and $19,999 for the Special. The models will arrive at Harley-Davidson dealerships in spring 2021.

For me, it was an immense privilege both physically and spiritually to witness the Pan America launch via film/video. #sarcasmalert

Image courtesy of YouTube: Harley-Davidson Original Film (25:45 minutes)

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H-D 21 Virtual Broadcast

The H-D 21 virtual broadcast was an all digital event to announce new 2021 motorcycles, parts and accessories.

The new model launch yesterday came less than a year after the motor company reported plans to streamline its product portfolio by 30% while overhauling its launch timing (historically every August) and go-to-market practices for maximum impact.

As soon as the media, dealers and consumers logged into the Harley-Davidson online portal, I knew this year’s product launch was going to be … different.

The event opened with a long video montage on the joys of the motorcycling experience.  I watched Jason Mamoa gush about his Harley family, or “Ohana” — you’ll remember him as Aquaman.

As someone who has served time in the trenches creating marketing campaigns, this was the traditional entertainer-as-a-promotional vehicle initiative.  The idealized figure introduced Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz who teased the audience with a number of motorcycles and projects that he apparently can’t speak about yet.

Huh?

As the motorcycle launch wore on, with a selection of motor company smooth-talking prognosticators from various departments sharing bits of information about updates to Cruiser, Touring and CVO models, the value of an all-virtual Harley-Davidson product roll-out actually became less clear. The new products, which we usually look forward to, felt less exciting. It’s hard to determine the viability of any product by watching a slick video about it in a browser. The discussions about the Harley-Davidson future of motorcycling felt less like revelatory conversations and more like a TED Talk that I’d scroll past in my Twitter feed.

For me the serendipity of discovery was gone. One of the most exciting parts of a product launch has been finding out about something or learning about something new through pure chance. At a virtual H-D 21, that’s a virtual impossibility.

Street Bob 114

But, I’ve digressed.

Cruiser Updates
Harley stated that the Street Bob 114 is the lightest Softail model to be equipped with the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. The legendary Fat Boy receives refreshed styling for 2021, getting brilliant chrome instead of satin chrome on the engine and exhaust, the front end, the rear fender struts and console.

Touring Models
The 2021 Touring lineup includes three baggers that feature the Milwaukee-Eight 114 motor: Road King Special, Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special. The Street Glide Special and Road Glide Special get new two-tone paint options, and a choice of a blacked-out or bright chrome styling treatment – a choice between dark and sinister, or brilliant and more traditional.

Fat Boy

Road King Special and Street Glide Special models get a new brilliant Daymaker LED headlamp. All Harley-Davidson Touring models that are equipped with the colour touchscreen Boom! Box GTS infotainment system that now have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The feature requires a wired connection to a smartphone rather than going through Bluetooth.

CVO Models
Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) motorcycles are the poster child for Harley-Davidson’s styling and performance. The Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin engine is exclusive to CVO models as standard equipment. For 2021, the CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide models receive all-new Harley-Davidson Audio provided through an exclusive partnership with Rockford Fosgate.

CVO Limited

The audio systems, featuring speakers and amplifiers, were designed specifically for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. These components will also be made available through Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories for 2014 and newer Touring models equipped with a Boom! Box infotainment unit.

The 2021 CVO models (CVO Street Glide, CVO Road Glide, CVO Limited and CVO Tri Glide) all feature new paint options and styling features. All four CVO models are also equipped with RDRS safety equipment, including Cornering Enhanced Electronic Linked Braking, Cornering Enhanced ABS, Cornering Enhanced Traction Control, Drag-Torque Slip Control, Vehicle Hold Control, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

Pan America 1250

Pan America Global Reveal
The upcoming and over exposed Pan America 1250 adventure tourer was previewed in the virtual launch broadcast, but the most important details weren’t provided as it’s official launch is set for February 22nd. Mark your calendar and register for the event HERE.

It will be interesting to compare how this virtual launch broadcast performs in attracting potential motorcycle buyers and if it will drive demand for products or make an emotional connection to the Harley-Davidson brand.

It’s been my experience that: “People don’t buy “what” you do, they buy “why” you do it.”  — Simon Sinek

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

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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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Abernathy’s Harley-Davidson of Union City Tennessee came under intense fire last week for racist posts allegedly made by owner Russell “Tootie” Abernathy II.

Racist posts allegedly made by owner Russell “Tootie” Abernathy II

Abernathy’s family has owned the multi-line (Harley, Honda, Polaris and Brunswick) dealership for 60 years. The dealer was founded in 1955 when Russell Abernathy’s grandfather, the late Clarence Abernathy, began working with Harley-Davidson motorcycles in his garage. In addition, Abernathy’s sold boat brands Lowe and Lund including the engine brand Mercury Marine.

Abernathy stated to the media and on the company website that his social media account was hacked by a disgruntled employee who tried to make him look bad.

Polaris, which is based in Minnesota where the tragic death of George Floyd occured, didn’t pause to determine the nature or extent of the hack and on June 17 stated that Abernathy had agreed to cede ownership of his store. “Should that transfer not occur, Polaris will terminate the relationship with the current ownership.

Honda Statement

Brunswick Corporation terminated their contract with Abernathy’s last week as well.

Honda is taking a more determined approach and investigating the situation before taking immediate action.

A week after the Polaris announcement, Harley-Davidson decided to also cut ties with Abernathy, statingThe dealer owner in question will no longer be part of our dealer network and we are finalizing details on the dealer owner’s exit.”  Before any determination of an employee hack occurred, Harley-Davidson experienced some derision history with Abernathy which didn’t help his “I was hacked” alibi.

Harley-Davidson Statement

Back in 2015, Abernathy was at odds with the motor company over the Confederate flag. The dealer posted on social media that “As of today, we have been informed Harley-Davidson will no longer let any Dealership sell any T-shirts with the Confederate Battle Flag on the back.”  This was an issue for the Tennessee dealer and they made some social media noise about not liking the decision.

We know that small businesses are reeling by COVID-19 and the shut down of the economy.  Then came the last 6-weeks of protests across the country and businesses need to be proactive with more meaningful action against racism.

Abernathy’s “Hack” Statement

Debate is okay, but there is zero tolerance for disparaging racial posts by any employee.

Harley-Davidson stated on Twitter that if you see someone who works for the motor company spreading hate, please call their Customer Care Team at 1-800-258-2464 (Monday through Friday; 8am-7pm CDT). Or you can write to Harley-Davidson Customer Care at 3700 W. Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53208.  Of course, social media is faster!

Next up for “Tootie” is a tell all book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running a Motorcycle Dealership!

Photos courtesy of Twitter, Honda, Harley-Davidson and Abernathy’s.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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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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I grow restless. I must go. I need a road trip. It is not just me.

The nation feels like it is pulling itself apart.

There’s the coronavirus and ongoing spread. Skyrocketing unemployment. Concern for our livelihood.  Will our employer bring us back to work. Then there is the color of justice and the ethnic disparities of the criminal justice system. Not to mention, the behavior of individuals that boil over into violence, looting, and riots.  I’m not trivializing the protests because people who participate in these types of events do so for a real reason.

Individually, each protester has logic, beliefs, and reasoning, but when a crowd becomes angered, tribal mentality often sets in and leads to a criminal mindset. It’s impossible to predict when a group will suddenly turn into a rioting horde. But, can we all agree that “protestors” shouldn’t destroy their communities?

I’ve digressed.

I’m itching to go for a long ride on the Harley. Clearly, these are frustrating times and a road trip is one of the last remaining fragments of the American dream. I cling to it like a splinter from the true cross. We may no longer be able to ride west to a land beyond fences but, for a little while longer at least, we remain mostly a nation without permanent, police roadblocks.  Although, I must admit that during the Laughlin River Run, the motorcycle road blocks set up by the Mojave County Sheriff in-and-out of Oatman really agitate me!

And, yet I still think about riding there. I don’t know why. Probably because I have already gone so many times. I recall the old days at the Flamingo, now the Aquarius, when there were patches everywhere from everywhere. The Hells Angels would put on a nightly show of bagger wheelies and motorcycle tricks for the riffraff. It was the PR classic image of the good ‘ol rowdy boys having fun. Now those good, old days are long gone. Everything changed after a “spontaneous” biker brawl between the Hells Angels and Mongols in 2002.

The old idea of freedom (to come and go as I please) seemed evident not long ago. I have yet to adjust to the many recent improvements in my country. I do not own a motorcycle with an electric plug and an estimated cruising range of 100 miles and doubt I ever will. I own a gasoline burning, American motorcycle that makes noise. As a result, I still think about the solitary desert Muse, two-lane black tops, cornfields and the vast landscape of 14,000 foot peaks.

The road trip has always been so essential and my personal restlessness has been boiling for a couple of months now.

Earlier in the year I was anxious to ride and it was all about calendar planning. I scribbled rallies and ride plans in boxes on a paper calendar. For several days I sat at my computer reviewing maps and motel locations with a calendar in one hand and my checkbook and a calculator in the other. My laptop browser had multiple travel sites open. When I started the planning process, I thought it would be as much fun planning the trip as going. It wasn’t and that was before traveling became a casualty of “The COVID.”

I am starved for rides this year and was aiming for Arizona Bike Week, Laughlin, Devils Highway (HOG), 80th Sturgis and Reno. I guess it is a good thing they cancelled Pendleton Bike Week and Hells Canyon or else I would be trying to fit that in, too.  To date, they’ve all been cancelled.

And it’s looking more like I might not need to be concerned about adding in the cost of the “World Famous Sirloin Tips” and a Budweiser at the Loud American Roadhouse on Main Street. The Sturgis City Council has prepared a set of protocols that will be used when making the decision to hold or cancel the 80th motorcycle rally.  They will assess the COVID situation again on June 15th and determine next steps.  I know that if I did go, I must return from Sturgis with a tee shirt and other crap I don’t need. Once I get there I can’t help myself.

There is freedom on the road. To point my front wheel towards the east, twist the throttle and leave the misleading news with click-bait headlines all behind. This year might be the year that a spontaneous day trip turns into a long distance solo motorcycle tour.

It’s time to see this great country!

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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#500 “First Strike” Edition LiveWire – United Way Auction

Harley-Davidson, in conjunction with Bonhams, is auctioning off a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle and donating the proceeds to the United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

The Milwaukee motor company has previously stepped up in times of crisis; it has contributed to both U.S. and international relief efforts consistently over the years, from support for 9/11 first responders to donations of motorcycles in the Haitian earthquake restructuring. Now with the current COVID-19 pandemic health crisis, H-D is chipping in to raise funds for this moment.

The motorcycle being auctioned is an exclusive version of Harley-Davidson’s electric machine, the LiveWire®, which is customized with a one-off paint scheme and unique graphics package.  This bike wears a full array of carbon fiber accessories including carbon fiber Speed Screen Blade, Tail Section Cowl, and Tank Trim. To mark the historical significance, the never-to-be-replicated motorcycle on auction is number 500 of the 500 “First Strike” edition LiveWire’s and will be signed by members of the Davidson family.

The motorcycle winning bidder and a guest will also be treated to a unique delivery experience and a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum, which includes all travel and accommodations to Milwaukee as well as a private, one-of-kind walk-through of the museum.

The auction started yesterday and is being held digitally by Bonhams to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, and will close on May 26 at 4:00pm (EDT).  Bidders can find more information about the auction and prize package at bonhams.com/LiveWire, which is available for participants from the United States.

Thank you Harley-Davidson!

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

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Q1’20 Harley-Davidson Retail Motorcycle Sales + Motorcycles and Related Products Segment Results

Let’s jump right to that impressive Q1’20 financial result:

  • Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) posted earnings of $69.7 million compared with $127.9 million in the same period a year ago.
  • The dividend was slashed to 2 cents a share from 38 cents.
  • The motor company is in talks with major U.S. banks to secure $1.3 billion in liquidity.
  • Harley’s U.S. retail sales were down 15.5% compared with the same period a year ago.
  • International retail sales were down 20.7% compared with 2019.
  • Harley’s U.S. heavyweight motorcycle market segment share was down 2.2 percentage points, to 48.9%.

Another quarter, another poor performance from Harley-Davidson, though the market seemed to buy into the promise that this time it will be able to turn things around.

Déjà vu…

Management promising to fix things again by “crafting strategy accelerants” to deliver improved sales and better returns.  However, it admitted that its efforts thus far haven’t worked and also said it was “refining” the plans it had already devised, but it wouldn’t reveal how it was going to achieve them until this summer. Granted the financial problems Harley-Davidson encountered this quarter aren’t necessarily all of its own making, though it hasn’t helped itself along the way.

It’s important to note that the Harley-Davidson trends in the U.S. have been weak for years despite the economy being strong for so long. That is a major problem and the acting Harley-Davidson CEO, Jochen Zeitz, remains vague on what the motorcycle company is going to do to change that dynamic.

The “ReWire” Board

The fact that management chose the term “ReWire”, emphasizing the electric future to describe their refining plans reads like a satirical article in The Onion.  It’s as if CEO, Jochen Zeitz said, “I’ve heard some concerns going around, and I want to impress upon each and every one of you that I’m taking every possible step to ensure that we tap into a market that has traditionally been neglected by motorcycle manufacturers, Harley-Davidson is announcing a new line of motorcycles designed specifically for men.”

The “ReWire” plan consists of five main points:

  • Enhance core strengths and better balance expansion into new spaces.
  • Prioritize markets that matter.
  • Reset product launches and product line-up for simplicity and maximum impact.
  • Build the Parts & Accessories and General Merchandise businesses to their full potential.
  • Adjust and align the organisational structure, cost structure and operating model to reduce complexity and drive efficiency, to set Harley-Davidson up for stability and success.

The ReWire playbook abandons some of the previously ratified “More Roads” plan, but there is so much “CEO Speak” — “designed to address top priority opportunities, drive consistent execution and reset the company’s operating model in order to reduce complexity, sharpen focus and increase the speed of decision making.” — in that investor call its difficult to know what exactly remains “committed” to or what will stop.

Little is certain these days, but there’s one sure thing: in a situation where 30+ million people were laid off or furloughed in the past 6-weeks, people are definitely thinking about their wallets.  And living with ever-present, crushing uncertainty and the knowledge that people all around us are dying isn’t the stimulus to rush out and purchase a new motorcycle.

Let us face facts.  It’s going to be a different world for a while. After all, temperature checks, touch-less payments, masks, wipes, take-out and distancing were not part of the Harley experience before the March closures.

If Harley-Davidson is about anything, it’s about bringing people together. Lots of them. And really, really close — with motorcycle rallies, music festivals, HOG events and all the cross country rides.  Looking at you Sturgis!

The whirlwind of 400,000+ motorcycle enthusiasts half-hearted adherence to CDC guidelines, while gathering all week in a number of local bars, and eating VEGAN-burgers could be viewed as a controlled experiment to determine the virus’s true incubation rate.

I have some gray in my hair and beard, something you will see in a majority of Harley enthusiasts.  I find the idea of a Harley specifically aimed at men deeply patronizing.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

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COVID-19 Cancels Business

Recall back on March 19, 2020,  Harley-Davidson announced the closure of most U.S. production until March 29th.

The facilities that temporarily ceased production were York Vehicle Operations in Pennsylvania, as well as two Wisconsin operations, including the powertrain operation.  The majority of its global production employees continue to be on temporary layoff.

Today, Harley-Davidson announced additional actions it is taking in response to impacts of COVID-19 on its business:

• Significantly reducing all non-essential spending
• Temporarily reducing salaries
– CEO and the Board of Directors will forgo salary/cash compensation
– 30 percent reduction for executive leadership
– 10 to 20 percent reduction for most other salaried employees in the U.S.
– No merit increases for 2020
• Implementing a hiring freeze

The press release stated that medical benefits remain intact for all global employees.  Outside of the U.S., the motor company will take similar actions as based on regulations governing each of its operating locations. Salary reductions will be reassessed at the end of the second quarter as the company continues to closely monitor business conditions.

Not included in this announcement was information related to dealerships.  To my knowledge few if any have suspended operations.  The mandates and closures of nonessential businesses, left the question of whether dealerships, sales rooms, or repair shops should be included as the various city, county and state rules have been ambiguous.

More background reading at:

H-D Executive Mass Exodus
H-D MIA with Coronavirus Response Ads
H-D Entrepreneur and New Mastermind

Photo courtesy of Instagram

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