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Posts Tagged ‘131 cubic inch’

The motor company gets beat down by critics for lack of technology advancements and then they’re pummeled on social media by customers every time they sway off from tradition.

In this category, the rock and hard place are A) the need for change and B) the danger of following the buzz.  And, in an increasingly social media driven world it is easy, and tempting, to mistake the buzz and savvy social pundits for a real business opportunity.

Simultaneously, the Wall Street view of Harley-Davidson’s move into electric motorcycles being an enduring trend will likely come up dry.  Then the industry analysts believe the U.S. motorcycle market is in terminal decline and are not influenced by a “fun appliance” and the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan.

But, for many riding enthusiasts, the motor company has introduced so many changes over the last few years its difficult to know where to start.  I’m not talking paint colors, rather engineering developments, i.e. water-cooled engines, Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS,  Reflex Defensive Rider System (RDRS), subscription-based cellular connectivity, advanced electronics with Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition (microphone/headphone fitted to the rider’s helmet), text to speech technology, sophisticated GPS navigation system, wind tunnel designs to reduce head buffeting, LED lights, revised manufacturing processes, 131 cubic inch Screamin’ Eagle® Crate Motor and the first great-looking electric motorcycle (LiveWire) along with a large number of smaller updates.

The list goes on and on….

Other than the fact that the motorcycles are not inexpensive and in several instances most everyone would consider as very expensive, there’s not much else really to grumble about.

Yet, Harley-Davidson stated yesterday in the Q4 2019 and year-end financial report that its motorcycle sales slipped again!  Despite multiple new models, electrification, expanded overseas operations and Brand strategies to resuscitate demand.

The 4th quarter 2019 net income was $13.5 million on consolidated revenue of $1.07 billion versus net income of $0.5 million on consolidated revenue of $1.15 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018.  That brought full-year 2019 revenue to $5.36 billion, compared with $5.72 billion in 2018.  For 2019, earnings were $2.68 a share, compared with $3.19 in 2018. Adjusted earnings for 2019 were $3.36 a share, down from $3.78.  Harley-Davidson sold 7% fewer units in Q4’19 than a year earlier. The U.S. dealers which account for half of worldwide Harley sales, saw their retail sales fall 3%.

CEO Matt Levatich tried to curb the narrative numbers skid (12th consecutive quarter of U.S. retail sales decline!) in the company’s announcement, saying, “Our performance in Q4 and the full year was in line with our expectations and indicative of increased business stability.”

I am reminded that in matters of business, it’s often the case that the most vehement of corporate assertions are at 180 degrees to inconvenient facts.

The freedom of the open road is all very well, but remaining in the marketplace and growing is key. The motor company should avoid “stooping to compete” with the rest of motorcycling (i.e. chasing buzz).  Harley is iconic because, instead of treating motorcycles as a commodity, it recognizes them as a basis for a lifestyle and a shared set of attitudes

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

UPDATE: January 30, 2020 — added: 12th consecutive quarter of U.S. sales decline.

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