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Posts Tagged ‘CEO Jochen Zeitz’

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)

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Santa Wish List

Santa wasn’t good to the motorcycle industry in 2020.  It was the sort of year at Harley-Davidson where every week, you’d say “what just happened?” Soft sales and even negative growth along with company shutdowns then longer term layoffs followed by strategic plan “walk-backs” and then the high profile dumping of a Tennessee motorcycle dealer over racist Black Lives Matter posts followed by an ever discriminating consumer to boot.

Speaking of feet, did you hear that having footwear industry expertise is the new turnaround skill set for executives at the motor company?

As the motor company executives sit virtually in the Zoom conference room and wonder what happened to the year, I can’t help but believe there are some major things on their Santa wish lists.

So, I’ve followed the science (parody alert!) and highlighted below what I think a few of the top executives want for Christmas:

JOCHEN ZEITZ, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Harley-Davidson: Santa, I “charged” up and shorted out ex-CEO Matt Levatich on that EV motorcycle, but I got the head honcho job with the industry’s most iconic motorcycle manufacturer.  Did you know they have a cult-like following similar to my favorite thing — a Scottish Bailey guitar?  And to think that I’ve never even been photographed riding a motorcycle. I can’t think of anything more to ask for. Oh wait – listen up Santa, please help that Pan American be our rock star and displace BMW R 1250 GS Adventure bike sales. Santa, I need your help to move the company from The Rewire, to The Hardwire and now with marijuana being legal in Madison, my new strategic plan will be called The Higher Wire. Santa, I’ve never been to the White House for dinner and I wrote a book about my transcendental awakening with a Benedictine monk.  It’s my turn!  Please let the spinner land on my name. Lastly, can you help people forget about that botched “Gone Girl” firing of Michelle Kumbier and the $660K departure gift?

JULIE ANDING, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer: Santa baby, it’s cold outside. It’s not a Christmas party. It’s a non-denominational Zoom holiday mixer. More inclusive. With my team of over 200 HR professionals (“I say H, and you say R”) streaming video around the world, I posted a fun memo about the decisions made at the company Zoom holiday party will have consequences that will haunt them for the rest of their professional lives. I’ve got doughnuts. I’ve got jelly and sprinkles, but not cronuts because they’re a bastard pastry.

AMY GIUFFRE, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer: Santa, please let 2021 be “If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t matter” — a.k.a. the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf school of bubbling optimism to distract the media and bloggers with superfluous BS so they ignore our fundamental problems. As the motor company leader of the world’s foremost authority on brand marketing please let my cutting edge hoo-ha marketers develop a comm’s strategy that will last longer than Aquaman in theaters!

JON BEKEFY, General Manager Brand Marketing: What the font?  Please Santa, I’m seeking stoke so, let the famously irreverent Enthusiast magazine right a wrong, while I write a song on the largest number of variable text sizes and drawing types ever used in a print magazine. We commissioned a student that designed a flyer for the H.S. prom to perform the magazine eye test. I’m a huge fan of Gliko Modern and Gliko Modern Condensed with Body copy set in Freight Text.  Oooh, so many fonts and so little time. I’m rather preoccupied with condensing the regular widths of every page and reducing The Enthusiast page count to a total of three on the next spread.  Is Santa seeking stoke?

BILL DAVIDSON, Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum: Hey Santa, I’m still working here and I bleed black and orange. Did you know I’m the son of William G. “Willie G.” Davidson? Just because the pandemic has closed the museum, I remain busy creating ways to bring light and meaningful impact to motorcycle enthusiasts.  In fact, I sketched a new color book that has cryptic clues, puzzles to solve, and you can uncover a mystery through an interactive story adventure in the museum gallery.  We’re doing this in collaboration with The Pabst Mansion and the Pabst Brewing Company. Pass me a cold one!

GINA GOETTER, Chief Financial Officer: Santa it’s not my fault.  The prepared foods at Tyson Foods taught me a lot. Please let me milk this “new in my job” for just a while longer.  What do they expect?  Miracles on Juneau Avenue!  Doesn’t it matter that I’ve been here less time than ZEITZ?   I do have a motorcycle endorsement.  And, my calculator is newer than Jonathan’s!

JAGDISH “J.A.G.” KRISHNAN, Chief Digital Officer: Santa, it’s all hands on deck. Open. Click. Buy. At Bose, I helped close 119 retail stores after digitization and all I want for Christmas is to be that invincible-gungho digital hero and repeat the success for Harley customers. I’m calling it The Wired Buyer plan. It’s no longer about taking care of every person who walks through our doors – whether that’s helping with a problem, giving expert advice, or just letting someone take a break and listen to a great rumble.  We’re going all in online and will digitize the entire customer experience. Now where are those IBM server rooms on Juneau Avenue.

JONATHAN ROOT, Senior Vice President, Harley-Davidson Financial Services: Santa, I’ve been busy creating forecasting models, assessing risk in investments and ensuring all accounting activities comply with regulations, but I need a new platinum edition HP 12C calculator.  The minus button on my current Texas Instruments model quit working.

PAUL J. KRAUSE, Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Compliance Officer: Santa, I’ll make this short and sweet.  Please tell us who is behind that NWHOG.com blog?!  We have an important legal document gift we wish to serve send over to the Northwest Harley Blog editor. By the way Santa, trespassing involves entering a chimney without consent, but by wishing for presents and sending letters we’re good to go on the legal front!

LUKE MANSFIELD, Vice President Motorcycle Management: I’m dreaming electric Santa. Think Serial Number 1! It’s a simple process that leads to a complex outcome, but I think I can optimize your gift delivery experience so you’ll be home for Christmas.  Sure you have the reindeer and elf idiosyncrasies, but consumer tastes are changing fast and they want those gifts immediately after they Open. Click. Buy.  Santa you need to adapt & disrupt.  By the way, we’re developing a new delicious lemon flavored drink for our motorcycle enthusiasts.  It’s called ‘Harley Harley‘ and will be a standalone new brand in the U.S.

BRYAN NIKETH, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Operations: Please make Indian Motorcycles go away like “Gone Girl” Michelle Kumbier.  We are tired of being embarrassed in our own backyard when it comes to American cruisers and we don’t want that company bragging about their superior performance anymore.  Santa, save the gifts for the laid off 70 employees in India because I’m flying over when the pandemic ends to discuss Harley’s continuing restructuring of the region. It’s the largest motorcycle market and the exit was hastily announced. Lastly Santa, can you find that blogger at the 105th Anniversary trying to take a photo during our plant tour. We ran his butt right out the building before he was able to take pictures of the lunch room, but the Six Sigma manufacturing team learned later we’re missing a crankshaft bolt.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the time when I can throw away my mask. Visiting all my family and sitting around the table sharing stories, eating good food and laughing together again.  And of course, getting on the motorcycle and riding across the U.S. at pandemic-free events!

Thank you for your readership during this past year. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes to you and yours in 2021.

Photo courtesy of the author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The COVID-19 Motorcycle Back Rider Barrier

Like most of us, I’m thoroughly sick and tired of the pandemic at this point!

The confusing and contradictory advice along with the arbitrary changes with mandates and shutdowns by government “experts” has created a lack of trust.  Are the decisions really based on evidence and rigorous analysis?

In a crisis like the pandemic, predictability and consistency in government policies are not only ideal, they’re a lifeline.

And, just as there was some semblance of normalcy returning in late August/September, after an impromptu ride to Glacier National Park and a few Starbucks coffee runs with the option of actually sitting INSIDE to enjoy a dark-roast brew…the long-predicted fall surge hits.

This time around it felt different.

Some people I know became sick, and as I write this post some are just now recovering from COVID, which is good news and very fortunate.

In the meantime, consideration of your feet is now a key requirement for Harley-Davidson. Especially for who’s in, who’s out, who’s promoted and who’s been hired at the motor company.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see this coming.

Harley-Davidson executives with footwear industry expertise — being the new turnaround vehicle of brand insight into what Harley’s customers truly need — and how to deliver it without previous motorcycle and/or riding experience.

So, what does Clarks, Croc’s and the world’s leading footwear manufacturer, Bata Group, have in common with Harley-Davidson motorcycles?

I’m referring to Serena Di Sarra, who recently joined Harley-Davidson as Director of Marketing, Asia Pacific and Latin America.  It’s likely coincident, surely not cronyism, that Harley-Davidson CEO Jochen Zeitz, who previously ran PUMA, a company that designs and manufactures athletic and casual footwear, awarded an executive marketing position to Di Sarra.

Given the various 2020 “x-Wire” strategic “walk-backs” at Harley-Davidson it leaves the impression that decision making is (has been?) wishy-washy. Similar to some of the arbitrary government pandemic mandates, constant changes to strategic directions at the motor-company could be symptomatic of a flaw in the process. Some of the walk-back examples are almost as pointless as the head-scratching motorcycle back rider “protective shield” — a motorcycle barrier adopted by the Philippine government that was mandated to fight off the spread of the pandemic.  Don’t get any ideas Gov. Kate Brown!

But, I’ve digressed

Once again I’m writing this post from a virtual lockdown situation, missing my family, friends, colleagues, and the events that didn’t or won’t happen this year.

We can all absorb the gut punch of a one-year interruption in our riding passion if it means coming out stronger on the other side — and I believe that will be the case. When riding events and rallies come back, they’ll return with an “unprecedented” sense of what had been lost and a greater appreciation of our riding relationships.

What gets a motorcyclist through a mask-wearing northwest pandemic winter?  Reading technical manuals, making a bucket ride list, repairing, upgrading and waxing your way out of discontent.

Photo courtesy of RAPPLER.com 

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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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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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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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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.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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