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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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Oregon Scenic Byways

You might have an image in your mind of what motorcycle riding through Oregon is like, and the truth is, it’s a compilation of adventures. The landscapes are incredibly varied from Martian-like vistas in the driest place to ecosystems with a staggering array of flora, fauna and fungi.

America’s Byways® is an umbrella term used for a collection of 150 diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The road designation is typically based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities.  They are considered gateways to adventures where no two experiences are the same.

Oregon is fortunate to have 10 incredible roads as part of America’s Scenic Byways and whether a maiden voyage or seasoned adventurer, you can see a lot of Oregon from behind the handlebars.

Below are snapshots of each Oregon Byway:

Cascades Lakes

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway — 66.0 mi
This byway cuts a path through the mountains, lakes, and forests of central Oregon. Volcanism and glaciation formed more than 150 lakes for which the region is well known. See outstanding examples of lava flows, alpine lakes, and meadows. Cross paths taken by such historic figures as Kit Carson.

 

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway — 218.4 mi
Journey from river’s edge to mountain top and down to valley floor. Savor panoramic views of rugged basalt cliffs and fertile fields, rimmed by snow-tipped peaks. Tour foundries, galleries, and museums. Touch the weathered track of the historic Oregon Trail. Watch the majestic Snake River tumble through North America’s deepest canyon.

 

Columbia River

Historic Columbia River Highway — 70.0 mi
Travel to magnificent overlooks that provide views of the Columbia River and waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls. Springtime has magnificent wildflower displays, including many endemic plants. The Columbia River formed the last leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and was part of the early route of the Oregon Trail.

 

McKenzie Pass

McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway — 82.0 mi
Experience dramatic views of the snow capped High Cascade Peaks. The panorama of lava fields and six Cascade peaks is made more striking by the contrast between the black lava and white snow. The mountains are mirrored in crystal-clear lakes, and the byway passes beautiful waterfalls, including Sahalie and Koosah Falls.

 

Mt Hood

Mt. Hood Scenic Byway — 105.0 mi
On this byway, volcanoes once erupted and mammoth floods scoured deep gorges. Discover geologic wonders, waterfalls, temperate rain forests and wild rivers. Explore pastoral valleys with farm-fresh produce. Experience the formidable last leg of the Oregon Trail, the Barlow Road. Enjoy this bountiful wonderland that the pioneers called “paradise.”

 

Outback

Outback Scenic Byway — 170.0 mi
“Outback” refers to land with a natural ruggedness. Though people come here seeking independence, they know each other’s first names. Community is paramount. Jonathan Nicholas, publisher of the Oregonian, said it is “a star-spangled landscape of marsh and mountain, of reflection and rim rock, of seamless vistas and sage-scented dreams.

 

Pacific Coast (North, Mid and Southern)

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway — 363.0 mi
Starting in Astoria and traveling south to Brookings, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway provides views of amazing coastal scenery. The road winds by estuarine marshes, clings to seaside cliffs, passes through agricultural valleys, and brushes against wind-sculpted dunes. Charming small towns, museums, state parks, overlooks, historic bridges, and lighthouses ensure a delightful journey.

 

Rogue-Umpqua

Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway — 172.0 mi
From rolling, oak-covered hills to towering coniferous forests; from roaring whitewater rapids to incised inter-canyon lava flows; the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway invites you to experience 172 miles of diverse river and mountain landscapes. Drive alongside the Upper Rogue and North Umpqua Wild and Scenic Rivers, both of which contain world-class fisheries.

 

Volcanic Legacy

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway — 500.0 mi
Explore the wonder and beauty of a dramatic volcanic landscape from Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park to California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. Encounter ancient natural forces that shaped exquisite mountain lakes. Amid spectacular scenery, you’ll enjoy charming towns, abundant wildlife, world-class birding, and extraordinary recreational, historical, and cultural opportunities.

 

West Cascades

West Cascades Scenic Byway — 220.0 mi
This byway offers some of the best up-close views of thundering waterfalls, ancient forests, rushing whitewater, and cool, placid lakes. The drive begins in the historic logging city of Estacada, immersing you in an old growth forest. Continue and see snow capped volcanic peaks and the breathtaking Wild and Scenic Clackamas River.

Are you an owner of the new Harley-Davidson LiveWire and wanting a new perspective in sustainable travel?  Oregon is home to one of the largest and most robust networks of electric vehicle fast-charging stations in the U.S. You can download the Oregon Electric Byways map and guide HERE.

Information, maps and photos courtesy of Oregon’s Scenic Byways

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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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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.

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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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McKenzie Pass Highway (OR242)

Oregon is home to a large network of highways and backroads, from rugged coastal headlands to deep old-growth forests, lush vineyard-lined valleys to lofty alpine passes, high-desert vistas to deep river canyons. The epic landscapes offer up motorcyclists everything from beginner to expert road diversity.

One such spectacular highway is the old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR242), which opened this week from it’s winter hibernation.

Assuming you start in Sisters, Oregon you’ll have about 8 miles of warmup of gently rising, mostly straight road as you head west past hay meadows and into the forest. Then you’ll take a 90-degree turn at McGregor’s Curve, and the elevation climb is on. The main ascent is over 5 miles, and you can settle into a rhythm as you take in the pine-scented air.  Unfortunately, you’ll also note the large wildfire destruction from the summer of 2017 that disrupted the forest and surrounding landscape.

Until the 1860s, the pass was an Indian trail that later became a wagon route (known as Craig’s McKenzie Salt Springs/Deschutes Wagon Road) for driving cattle over the Cascades.  As you emerge from the forest at Windy Point, you’ll get a nice view of Mt. Washington and can scan across a 65 square mile, 2,000-year-old black lava flow. You may want to stop to process it all and then continue on as the ascent travels serpentine asphalt between lava-rock walls just before reaching the summit.

The summit provides a unique view of the lava-rock-constructed Dee Wright Observatory (at 5,187 feet), which provides panorama views of the mountain landscape and Three Sisters Wilderness areas.

The 25-mile, 4,000-foot descent to Highway 126 is no “puff and fluff” ride as it snakes down tight corners and exhilarating switchbacks to the dense Cascadian forests over the McKenzie River. It’s a dramatic transition from the east side of the Cascades and is a billboard of the natural environment and defines the uniqueness of the region.

The highway speed limit is slow at 35mph to 45 mph in most places. The scenic views are well worth the extra time and should be on everyone’s ride list.

Additional Information:
The John Craig Story
McKenzie Pass
Previous Blog Post

OR 242 map/photo courtesy of Oregon By-ways.

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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.

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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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#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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