Monday , 19 February 2018

Harley CEO asks investors for patience as sales, stock slide

MILWAUKEE: Harley-Davidson Inc’s investors, its chief executive has a simple message – be patient with his strategy to turn around the slump in demand for its iconic motorcycles.

In an interview Matt Levatich said the company is not exploring a merger with a rival or a private equity buyout, as some investors have speculated.

Instead, Harley is spending millions of dollars on product development and marketing efforts, including promoting its learn-to-ride academies at showrooms, where Harley-Davidson certified coaches provide riding and safety lessons.

Levatich said the ridership programme would transform the motorcycle-maker into a “customer-creator.” But he does not have an answer when it will return Harley to sales growth in the United States, its biggest market.

“Mindset shifts are not something that happen overnight,” he said in the interview in his office at the company’s headquarter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “But that’s very much core to the 10-year strategy for the company.”

However, nearly three years into Levatich’s tenure as Harley CEO, investors are getting restless. Harley’s stock has fallen over 23 percent since mid-March last year.

Since Levatich came to the helm, the shares are down 14 percent, and Harley is losing share in a declining market for motorcycles in the United States.

Harley investors and executives have worried for years about what would happen in the future when the company’s devoted Baby Boomer got too old to ride.

Now, Harley has reached that demographic cliff. The company last month projected shipments to dealers could plunge to their lowest level in eight years in 2018 after sales fell in every region last year.

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