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Harley-Davidson Again Posts Quarterly Loss

Motorcycle Maker Says Natural Disasters, Slow Domestic And International Sales Are To Blame

Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. earned $68.2 million in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 24.

That’s a 40 percent loss compared to the same time period in 2016. As a result, the motorcycle company’s stock price has plunged 20 percent since the beginning of this year. Worldwide motorcycle shipments are down to 241,000 worldwide from 246,000 in 2016.

Still, two top executives took a positive tone on a conference call Tuesday morning.

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President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich said the company is focusing on the emerging Asian market and said 100 new dealerships are opening in the international marketplace, including some in China and Malaysia.

“While the U.S. is a mature motorcycle market, we’re investing to grow it,” Levatich said.

According to Harley-Davidson’s news release on its third quarter stock price filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, sales were down by 6.9 percent compared to the third quarter of 2016.

Levatich told analysts the company has plans to create 2 million new riders worldwide in the next decade.

“As a motorcycle industry leader with 115 years of experience, we believe we’re well positioned to build ridership and strengthen the sport of motorcycling over time,” he said.

Even with new dealerships opening overseas, demand in foreign countries is down as well — by between 6 and 8 percent.

Those weak sales are felt at home.

Harley-Davidson has put workers at the company’s Menominee Falls plant on temporary furlough and has eliminated 180 jobs in Wisconsin and Kansas City.

John Olin, Harley-Davidson’s chief financial officer, said the company intentionally reduced inventory this year in an effort to clear the supply chain.

“Overall we feel good, but it has been a tough four to five quarters in the international markets,” Olin told analysts on the conference call. “We expect international to grow as we go forward.”

As to why sales are lower than usual, Olin said hurricanes in the southeastern United States and in Texas have hurt sales, as did this summer’s earthquake in Mexico.

With stock dividends down, Levatich said he doesn’t expect much growth for the remainder of the year, especially when international sales are concerned.

“We continue to work hard to protect and reinforce the strength of the Harley-Davidson brand by aggressively managing supply in line with demand,” Levatich concluded.