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Harley-Davidson Plans To ‘Rewire’ Strategy As Pandemic Cuts Into Sales

Milwaukee-Based Motorcycle Maker Saw Gains In US Sales Until Mid-March

Harley Davidson Museum
Gretchen Brown/WPR

Harley-Davidson Inc.’s acting CEO has said the company will narrow its focus as it tries to weather the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during an earnings call this week, Jochen Zeitz said the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker had become “accustomed to over-committing and under-delivering.”

Zeitz said one change would come with the “More Roads To Harley-Davidson” plan to increase ridership and broaden Harley’s range of products.

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“I know that elements of the More Roads plan are good in principle, but it is clear that our strategy needs to be refocused to better align with our capacity and capabilities, and also updated, given our new reality,” he said.

Harley’s sales for the first quarter were down 15 percent from the first three months of 2019, although the company saw higher sales until the coronavirus pandemic spread through the United States in mid-March.

“The quarter was a tale of two quarters,” said John Olin, the company’s chief financial officer. “First, the 10-week period and then a three-week period. Through the first 10 weeks, we were doing very well, in terms of retail sales. As we had mentioned, the U.S. was up 6.6 percent.”

Company officials said they will save $250 million through a hiring freeze, salary reductions and other cuts to keep its financial footing during the downturn.