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Dark times for Harley as shares fall on Wall St

International Business
Wed, 31 Jan 2018
AFP
1 of 2

New York: Emblematic American motorcycle maker Harley Davidson saw its share price dive Tuesday after the manufacturer said it is likely to see a drop in shipments this year.

The company has long struggled with an ageing customer base and dated product line, focused on snarling, heavy two-cylinder motorcycles.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin manufacturer saw sales fall 6.7 percent last year, with US sales down 8.5 percent while international sales dropped 3.9 percent.

The company expects sales to fall another three to five percent in 2018.

Revenues sank 5.8 percent to $5.65 billion on global sales of 242,788 motorcycles which was a decline from 260,289 in 2016.

The company's share price fell eight percent on Wall Street Tuesday, putting the bike maker down 14 percent over the last year. During that period the S&P 500 transport sector gained 22 percent.

CEO Matt Levatich said Harley-Davidson is focused on efforts to hold down costs and "to be more aggressive and innovative" as it builds the brand.

The company will "sharpen our focus and scale our efforts to compete more effectively in every market we're in as we build Harley-Davidson riders," he said during an investor call.

The company acknowledges the threat of European and Japanese competition. It still holds more than half the US market for large motorcycles with engine displacements of 600 cc and above.

The company, founded in 1903, also plans to launch an electric motorcycle sometime in the next 18 months.

In the meantime, the company will close a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, eliminating 800 jobs but will create 450 positions by moving some production to an existing facility in York, Pennsylvania.

Harley-Davidson also plans to shut a wheel manufacturing plant in Adelaide, Australia, resulting in 100 layoffs.

President Donald Trump, who hosted company executives at the White House last year, has used Harley-Davidson to spotlight alleged protectionist measures taken by some trading partners that harm US companies, such as India's high import duties on foreign, large-cylinder motorcycles.

Levatich, however, said his company views the Chinese and Indian markets as growth opportunities.

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