Posts Tagged ‘2008’

buell_outlineIf you follow any of the recall news you’d think not much is being made correctly these days.  No exception on the motorcycle front as there have been a number of recalls in the past week.  Most notable is Buell recalling 624 units of its ’08-’09 XB12XT and ’09 XB12XP motorcycles. The windshields could become loose, dislodge and either strike or distract the rider while the vehicle is being ridden.  Dealers are removing the windshield’s rubber mounted nuts and installing two new fastener assemblies.

Buell is also recalling 140 units of its ’09 1125CR motorcycle. These motorcycles have had a premature failure of the rear cylinder cam chain tension guide. This failure can cause plastic debris to block the oil pump screen, and lead to oil starvation and an engine seizure. That in-turn could lead to a rear wheel lock-up. Dealers are replacing the rear cam chain tensioner. The tension guides were manufactured in Austria.

You may remember that last June, Buell recalled 1,579 units of the 1125R because of 5th gear galling on the clutch shaft due to lack of lubrication that might result in the gear to seize to the shaft and result in a rear wheel lock-up.

Check Buell recall information HERE.

Photo courtesy of Buell web site.

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Vendors are throttling back…and pointing blame everywhere.  Are motorcycle demographics changing the rally attendance?  Is it the unpopular war, or is it costs – including gas, merchandise and “refreshments” – all rising?

It didn’t take but a couple of days for the Sturgis City fathers and vendors to ring the internet alarms about reduced revenue.  It was clear last week that fewer vendors registered for the rally. The total number of vendor licenses that had been sold were 95 697, compared with 115 811 licenses sold in 2007 rally.  Correction provided by Pepper at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Rally attendance in 2007 (as measured by tons of trash) was an estimated 507,000. It was an estimated to be 457,000 in 2006. Reports indicate that this year’s rally attendance will be down 20 percent.

Has the whole rally thing hit a wall?  In my view, fewer people means a better rally as I can only take a couple days of big crowds.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/TWCollins

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Harley-Davidson reported out on Q1’08 earnings.  They had net income of $187.6 million or 79 cents a share down 2.5% from $192.3 million or 74 cents a share in the prior period despite revenue rising 11% to $1.31 billion, from $1.18 billion in 2007.

The impact of the economic slowdown was felt mostly at U.S. retail as dealers’ new motorcycle sales declined 12.8% compared to a year ago. As a result, Harley has taken steps to significantly reduce shipments for the rest of this calendar year and reduce the workforce.  It now plans to ship 23,000 to 27,000 fewer Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 2008 than it did in 2007.

And did you know that ALL of Harley-Davidson’s top execs including current CEO James Ziemer, were NOT paid any bonus for 2007?  It’s true!  Recently released documents show it’s the first time in several years that Harley execs have not received a bonus and is a result of the company failing to meet financial performance targets in a year in which the sales and earnings dropped.

But, before you start singing praises for the top brass let’s get the 411 (lowdown)…Harley has distributed substantial bonuses to its top execs in recent years. For example, in 2006, Ziemer was awarded a bonus — referred to as non-equity incentive plan compensation in the regulatory filing — of nearly $1 million.  A whopping $1M bonus, wow!  But wait, it gets even better because that bonus was teeny tiny in comparison to what the previous CEO, Jeff Bleustein and now chairman of the board of directors received.  Here are the numbers from the filing documents:

Year              Exec                      Amount

2007             James Ziemer          $0

2006             James Ziemer          $1 million

2005             James Ziemer          $600,000

2004             Jeff Bleustein           $3.5 million

2003             Jeff Bleustein           $3.5 million

2002             Jeff Bleustein           $3.5 million

2001             Jeff Bleustein           $2.0 million

So, how does this compare with other companies?  These obscene bonus amounts sadly aren’t a wild exception. In fact, Harley bonuses were “modest” according to a study by Graef Crystal, a business columnist and compensation expert, where CEO pay rose 22% last year, while the average worker’s pay rose by around 3%.   For further proof, it doesn’t take much of a Google search to learn that Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone took home about $28M, including a bonus of $16.5M, even as his company’s stock dropped 11% during the fiscal year. Applied Materials CEO Mike Splinter got a tidy $5M bonus, despite a stock slide of more than 22%. Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, saw GM stock plunge 25%, yet he still pocketed a $2.5M bonus.

I don’t like “busting” on Harley especially when they are down, but knowing bonuses were “modest” just didn’t make me feel better.  Ziemer mixed words like “challenging” and “no signs when things will turn around” frequently during the last analyst call.  I’m not sure how a person making $480/hour from their annual bonus alone can say “challenging”…oh, wait he’s talking about the company, not his personal struggle to make ends meet!

And speaking of struggle, what about those positions getting “downsized”?  Well Thomas E. Bergmann (CFO), quantified the reduction of headcount as 370 or approx 6.5% of the N.A. workforce or if you look at it from the non-production workforce of 360 positions it’s approx 10% of the Harley’s N.A. motorcycle operations being let go.

It’s not exactly clear, but it looks like the overweight, mid-life testosterone driven, on your 3rd marriage with a trophy wife buyers are really drying up and so goes the potential profit gains of my HOG stock portfolio.  

I think it’s time to pull my shares and let the Eagle “go it alone”


Photo courtesy of the HD Museum.  The 1981 ad represents the company buyback from AMF ownership.

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Here’s an interesting video on the Harley 2008 Anti-Lock braking system. It’s a bit long (8min), but explained in detail.  It’s curious how during wet braking the rider stays upright and they talk about limitations of the system when over braking on corners.  As always the best braking method is “upright”.  Enjoy.

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