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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Levatich’

It could be the title of Harley-Davidson CEO, Matt Levatich’s memoir on his failed 2017 year while in charge of the Motor Company.

I happen to be riding with the HOG Lewis and Clark Expedition last week when Harley-Davidson announced their disappointing Q2’17 financial results and late to weigh in:

* Harley-Davidson net income dropped 7.7%. Sales in the U.S. were down 9.3% and 6.7% worldwide.

* Harley-Davidson now expects to ship 241,000 to 246,000 motorcycles to dealers worldwide in 2017, which is down approximately 6% to 8% from 2016.

* Harley-Davidson expects to ship 39,000 to 44,000 motorcycles in Q3’17, which is down approximately 10% to 20% from 2016.

* Approx 180 U.S. based manufacturing jobs will be cut in Menomonee Falls and Kansas City.  This in addition to the 118 workers who were axed back in April this year at the York plant as some positions were being shifted to Kansas City.

For those keeping track, this is a continuation of a three-year slide by the motor company.  However, during the call Mr. Levatich described what can only be called an “alternative reality” in hopes (I assume?) to reassure the financial markets and stated “we are going to build bikers first, add 2 million new Harley-Davidson riders and launch 100 brand new models during the next 10 years while growing the international business by 50%.

Huh?

I’m being a bit snarky here, but his statement appears either woefully naïve to the point of negligence or a continuance of marketing spin.  Proclaiming an unprecedented future result of this magnitude smells like stunningly wishful thinking at best or at worst plain lying.  For reasons I can’t explain, why would Mr. Levatich climb up on a high-wire without a net given such an overly-optimistic prediction?  Even with nearly 8-million Americans that are “sleeping license holders,” — those who have motorcycle riding credentials, but don’t own a bike — it doesn’t pencil and seems unobtainable.

I don’t know if the boardroom folks in Milwaukee read the NW Harley Blog on a regular basis and/or  hang on its every word.  But, we know the motor company has been continuously producing motorcycles for more than a century,  yet seemingly everyone on the internet with a keyboard thinks they can do it better.

And it’s a well-established fact that internet bloggers and commenters are geniuses. They definitely know how to run a business better than a company that has been constantly producing motorcycles through two world wars, the Great Depression, and roughly 20 U.S. recessions.

Sure the motor company needs our help and I’ve got some feedback and plenty of comments.  But, until the motor company calls me asking for it, I’ll look for Mr. Levatich’s memoir, which will certainly be “a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale on the world’s most iconic motorcycle brand.

Slightly modified book cover courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 1.44.35 PMI’ll get right to the point.  Motorcycle sales down.  Revenues down.  Earnings down. Currency issues.  Tough competition.

The company’s Q2 earnings were hard to sugar coat for Matt Levatich, President and CEO.  But he sure tried.

“Our actions during the quarter have had a positive impact. We are encouraged by the momentum at retail as the quarter progressed, both in the U.S. and internationally.”  “We are confident in the strength of our business and the strategies we have in place to maintain our industry leadership and grow our business over the long term,” said Levatich. “Our singular focus on the customer through unrivaled products, unique experiences and our expanding dealer network is the bedrock we are building on to continue to grow our reach and impact with customers across the globe.”

Dealers worldwide sold 88,931 new motorcycles in Q2 2015 compared to 90,218 motorcycles in the year-ago quarter. In the U.S., dealers sold 57,790 new motorcycles in the quarter compared to sales of 58,225 motorcycles in the year-ago period.  In international markets, dealers sold 31,141 new motorcycles during the quarter compared to 31,993 motorcycles in the year-ago period, with sales up 16.6 percent in the Asia Pacific region and down 8.9 percent in the EMEA region, 2.6 percent in the Latin America region and 9.9 percent in Canada.

Second-quarter revenue from motorcycles decreased 11.6 percent to $1.31 billion compared to revenue of $1.48 billion in the year-ago period. Following the company’s decision in April to lower motorcycle shipments, the motor company shipped 85,172 motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide during the quarter compared to shipments of 92,217 motorcycles in the year-ago period.

Revenue from motorcycle parts and accessories was $256.8 million during the quarter, down 5.4 percent, and revenue from general merchandise, which includes MotorClothes apparel and accessories, was $77.5 million, up 1.5 percent compared to the year-ago period.

As the new CEO, this is Mr. Levatich’s first solo “ride” on an earnings report after Keith Wandell retired.   You have to give the company cred for its integrity of not over producing its motorcycles, but employees and shareholders can’t be happy with these sales.

Full disclosure:  I have no positions in HOG stocks and no plans to initiate any position within the next 72 hours.  I wrote this article from publically accessible information and expresses my own opinion.  I am not receiving compensation for it and have no business relationship with the company.  I currently own a Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Matthew S. Levatich

Matthew (Matt) S. Levatich

Harley-Davidson announced that the current CEO of Harley-Davidson, Keith Wandell (age 65) is retiring after taking over the position back in May 2009.  Matthew S. Levatich (age 50), who has served as the President and Chief Operating Officer since May 2009 is scheduled to take over as the next CEO on May 1, 2015.

Mr. Levatich served as President and Managing Director of MV Agusta, a former subsidiary of the Company. In his 15 years at Harley-Davidson, Matt has held positions of increasing responsibility in the U.S. and Europe. He served as General Manager of Parts & Accessories and Custom Vehicle Operations and Vice President of Materials Management.

Matt joined Harley-Davidson in 1994 through its Leadership Development Program and serves on the executive advisory board of the MMM Program at the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University.  He is a trustee on the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and a Regent at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Mr. Levatich holds an Undergraduate Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He holds ME in Engineering Management and MBA in Marketing, Finance and Organizational Behavior from Northwestern University.

Matt will take the helm of the company at a much better stage than it was during the tenure of Wandell where coincidentally, Harley-Davidson has reported consecutive profits for six years in tandem, which shows how key the effects of Wandell were on the company.

Congrats are in order.  There are challenges ahead which need to be overcome by the company as a whole and it will be interesting to watch advances in the pipeline made by Mr. Levatich.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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H-D LiveWire

H-D LiveWire

Charged up, amped out and delivers a jolt…

Just a few of the colorful words used to describe the Harley-Davidson LiveWire which has received so much free and fawning press coverage about the prototype electric motorcycle that you’d think they invented electricity.

I get it.  The motor company builds good products, but does it really deserve wave after wave of gushing prose in every news article?  I blogged previously about the announcement HERE.

Let’s keep it real.  Is LiveWire any better than the other electric motorcycles on the market?  What are the rider advantages of LiveWire vs. other electric rides?  Are there drawbacks of an increasing reliance on electricity for transportation?  No one is reporting on anything other than regurgitating the marketing talking points.

Has the press failed to notice that there are many electric bikes already in use by riders and a growing number of police departments across the country?  From New York to Oregon, and around the world, including in Bogota, Colombia and Hong Kong.  The police versions of the “Empulse LE” by Brammo, Inc., based in Ashland, Ore., and the “DS” by Zero Motorcycles immediately come to mind.

But it gets worse.  The Harley-Davidson president, Matt Levatich tells the world during the LiveWire press tour that Harley’s are longer just for old guys…  Huh?

He must have been basking in a special Milwaukee sun-imitating light that failed to fend off seasonal affective disorder with that alluringly sales quote.

It happened at the Lower Manhattan Harley dealer during the recent LiveWire electric motorcycle test rides.  Mr. Levatich tells the press that Harley would not be forgetting its core customers who want old-fashioned motorcycles.  “We’re absolutely not abandoning any of that,” he stated.  “We’re going to continue to invest in the great traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycles…

As a current core customer, I guess I’m one of the riders only interested in “old-fashioned” motorcycles?  Hey Harley, hashtag this…  #YoureDoingItWrong.

Wow, nothing like slighting the mature motorcycle rider base, the base that has been paying the company bills with a back-handed comment that is clearly all about reaching out to Gen-X’ers and Millennials.  There’s a thin line between appealing to Millennials and pandering.

Yeah, I get wanting to open new doors to people that are outside of the motorcycle sport and only know the brand for its t-shirts.  But, that “old-fashioned” reference is as if Harley has come to terms with an electric future, which excludes their current customers, so let’s spit out aging and old-fashioned insults at them.

If Harley-Davidson LiveWire is “only looking at rider feedback at the moment” then why all the publicity?  You might recall that prior to Project RUSHMORE rolling out on the touring bikes there wasn’t a peep until it launched.  The motor company has by design crafted a publicity stunt and worked at driving social media outreach.  It’s a marketing campaign pure and simple.  And thanks to Harley, Zero had their biggest single day of Internet traffic in the history of the company on the day Harley made its announcement, according to Scott Harden, VP of global marketing for Zero Motorcycles.

Shouldn’t Harley-Davidson be talking to the “right” riders?  And H.O.G. grey-beards aren’t exactly the wrong people to be getting input from, but relying on this user base for feedback on this new GenX or “Millennial” motorcycle is unlikely the most salient feedback from the “right” people.  Shouldn’t they look for those Portlandia-esque grown men on BMX bikes who are ‘riding’ to weekend pubcrawls and who make their living in a variety of ways — some legally and others by any means within their particular skill set?

The fact is that future customers could be from newly wealthy Chinese looking for style, city-dwelling Millennials who need utility and affordability or retirees who want a trike that doesn’t embarrass them.

Whether electrics take off is anyone’s guess and your welcome to label me a gas station-centric oldster.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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“It’s disgraceful, but how about the heartless timing for Christ’s sake.”  — Australian Workers Union State Secretary Wayne Hanson said to reporters.

It’s not well known, but the majority of cast wheels and hubs for Harley-Davidson motorcycles are produced in Australia and shipped to Milwaukee.  Harley acquired Adelaide-based New Castalloy in 2006 when continuity of wheel supply was an issue.  The Australian subsidiary is New Castalloy and was a long-time supplier that was on the verge of bankruptcy of its then parent company, Ion.

Now Harley-Davidson plans to shift the manufacturing to China (according to South Australian Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis) where it will save the motor company about $9 million a year.  The decision to cease operations  at New Castalloy will effect 183 employees and 29 contract workers. Harley expects to complete the transition to “outsourcers” by mid 2013.  The company estimated the related restructuring costs at $30 million, of which $10 million will be recorded in 2011 and $20 million in 2012.

South Australian Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis said to reporters, “To tell a group of workers before Christmas they may not have a job is insensitive and I think quite silly.”  Mr Koutsantonis also stated that the motor company had given no indication to the government of the closure and as a result were unable to provide any assistance.  The South Australian Employment Minister Tom Kenyon stated that workers would get between $3K – $5K each in job training, but he was rather candid in that there was no place for them once we’ve got them through the right training.

The Australian manufacturing sector is bearing the brunt of global uncertainty (read layoffs) and high Australian dollar.  Ever the politically correct, President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich said,  “The company’s decision on wheel production follows a review of the long-term fit and competitiveness of the New Castalloy business with our strategy and was not made lightly.”

As we know and have read many times, Harley has been recreating itself as a premium brand and smaller manufacturer while trying to grow its market share outside the U.S.

Made cheaper in China might be the new corporate mantra and correct decision based on pure Wall Street math, but there can’t be much pride in that choice.

UPDATE: July 10, 2013 — Harley-Davidson reverses decision to shutter the Adelaid plant (HERE)

Photo courtesy of H-D and New CastAlloy

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LosersAssemblywoman Dede Scozzafava proclaims that Harley-Davidson would see similar results, like those of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) if they were to relocate the Pennsylvania manufacturing plant to upstate New York.

Scozzafava wrote a letter to Matt Levatich, H-D president and COO, citing all the strengths including skilled workforce, college network, low-cost power and economic incentives as reason to give the area consideration.  She cited AMD as the poster-child of “success.”  The NY Public Authorities Control Board offered up incentives to the tune of $1.2B with a combination of tax breaks and a $650M grant to entice AMD to commit to a $4.6B ‘chip fab’ in Malta/Saratoga Springs that is expected to come on line in 2012 and employ ~1500 people.

Well, Ms Scozzafava if you’d done “The Google” you would have noticed that AMD has consistently lost money, for so long in fact that AMD spinners now report “profitability” as losing less than the year before!  Pink slips have become more common than “Good Morning” emails!  They are burning cash and bleeding personnel.  So much so that it lead AMD to hold a smaller than expected stake in the NY fab and the creation of a joint venture with Advanced Technology Investment, the government of Abu Dhabi which is capitalized by crude oil.

Cheerleading by the hometown assemblywoman isn’t too surprising, but does she really think H-D wants to co-locate and model success after AMD results?  They have had numerous product introduction slips, 11 straight unprofitable quarters, deep employee cuts for so-called “profitability”, off-shored manufacturing to Dresden, Singapore and Malaysia and now have the Arab government as investment partner.   About the only thing AMD seems to win in is legal litigation.

I noticed that Ms Scozzafava didn’t suggest for H-D to co-locate and take a page from IBM – who took taxpayer assistance ($140M), cut employees and moved jobs overseas.  Experience should teach us about the danger of a bureaucrats zeal — well-meaning but without understanding.

Photo courtesy of Andy Diggle and DC Comics.

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2-Day_LaunchIn two days the Indian “Alphonso” mangoes will hit the U.S. supermarket shelves for the first time in 18 years!

I’m reminded of that Jimmy Buffett song “Last Mango in…”

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat

When I hear a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”

The “seat” in this case is attached to a Harley-Davidson.  In exchange for importing mangoes, H-D will be allowed to launch its 883 Sportster and Fatboy in the “land of a billion people” (a.k.a. India) on August 27th as long they comply with Euro-III emission norms. In a country that snaps up more than 6 million new motorcycles a year, H-D is a bit late to the party, but they have to be optimistic given the successes of Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati “superbikes” (anything over 800cc are referred to superbike in India).  The bikes will be shipped to India and available as a CBUs (Completely Built Units).  Previously the Indian government had not specified emission standards for motorcycles over 500cc which effectively prohibited the import of H-D motorcycles who could not meet the standards set for scooters.

Speaking of standards…  I’m talking about a country that after more than six decades of independence, over 55% of the population (~660Million) defecate in the open! Given these statistics it’s no surprise the government was slow to specify emission standards on 500cc motorcycles when they clearly are busy with sanitation issues.

New Deli Traffic

New Deli Traffic

Until this week Royal Enfield (owned by Eicher Group) was the only motorcycle maker to offer cruisers in India.  Consistently large orders from the Indian government led to establishing a factory back in 1955 in the town of Chennai, India.  Even after production stopped in England they continued in Chennai.  Here is a 5 min video of them building a motorcycle.  There seems to be a fondness of following the old British tradition and use of a mallet to assist in the precision parts fitting!

Anyone who has visited India knows that the large cities of New Deli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai have traffic that defies amazing.  It’s extremely densely packed roads with stop-n-go vehicles and engines idling most all of the time.  Then there are the rickshaws (phat-phatis), bicycles, jay-walkers, street-car peddlers, cows, donkey carts and at any given time each traffic lane supporting triple the number of vehicles that it should so, what you end up with is pure chaos.  Even with astronomically high traffic-death rates, scooters and motorcycles are the more practical method of getting around on these packed roads.

Matt Levatich, President and COO of Harley-Davison reportedly will be on hand at the launch and annual Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to welcome back H-D to India for the first time since World War II.  At that time thousands of motorcycles were shipped to the eastern Assam state of India with the intention of transporting men and deliver mail.

India is a prime target given the sheer market size and I want to wish them success as they work to diversify their revenue base.

Photo courtesy of H-D India and Flickr.

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