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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 2016-08-10 at 11.42.14 AMI’m a bit late getting this information out, but you can read the company press release HERE.

From my experience you know it’s going to be a long day when the financial perspective includes statements about how we’re in challenging times…  “Political, economic and cultural forces working against the confidence and security for people everywhere in the world” — whoa, roll the eerie and scary sound effects!

Here is a quick synopsis:

The Bad:

  • Worldwide sales for the quarter were down due to significant declines in the U.S. industry which was a surprise and far weaker than expected. Worldwide retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Q2 were down 1.9%.  U.S. retail sales were lower than expected on surprisingly weak industry results.  Q2 retail sales in the U.S. were down 5.2% versus prior year, behind weak U.S. industry sales.
  • U.S. retail inventory was up at the end of the second quarter.
  • Manufacturing expenses were higher than expected, driven by startup costs related to the implementation of a new ERP system in Kansas City, and costs associated with plant retooling.  In addition, plant efficiencies were lower than expected due to lower production given soft sales in Q2.  This is an overly simple statement because in reality it’s complex planning and execution, including numerous down days, inventory bridges and careful new model ramp plans.
  • The motor company stated they are taking steps to lower expected 2016 shipments which is largely due to continued pressure on industry growth in the U.S.  Third quarter shipments are expected to be approximately flat to down 9% versus 2015 third quarter.

The Good:

  • Revenue was up slightly.  Net income was $280.4 million on consolidated revenue of $1.86 billion compared to net income of $299.8 million on consolidated revenue of $1.82 billion in last year’s second quarter.
  • Q2 market share of 49.5% in the U.S., was up a strong 2.0 percentage points. The gains came in all segments, Touring, Cruisers and the Street/Sportster segment size of motorcycles. And it came from all seven sales regions in the U.S. The market share gains were over double the nearest competitor and came largely at the expense of Japanese competitors.
  • Retail sales in international markets were up in Q2 in all regions except Latin America (Brazil).
  • The company added six new international dealerships in the second quarter and has a goal to add 150+ international dealers over the next 4 years.

Given this current environment one could wonder if Harley-Davidson is positioned appropriately for the flat/declining industry which seemed to surprise them in Q2 — management states they are prepared.

Full Disclosure:  I have NO personal stock holdings in HOG or plans to procure any.

Some parts of the above text are attributable to the Seeking Alpha transcript on July 28, 2016.  Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

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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NOAA-MapYou’re the CEO and going down your quarterly earnings check list:

  1. Still in business after 110 years – Check
  2. Secured music talent for 110th Anniversary Party – Check
  3. Number one seller of motorcycles to young adults (18-34) – Check
  4. Increase 2013 first quarter revenue to $1.57B (up 10%) vs. $1.43B a year earlier — Check
  5. Increase 2013 first quarter income to $224.1M vs. $172M a year earlier – Check
  6. HOG shares up 2.1% to closed at $54.31 – Check
  7. U.S. dealers sold 34,706 new motorcycles, down 12.7% from a year earlier – Ooops!

Colder temperatures and the wet climate set the stage for the quarterly sales miss.  At least according to Harley-Davidson CEO, Keith Wandell who stated in last week’s earnings call… “By far, the vast majority of the (sales decline) was weather related”.

Temp2-MapInteresting.  The earnings call didn’t signal any major marketing changes for the brand, instead pinning some of the losses on external factors such as rainfall in many parts of the country, the weak economy and the unseasonably cold weather.

Are the only unemployed consumers who keep getting rained on Harley-Davidson consumers?!

Generally speaking home sales and auto sales are up.  It would seem that management neglected to remind us about Superstorm Sandy, how federal tax returns have been delayed and how fuel prices are unsettling to consumers.  To be fair some retail outlets selling spring apparel, home and garden were depressed due to wintry conditions, but looking at the weather for an impact on Harley-Davidson consumer spending seems a bit trivial.

I spent the last week in Arizona and if you plotted temperatures from dawn until noon, you’d observe an alarming warming trend.  If you extended that trend line for the next 4-months, you’ll clearly notice that ice caps will melt and the poor polar bears will be swimming more.

We’ll soon know if the good weather in the upcoming quarter provides a recovery to more normalized sales volume.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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Northwest Riding Season's

As I sit down and write this post, it is 45 degrees with rain and wind.  I spent the last week at NAMM in Anaheim, CA where it was sunny.  Today is one of those gray winter days that make me wonder what I’m doing here.

Then I remember driving in L.A. traffic during rush hour and thinking this is nuts. Or rolling through Furnace Creek on Hwy 190 last April watching it approach 90 degrees and thinking that’s nuts.  Or even a couple summers ago rolling across Alberta where it was super flat and you’d ride 20+ miles between curves in the road.  That’s when I remember why I’m here…

The northwest has some of the best riding roads in the country and we actually have seasons.

And speaking of seasons, it’s earning’s ‘season’ and Harley-Davidson announced a profit versus a year ago loss.  Harley’s sales of motorcycle and related products grew 13% in 2011 and the recent quarter marked its third-straight increase in U.S. sales.  The result is remarkable given that most financial analysts see a continuing “trough” in the U.S. economy, which is beset by a weak recovery and a jobless rate that is likely to remain in the 8% range for 2012.

Harley’s motorcycle and related product revenue rose 12% to $1.03B.  Retail sales of new motorcycles grew 11% worldwide and included a 12% increase in the U.S.  International sales rose 9.7% and included a 5.8% increase in Europe, even though consumer confidence has been shaken by the current economic crisis.  The motor company shipped 50,730 motorcycles to dealers and distributors during the quarter, compared with 44,481 in the same quarter last year. For the full year, shipments rose 11% to 233,117 bikes.  Even Harley’s financial services division got a boost from improved credit conditions. New motorcycle loans jumped 14% to $349.5 million and represented about half of the company’s retail sales.

Keith Wandell (H-D CEO and President) credited the Q4 sales jump to improved consumer confidence in the U.S., along with key growth investments overseas.  However, in Europe, the Euro-zone is facing its own, even larger, economic crisis and Mr. Wandell reminded the  analysts with, “We will continue to keep a close watch on the marketplace and remain cautious in our expectations of retail given the degree of continued economic uncertainty including regions like the Euro zone.”

For all of 2011, Harley reported net income of $599.1 million, or $2.33 per share, up from $146.5 million, or $1.11 per share, in 2010.  Motorcycle and related product revenue increased to $4.66B from $4.18B.

Photo taken by author.

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If you’re a numbers person there is plenty to analyze about the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Even more so if you’re somehow impacted by the largest death tally in over 10 years.  These tragedies will reverberate throughout the tri-state area for months, and will undoubtedly affect future events.  My sympathies go out to the friends and families.   Even the Cowboy State (WY) has lawmakers reviewing the lack of a helmet law and are considering revisions based on this year’s tally which reversed a downward trend in that state.

Unknown Wedding Couple at Broken Spoke Saloon

Whether you have interest in the amount of tax revenue, the number of weddings, the number of drug arrests, the number of Regional Health System emergency department visits or the amount of trash the rally produced, there are stat’s for everyone.

First off is the tax revenue; the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation stated that revenues at the 2010 Rally increased ($127,804) from last year. Sales and tourism taxes collected so far from temporary vendors totaled $989,911 in the northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and communities in Meade and Lawrence counties.  There were 1,207 vendors at the 2010 rally and the gross vendor sales totaled $13.6 MILLION in the Northern Hills, $1.7M more than last year. In the Southern Hills, which includes Pennington County and Rapid City, Custer, Hill City and Keystone, sales were $2.8 MILLION, up from last year’s $2.5M.  Another indicator of attendance came from the city of Sturgis public works director, Randy Nohava, who stated that the rally generated nearly 9-tons of trash per day!

But, there is one stat we won’t get and that is the exact number of law enforcement agents who worked the rally or the costs.  It’s double-top secret.  However, law enforcement is quick to point to the: 1,442 citations issued, including 209 arrests for driving under the influence; 46 felony drug arrests and 183 misdemeanor drug arrests as a result of their extensive presence.

And while I’m on the law enforcement topic, there is one statistic which was very odd. The arrival of a Blackhawk helicopter, courtesy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with their extensive support team. Supposedly the Blackhawk was there to provide additional surveillance of criminals and better mobility for ICE agents.  There has been NO word yet on how many illegal immigrants were apprehended at the 2010 rally.  It turns out that the Blackhawk support was never requested according to local law enforcement and in fact their arrival created almost as much controversy as the May 2010 incident where 3-Blackhawks from the Colorado National Guard descended over Wounded Knee and touch off a flurry of protests.

In terms of attendance, the methodology suggests that estimates are always inflated.  In fact, an article in the Rapid City Journal stated that 2009 numbers were rounded down to 477,000 and that the early estimate number for 2010 is 450,000.  The exact number doesn’t really matter as the bean counters really focus on the tax revenue data as a key indicator.

There were some other interesting capitalism mass-marketing stats.  Ford used the Rally to launch its new 2011 H-D “bling” filled F-150 truck and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “American Motorcycles” commemorative set of four stamps featuring classic motorcycles and a 1970’s era chopper.  And there are statistics for a good cause too; the 50-mile Legends Ride which raised $52,000, and was split by the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. And finally were the Hamsters MC, who helped raise more than $257,000 for therapies and services at the Rapid City Children’s Care Hospital for children who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment there.

Yep, the rally has lots of protestations and an industry trumpeting its success…

Statistics courtesy of Rapid City Journal.  Photos courtesy of Army/web.

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It was a Dark Sky Film made in 1970.

The film also appeared under the title Nam’s Angels.  The plot included a biker gang, the Devil’s Advocates who were recruited by the CIA to execute a daring rescue behind enemy lines in Cambodia. After customizing their Yamahas into combat-ready death machines, the gang roars into action on this unlikely suicide mission. Heavy casualties ensue. I kid you not.

I’m not sure if the movie did much if anything to propel Yamaha sales, but this week there are reports the Japanese motorcycle maker (Yamaha Motor) has plans to close seven factories globally with a loss of 1,000 jobs.  This is all in an effort to bounce back from a  Y216.1 billion ($2.7 billion) annual loss in 2009.  Yamaha is the world’s second biggest motorcycle manufacturer after Honda and this streamlining is in addition to a previously announced 10% reduction in the company’s global workforce of 17,000 which is underway.  This is Yamaha’s first loss in 26 years.

Specific plant closure include 5 of its 12 domestic factories by 2012, all in Shizuoka prefecture (central Japan) who now produce parts for motorcycles, marine products and buggies.  In addition, Yamaha will close a motorcycle factory in Italy and a marine products plant in Florida.

It looks like the only motorcycle manufacture beating down the 2009 slowing motorcycle trend was BMW Motorrad.  New products like the K1300GT, S1000 RR Superbike along with the opening of 8 new dealers in the past 5 months has them bullish on the future.

An interesting side bar on The Losers — it’s playing on a television in the background of a motel-room scene between Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros in Pulp Fiction. Clearly Quentin Tarantino is one of its fans.

Photo courtesy of Dark Sky.

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