Harley-Davidson says first-quarter sales were down, but not as sharply as they had been in the prior three quarters. The Milwaukee-based maker of the top-selling bike brand in the U.S. said worldwide retail sales of new motorcycles dropped 18.2% for the company, versus the quarter last year.
Not surprisingly, given the U.S. economy's demolition job on sales of discretionary goods over the past year, Harley-Davidson's largest declines last quarter were in the U.S., where retail sales of its motorcycles dropped 24.3% versus the same quarter last year. Beyond U.S. borders, retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles declined 2.8% versus the year-ago quarter, largely because of a 9.8% drop in Asia-Pacific and 7.8% drop in Latin American sales.
The company, however, says that result is better than in each of the four prior quarters, in which H-D posted international decline percentages in the double digits. All told, Harley sold 18.2% fewer motorcycles in the first quarter than in the quarter last year, shipping 53,674 motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide, versus 74,670 motorcycles in the first quarter of 2009.
Meanwhile, revenue from parts and accessories dropped 12.1% to $149.1 million, and revenue from the brand's all-important merchandise division, which includes things like Harley's MotorClothes apparel, was down 11.9% to $66.3 million.
Still, the company is relatively bullish, partly because the second quarter -- when the weather warms up -- is when sales ignite, or so the company hopes.
"We are encouraged by our progress in the first quarter...we are seeing directional improvement in our dealers' retail motorcycle sales as we enter the key selling season," said President and CEO Keith Wandell in a statement.
Wandell, who became president about a year ago, said the company's business-growth strategy is focused on global growth through market and demographic outreach, commitment to core customers, "and developing motorcycles that inspire and fulfill dreams."
The company earlier this year launched a new retro derivative of the Sportster bike, called Forty-Eight -- a Brando-esque job with a peanut tank, tractor seat and fat wheels -- designed to appeal to younger, urban consumers for around town.