Recession Plagues Harley-Davidson Sales

by , Apr 20, 2010, 7:15 PM
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Harley Davidson 2010 Sportster

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.

2 comments on "Recession Plagues Harley-Davidson Sales".

  1. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing
    commented on: April 21, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.

    http://lairigmarketing.typepad.com/lairig_marketing/2010/04/will-harleydavidson-come-roaring-back-.html

  2. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc.
    commented on: April 21, 2010 at 5:37 p.m.

    "and developing motorcycles that inspire and fulfill dreams." - umm, how would CEO Keith Wandell know about this? When he took this gig a year ago he admitted that he did not have a motorcycle license or, in fact, ride a motorcycle. He's just another suit from the auto industry supply chain industry. I love Harleys (I actually own 5) but they deserve what they get for hiring this stuffed shirt. How can you know what will appeal to bikers (their core) when you don't RIDE? Real bikers watch this show: http://www.kickstarttv.com (har, shameless plug).

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