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    Default Harley-Davidson CEO Steps Down

    Harley-Davidson CEO Steps Down After Five Years of Declining Sales
    Long-time employee Matthew Levatich is stepping down as board begins search for turnaround leader.

    The decision was seemingly amicable and understandable. Harley-Davidson, while still a respected name within the motorcycle industry, has seen sales and earnings steadily dwindle since 2014's peak for both. Last year's top line fell another 8%. Zeitz commented in the press release, "The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson."

    ...

    Bernstein analysts noted as far back as 2018 that millennials weren't as interested in motorcycles as their predecessors were at the same age, and to the extent they were interested in two-wheeled transportation, they weren't all keen on big, loud, heavy bikes. Consumers are increasingly interested in more convenient, lower-maintenance motorcycles, including electric bikes. While Harley-Davidson has responded to that shift with its all-electric LiveWire, the high price point of just under $30,000 has already proven a major hurdle.

    ...

    Harley-Davidson shares were up more than 5% in Friday's after-hours action following the announcement.

    https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/...-years-of.aspx

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    Levatich never appealed to me, for some reason, but he was eminently qualified and had been with the MoCo since 1994 . To me, the new bikes are ugly. Couple that to trying to sell to millennials, trade tariffs raising costs and an ageing traditional customer base? I don't know... Good luck to the next guy.
    Last edited by Hoghead; 02-29-2020 at 8:21 AM.

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    Agree with the ugly new bikes.. Also uninspiring.

    Somewhere I posted about my last trip to the dealer. Mrs. wanted to try on some really top end leather riding gloves. (She has one of their branded leather riding jackets and loves it.) I wanted a calendar. Sales dude attacked me (I think he wanted to rape me) and tried to sell me some hideous looking bagger. He was going on and on about all the technological crap it had on it and all I could think was: "Wow.. You couldn't pay me to leave with that thing."

    I really liked the Sportys better than the new big twins. They're visually interesting, at least.. And they have character. Dunno what they run like, but I liked looking at it. It was appealing.. And that's always a good starting point. I might even rent one for a day next year and see?

    Selling to GenM types is going to be tough. They're thrifty and the Harley brand has lost the "cool" factor with them. They seem to like the older ones, actually. I know mine gets attention from them because: "Is that a kick starter? Cool!" The ones I see riding Harleys are on Sportsters. I guess they don't like the looks or the price, or both, on the big twins? It probably helps that used Sportsters are so cheap now I always expect to see a bargain bin full of them at the Dollar Store.

    And the "cool" factor matters, I think. I mean, just to be blunt about it, if I wanted to go fast or if I wanted the best value? I wouldn't own a Harley at all. They're neither of those things and they haven't been during my entire adult life.

    But they are cool and there is no replacement for that.

    I'm not a marketing expert, but if I was and I worked for HD? I would be thinking very, very hard about how to recapture that cool factor and rebrand. Maybe even redesign and reincorporate the kicker? I know greenie bullshit dictates a lot of the changes they have made and the 45 degree design isn't optimal anyway, so they had no choice in some of this... But I also know that "cool" sold Harleys forever and if they lose that and are left to compete with the Metric Bikes and do so strictly on the merits? They're going to lose overall.

    I remember reading years ago. that one of the most popular "dream vacations" for people in Japan was riding across the United States on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I don't think their choice of the locale or the ride was a coincidence.
    Last edited by confab; 02-29-2020 at 10:29 AM.

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    Well put. Indian figured out (after the ugly Polaris disaster, styling killed that brand) they need to look cool and have over 100hp not to suck.

    The Harley aftermarket is largely based on restoring reasonable HP to otherwise crippled machines whose rich boomer owners can afford another four or five grand or more, but those people are aging out. There's a rather large group of Harley owners who have never ridden a modern motorcycle with serious horsepower. You can't make 200 reliable hp on a street Harley but you can buy it easily in the form of a Jap bike, and Harleys do not steer or stop in the same league as a modern motorcycle.

    Cue gummers muttering "its good enough for me" but they are not the new customer base and will be dead soon. Their ridiculous howls about how their fossils are peak motorcycle are even more epic in the Britbike world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    You can't make 200 reliable hp on a street Harley but you can buy it easily in the form of a Jap bike, and Harleys do not steer or stop in the same league as a modern motorcycle.
    Yeah.. That is absolutely true. Anyone who thinks different just needs to see some waspy faced metric pass them on the back wheel at about 60 mph one time. I don't think that is the path forward for Harley Davidson. Not that they couldn't do it technologically, but the end result won't resemble a Harley. Maybe as a niche market? But Harley has always been the top end cruiser.

    They're customizable. The big twin is kind of like the GM products of yesteryear in the sense that you can mix and match components with relative ease. Maybe that sort of adaptability is out of fashion now? But it gave big twins an advantage over the metrics in many ways growing up, because you could do so much with them.

    And they were visually interesting. Older big twins were fascinating machines to look at. I guess the best contrast I can think of is the Indian with the lego motor. We saw a bunch of used ones at the places we stopped, so we had plenty of time to study them. Not much there. You see one? You've seen them all.

    I know regulatory mandates and production realities dictate a lot of things today. More than ever before. So, you can't just throw it all away and go backwards even if it were advisable, and it isn't. But I really think less may be more in the street cruiser market.

    The bagger guys are older, as you say, and they want what they want. Touring is its own thing. Maybe endless gayness is useful to them? I'm GenX so perhaps I don't know what the M's and Z's want? But if the choice were mine, I would like to see a modern bar bike offering from HD. Something cool and minimalist looking as the bikes I see here. I'd like a modern engine and a drivetrain that looks like more than an uninspiring block of metal hanging in the frame.

    Interestingly, the Japanese seem acutely tuned to what made Harley Davidson great and they're always aping them. The ABATE course featured a bunch of little Rebels. Those things are clearly pint sized, Harley rip offs. The Mrs. bought her Shadow VLX because it's a little Harley. It has everything but a tank mounted dash, and I'm surprised they didn't steal that, too.

    Honda has a raked bike now. What are they shooting for? The Harley cool, obviously!

    https://powersports.honda.com/street/cruiser/fury

    They're all wannabees, though. But they are good wannabees and if Harley wants their reputation to continue for another generation? They are going to have to step up to the plate and defend it.

    You aren't going to out GSXR Suzuki and you aren't going to out Goldwing Honda.. But Harley Davidson never needed to and their product was so cool it added value in ways the others could not.

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    ^^^Guy who has the unit next door to mine has a few Buells-can't wait to show him this!

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    You aren't going to out GSXR Suzuki and you aren't going to out Goldwing Honda..
    However more HP is always nice to have and Indian's FTR does 123hp out of the box. It need not curbstomp rice rockets to be fast. HD needs an updated monoshock Sportster. The original Sporty was quite modern for its day including unit construction and cassette transmission but ~60HP stock in 2020 is absurd. Buyers rightly love classic Sporty styling but that doesn't need to change much for a monoshock which would greatly improve the ride currently limited by shit twin shock short travel rear suspension. HD could copy its own previous success by studying customs:

    https://www.hotbikeweb.com/jeremy-cu...dson-sportster Extra points for the cute baby ham can.

    HD and Gold Wings are fairly competitive in the bagger market and HD sell far more than Honda in that segment, though some of my old HDbros went with Wings or Valkyries for touring. HD murdering V-Rod (which was neither fish nor fowl) because improving it might have cannibalized traditional sales was stupid. V-Rod owners have made some tasty baggers out of them and if the MoCo had put that engine in a decent chassis it had plenty of potential.

    HD mismanaged Buell which should never have used Sportster drivetrains which are crippled out of the box (no hp, agricultural gearbox) and were obsolete for anything but cruising long ago but everything HD outsources or buys into it fucks up. The hideous later frames didn't help either and there are many better looking ways to do that job as Ducati demonstrates.

    Engineers should engineer and stylists should style.
    Last edited by farmall; 03-01-2020 at 11:36 AM.

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    I certainly don't think Indian has all the answers, just picks up the crumbs and the slack where harley left off. Latest doo-dads. More HP in the FTR. Who cares. If I wanted HP and a canyon carver I'd get a dual sport with road tires.
    I seriously think HD should go back to the lego days and old castings when they peaked in '92. The new stuff doesn't feel right and is far too expensive, I just wanted to go fast and it got me in a lot of trouble with that lowrider S---and it was a lemon that made me hate the dealer network and couldn't keep up with my bud's $7k yamaha even after throwing a couple thousand at it.

    Also, the base does not want water cooled bikes. The millenials might but I doubt HD can actually deliver a reliable one. If they dropped the sportster like I think they will, they'll seriously shoot themselves in the foot.

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    Im really betting that the electric bikes will rule the race and street market very soon,and more new companies are coming and the dinosaurs are gasping for air now.Only a few cruisers will be around strictly as folk art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    ...but everything HD outsources or buys into it fucks up. The hideous later frames didn't help either and there are many better looking ways to do that job as Ducati demonstrates.

    Engineers should engineer and stylists should style.
    Long ago I was a software developer using this radical product called Lotus Notes. It had an amazing following including the U.S. Military as it was impossible to hack ( back then ).

    IBM bought the company and pulled a full Harley on it. Horrible marketing, priced it out of control, and let a lot of the original developers go rather then pay them well.

    Microsoft developed Outlook and pretty much that was the end of the story. So damn sad when big companies think they know what the heck they are doing!

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    BTW what nearly dead old men (everyone over forty and most of us on CC!) want is not what will drive future markets. People's preferences freeze in their youth, be it music or motorcycles.
    The new stuff doesn't feel right and is far too expensive,
    Is it fair to say what you and most other bikers consider "right" was established many decades ago as a young man and didn't much change?

    Prices are measurable and all comparisons not made in constant dollars/dinars/renminbi/whatever are invalid. Entry level big twin prices have been basically flat since I bought my 1988 FXR. Anyone who wants an entry level HD can afford it as easily as a new car or truck, most of which cost far more. What changed is not everyone wants to be a nearly dead old man (all of us over forty) jacking off to his forever dead youth. The dying Boomer market cannot be directly replaced because that particular population boom was the specific outcome of the best thing to happen to the US economy, the Second World War. Nation-state wars are not fought by those obsolete, cannon fodder intensive methods any more and global production won't conveniently be blasted flat like Axis and much of Allied industry from '39 to '45.

    Everyone who wants an HD in the US has one unless they failed so hard at life they can't even manage a used scoot. They last indefinitely so used toys compete with new toys. The market is saturated and at that point sales of new bikes will not GROW (static isn't enough for investors) at rates. HD isn't dying. That's just clickbait and remember the only reason you see mainstream "news" is to put your eyeballs on adverts or otherwise influence your spending. What it cannot do is sustain perpetual growth but it outsells many other successful makes.

    Also, the base does not want water cooled bikes.

    THAT particular portion of the base doesn't buy new motorcycles. What customers want is air-cooled appearance
    and classic styling. The average customer is not a mechanic and will never turn a wrench except perhaps for a battery swap etc. Art Deco styling can easily be done with liquid cooling either air or water. (Put a few fins on a Drake Knucklehead water jacket, done!) Liquid cooling is key to high output engines making reliable horsepower over time which is why those Drake and other conversions were built. Passive (not forced draft as on aircraft) air cooling has limits liquid cooling does not.

    Kind of crude but this one was done more to use the engine than as a styling exercise: https://www.hotbikeweb.com/bikes/wat...er-bacon-s-hog

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    "Right" is subjective. I'm just wondering why HD has to constantly push this dead end road for more hp, more doodads--if that route works why aren't we all riding project NOVA mills around? I just want a cheap "classic" like what chevy did in the 80's and I bet a lot of millenials do too. Choke it down to nothing to pass emissions with an air cleaner then sell one to free it up.

    I've also had some real "maintenance free" shitboxes, and I know some guys with twincams that flip some mystery switch like a sending unit and won't run. That lowrider S was far more trouble than anything just because it yanked the compensator sprocket free from HD spec'd green locktite, the dumbass dealer just kept on digging until it was in the shop for weeks. Not to mention that bike was fucking hot, and small (wtf is with the new softails? tiny).

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    Harley doesn't have a choice in some of it. Federal Regs won't let you build bikes that put oil on the ground, make too much noise, aren't fuel efficient, etc.

    But I know what you mean. My last trip to a harley dealer ended with a giggle inducing attempt to sell me some hideous bagger because my bike is old and I need an upgrade! Sales rep was actually selling the gadgets, instead of the bike.

    "And if you pull the front brake three times it doesn't roll backward when you start out on a hill! And you can link your phone and it has this radio thing with.. And these things keep your legs warm and.. " I can't remember it all, but it was a HUGE spiel he went through and at the end of it I realize he didn't try to sell me the bike itself.

    Gadgetry may appeal to some people and it is undeniable that there was always performance left on the table because you couldn't get to it without computerized engine management.. But I kinda would like to take a step back from that, to the extent federal regulations permit, anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by confab View Post
    Harley doesn't have a choice in some of it. Federal Regs won't let you build bikes that put oil on the ground, make too much noise, aren't fuel efficient, etc.

    But I know what you mean. My last trip to a harley dealer ended with a giggle inducing attempt to sell me some hideous bagger because my bike is old and I need an upgrade! Sales rep was actually selling the gadgets, instead of the bike.
    What about a non-CA model? I'm sure they could goad trump into rolling back regs or making MCs exempt entirely. Then it's just rolling out the old dies and retooling. Maybe it sounds crazy but I think it saved them in the 80's and it could again...just rolling it out as a separate line--keep the sportster and a BT evo and call them "classic."

    That dealer sales pitch makes me bite hook line and sinker btw--I can't set foot in an HD dealer because I WANT more power, heated grips, a wind break, cruise control, a radio because I've hummed the same tune 10,000 times--but the trouble with all that shit is that a bike is not a car.
    You have to set a limit with all that before it becomes a distraction, and worse: it makes you ride too far. Eventually after 500 plus miles fatigue trumps and that's when fuckups happen. I've felt fine with the cruise set until I stop--then I do something stupid like drop the bike at the gas station because my legs fell asleep a little. Or I grab too much throttle when I leave and the power makes the bike fishtail. Stupid shit that wouldn't happen on a lightweight sportster or a low hp big twin. All that fluff that makes you forget you're on a bike can come up to bite you in the ass when you stop and makes you less aware of your surroundings while you're on the road.

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    worse: it makes you ride too far.
    MAKES?? Isn't "tempts" the word you're searching for? As for the "you", I'm an operator, not passive cargo, when I'm riding a bike. I don't assume other vehicle operators are like me or not like me. If there is scientific evidence supporting or contradicting an assertion I'm interested, but I don't confuse anecdotes with data. When I'm tired I find a place to rest if fatigue sets in before my planned rest stop. That's pretty effortless in the smartphone era and wasn't awful in the dead tree map and compass era.
    All that fluff that makes you forget you're on a bike
    I'm an adult in control of my choices, If you instinctively do silly shit then it's time for the only effective response (until age, which destroys us all, makes it impossible) which is self-discipline. Plan trips including stops and adhere to your schedule. Young folks can push their fatigue envelope further than elders.
    Eventually after 500 plus miles fatigue trumps
    So stop the marathons and take scenic routes. I'm not making you ride 500 miles in one shot. Who is? If that's becoming an issue, ride differently. ALL the choices are yours. Is there a point to riding well into severe fatigue? What is the objective? Analyze why you choose what you choose, apply logic and reason, reject emotion and make the most useful choice. You own your motorcycle and your body.
    That dealer sales pitch makes me bite hook line and sinker btw
    ...
    Or I grab too much throttle when I leave and the power makes the bike fishtail.
    Wow. I suggest reading your own post for comprehension and count your assertions/implications that you are somehow not your own master. You can choose to internalize that dealer pitches are bullshit designed to separate you from your money. I chose to be immune to them. It that's too hard, stop visiting dealers. If your current machine is too much hassle, is there a reason you don't revert to one with softer performance? It's only a vehicle. If I get one that annoys me it gets modded or sold. If stock Evos were "peak HD" from your POV, switch to one and your difficulty vanishes!

    Keep in mind later in life most humans revert to habit because the automatic lazy default is easy (regardless if it is wise or not!). While you are still your own master is the time to ACTIVELY consider your own defaults then tune or toss them. Humans tend not to apply critical thinking to their own actions. I question everything, especially my own choices, because that's how to make better choices! You're clearly an intelligent person so find out what the real problem is through cold, reasoned analysis then order yourself to make optimal choices. It's just process troubleshooting after all and your other accomplishments prove you can do that.
    Then it's just rolling out the old dies and retooling
    You know better than that. "Rolling out the old dies" is very far from trivial even if the original jigs, fixtures and any custom machines required still existed. It would require a new assembly line and that line must be optimized for efficent production which means the old engine desigins themselves are a problem! Those old production systems were obsolete when retired which is why systems designed for more efficient production replaced them. "Retooling" actually means setting up new facilities since current models are dominant in their displacement class in the US making it absurd to shut production. Even if the old equipment were in perfect storage setting up a new assembly plant on a greenfield (least expensive option because no demolition) site in a right-to-work state would be punishingly expensive and the real world is facing the usual periodic recession after which even more of our fellow boomers will be gone from customer base. The Evo saved HD because the models it replaced were functionally inferior, less reliable, often poorly machined, and drove off dedicated customers.
    https://www.hemmings.com/blog/articl...-v2-evolution/
    Harley-Davidson was making its own pistons at the time, but they were making them on a grinding machine and a lathe,” John recalls. ”You can look at the results and read the piston to see what it wants. Those pistons tipped so much, it would scrape metal to metal,” says John. In the Evolution engine, Harley-Davidson contracted the German firm, Mahle, to produce the pistons. ”The untold story is the cooperation we received from the unions,” says John. After a 40 percent workforce reduction and a 10 percent pay cut across the board, the unions conceded to having the pistons and bearings made outside the company, in order to produce a better product and increase production.
    The latest engines are not functionally inferior and make (a lot) more torque. The Evo 5 speed was a considerably better piece and far easier to work on than the four speed, It's not a leap over current transmissions. New Evos would cost as much or more than the models designed for efficient production and more performance does today,

    The global market shock (long overdue and COVID-19 happened to be a trigger) means retooling for obsolete ICE engines there is no known or reasonably predictable profitable market for would end in tears. It's thrashing, not strategy. Successful diversification can be done as John Bloor did with Triumph or Royal Enfield (by far the most successful MC company of British origin) has been doing for a while. Clueless thrashing (plus a nice dose of fraud) killed the Garner respin of Norton. That BTW is also bemoaned by people who would never buy a new Garner but make all sorts of noises about how "someone" should buy it. Triumph are run by adults and turned down that poison pill when offered to them.

    It means going for a global market, manufacturing globally, and doing serious market research and prototyping. Randomly throwing shit against a wall to see what sticks isn't to be confused with strategy so HD just switched CEOs. (Better late than never...).It won't be easy as electric bikes will have commodity components with very fast development cycles. That's why the Big Four aren't jumping in early. Much of their market in Asia and the developing world will remain ICE due to infrastructure but those lines are tools while HDs are toys so they have leisure time to act. In the US motorcycles are toys highly vulnerable to economic swings because nobody NEEDS them. Fortunately the world is large enough to sustain HD in some form.

    Fact and evidence based counter-contention welcome! Cold analysis, not feeling, not nostalgia for our dead youth (which it should be noted is not the youth of FUTURE motorcycle buyers), just the same realities a modern business analyist who is any good would take into account.

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    I'll put my rake down and run, I hit a hornets nest!

    I did get rid of that bike and regress back to what I rode prior (if at all); all I'm doing is admitting my own faults. My heavy throttle hand was entirely my fault true true--entirely too much bike for me to handle even after ten years of riding--but how is more power and more HP good for the layman? What's the end game here? So much power and wifi connected bullshit we launch into space?
    I'm not asking the world for some kind of stone age regression HD run back to knuckle days, bring out a BT evo single "standard" classic best case, worst case keep just the sportster.

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    [QUOTE=farmall;840745]

    The latest engines are not functionally inferior and make (a lot) more torque. The Evo 5 speed was a considerably better piece and far easier to work on than the four speed, It's not a leap over current transmissions.

    Fact and evidence based counter-contention welcome!

    Ha! Farmall- was Dr Spock your favourite Star Trek character? Logic was everything to him too! I can't disagree tho', especially on the transmission comments. What kept me on Evos was Harley's habit of crippling the first of a new line of engines with dumb faults, e.g twin cams and cam chains, or M8s and oil pumps.

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    My twincam was 9 thou out when they measured it after the compensator broke free, and that was the last year run.

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