COVID-19 Hits Manufacturers Hard, Harley & Indian Are No Exception.

Most industries have been hit hard by the global pandemic, and motorcycle sales are definitely no exception. Motorcycle Manufacturers all over the world have felt the sting of COVID-19 and Icons Harley-Davidson and Indian ar no exception, AMERiders has the story for you.

Indian Is up 2020 Q1 Sales From 2019 Despite Global Pandemic

Indian and Polaris have been reporting comparatively positive numbers for some time now. Are they somehow immune to the struggles the industry is facing?

On April 28, 2020, Polaris released its first-quarter 2020 financial report. Overall sales decreased by six percent year-on-year compared to 2019. However, several powersports segments nestle neatly under the Polaris umbrella and when you zoom in on motorcycle sales alone, 2020 Q1 sales for the company were actually up seven percent over the same period in 2019.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Polaris groups the Slingshot in with Indian Motorcycle manufacturers name when calculating its overall motorcycle sales numbers. Furthermore, the company doesn’t break down any significant outliers in terms of its motorcycle sales drivers. It only goes so far as to say that its growth in this segment was “driven by increased sales of both Indian Motorcycle and Slingshot.”

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How much of this continued growth has to do with the FTR 1200 S and/or the FTR 1200 Rally? Unfortunately, that isn’t clear from this report, but we can surmise from past reports that those two definitely aren’t hurting Indian’s numbers. Polaris may not be exactly where it wants to be, but it’s also not hemorrhaging, which is definitely good news. 

Since so much of the news has recently been pretty terrible regarding global motorcycle sales, even Indian Motorcycle’s parent company Polaris suffering a 6 percent decline suddenly doesn’t seem so bad by comparison. Both India and Italy saw double-digit decreases for the same period, which of course varied by company. How are global motorcycle sales faring so far in 2020 by country?  

Here’s what we know so far, in order from worst to best from its manufacturers. 

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Granted, sales in the U.S. haven’t been great for a long time, especially as compared with booming the motorcycle manufacturers’ markets across Europe and Asia. Still, these numbers are interesting since they directly compare a country’s 2020 Q1 performance to the same period in 2019.

Harley “Rewires” the “More Roads need to Harley” Road-map.

It’s no secret that the past few years have been rocky for Harley-Davidson. A dwindling customer base and downward-trending sales have caused the company to rethink its strategy. In 2018, former CEO Matt Levatich introduced the “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” plan that was undeniably bold for the brand, and that included new products in different branches and expansion of its presence outside of the U.S. 

As the company feels the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on top of already evaporating sales numbers, the new leadership grabbed the bull by the horns and decided that the “More Roads” roadmap needed a “Rewire”. The new corporate plan will refocus Harley’s activities which should please the purists and worry those who were excited to see Harley explore uncharted waters.  

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Simply dubbed “The Rewire”, Harley-Davidson’s new plan for the future has yet to fully form but the founding guidelines were set shortly after catastrophic first quarter 2020 profits were announced. Here are the five pillars of the new strategy as presented by interim CEO and president, Jochen Zeitz: 

  • Enhance core strengths and better balance expansion into new spaces 
  • Prioritize the markets that matter 
  • Reset product launches and product line up for simplicity and maximum impact 
  • Build the Parts & Accessories and General Merchandise businesses to full potential 
  • Adjust and align the organizational structure, cost structure and operating model to reduce complexity and drive efficiency to set Harley-Davidson up for stability and success 

Summarized, this pretty much means that Harley will refocus its energy on what it does best (cruisers et al) for the audience it knows best (U.S.), move new product launches around, and pull the plug on the projects with the least potential. This means that some of the projected models some of us were excited to see come to life might be in jeopardy.  

Don’t worry, though: the Pan America and the Bronx are safe and remain part of the strategy. Under the “Reset product launches” guideline, Harley confirmed that it will “remain committed to Adventure Touring, Streetfighter and advancing electric motorcycles.” It already developed an entirely new engine for the two models anyway, so it might as well run with it at this point. The same goes for the LiveWire which will remain the flagship model of a future electric lineup.   

As for the whole “growing the customer base” spiel, the company has seemingly yet to figure that part out if the vague “re-evaluate strategies to reach new riders and build ridership” point is any indication.  

While not everyone agrees with the more conservative strategy—myself included—it looks like that’s the decision the market was waiting for. Since the announcement, Harley’s stocks jumped by over 20 percent in a matter of days. Whether or not the strategy will be sustainable in the long run remains to be seen—the situation was already concerning prior to 2018, but band-aids are not a bad thing to use to patch things up and hold everything together until you find a durable cure. Hopefully, this “rewire” is a band-aid. 

~And as always…

~Live Free Ride Hard~

~AMERiders

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