Harley-Davidson Sales Ride High Despite Pessimistic Expectations

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Nearly two years ago, Harley-Davidson appeared to be in dire straits. The iconic motorcycle maker faced slumping sales, long-term demographic challenges from an aging customer base, and the threat of steep tariffs in Europe.

After its CEO departed in early 2020, the Milwaukee company overhauled its management team, cut its bike lineup, costs, and dealerships, and abandoned overseas markets that proved difficult for its motorcycles. And amid years of efforts to draw in younger riders with lighter, more electrified, and more economical models, Harley chose to emphasize its strongest markets and its most expensive bikes — which also featured the best profit margins.

The result? An end to the last calendar year that smashed analysts’ expectations. Harley took in just more than $1 billion in revenue in the final three months of 2021, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, to report a profit of $21.6 million for the quarter.

The same quarter in the previous year, by contrast, saw a loss of more than $96 million on $725 million in revenue. Wall Street had reportedly anticipated another loss, and the unexpectedly sunny report sent the company’s stock price up 15%.

For the full calendar year, sales were up 8% and revenue jumped 32% in 2021. The company expects further revenue growth of 5% to 10% this year, notwithstanding the sluggish global supply chain affecting most industries.

For Harley, that appears to be a relatively good problem to have. CEO Jochen Zeitz told analysts that for its motorcycles, “It's a question of supply, not a question of demand.”

Image Credit: Thomas Industry Update

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