Harley-Davidson Sales Free Fall in Q1 2018

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After a dismal 2017, there was some hope at the start of 2018 that the US motorcycle industry would begin an upward climb. The industry seemed enthused and optimistic, though no one could pinpoint why they felt that way during our talks with executives and insiders.

Now, it seems that positive energy was simply that…nothing tangible, as the first results from Q1 2018 are beginning to trickle out of OEM headquarters. First up, Harley-Davidson.

Releasing its Q1 2018 report, Harley-Davidson is reporting a global decrease in sales to the tune of a 7.2% drop compared to its 2017 figures, which breaks down into a 12% drop for the US market, with the international market flat at 0.2% in positive growth.

Net income is down too for the Bar & Shield brand, with net income recorded at $174.8 million (on a revenue of $1.54 billion), which is down 6.2% when you compare it to the $186.4 million in net income from Q1 2017 (made from $1.50 billion in revenue).

The only silver lining for Harley-Davidson in this news is that the American brand isn’t doing as poorly as the US motorcycle market overall, which was down 11.1% in Q1 2018, for the over 600cc segments.

Accounting for roughly half of all motorcycle sales in the United States that are over 600cc, Harley-Davidson’s pull on the market data also has to be considered when comparing the brand’s performance against the industry’s.

However any way you cut the information, Harley-Davidson (and by the transitive property, the US motorcycle industry) continues to tumble in sales each quarter and each year, as baby boomer riders continue to age out of the sport, and are not being replaced by younger generations.

Unfortunately, it seems that the industry’s myopic focus on its cash-cow older riders has been made at the expense of new market development.

In its Q1 report, Harley-Davidson lists a number activities it is pursuing to find new riders – though doesn’t speak of its recent investment in Alta Motors and its commitment to release the Harley-Davidson Livewire next year – but one has to wonder if this is all too little too late.

Harley-Davidson Retail Motorcycle Sales, Q1 2018:

Vehicles First Quarter
2018 2017 Change
U.S. 29,309 33,316 -12.0%
EMEA 10,862 10,167 6.8
Asia Pacific 6,329 6,863 -7.8%
Latin America 2,506 2,342 7.0%
Canada 2,080 2,361 -11.9%
International Total 21,777 21,733 0.2%
Worldwide Total 51,086 55,049 -7.2%

Source: Harley-Davidson