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Harley-Davidson

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Could Ducati be building a street cruiser to compete against the likes of Harley-Davidson? That’s the rumor behind the so-called Ducati Vyper, which was started by a statement made by Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali, who revealed that Ducati is looking to branch out into a wider market. The 1400cc 170hp prototype is said to be already in running form, and has started preliminary tests at the Bologna factory.

The Vyper will feature a stroked version of the company’s Testastretta engine, and house it in Ducati’s signature steel-trellis frame. A 240 rear tire mounted onto a beefy hollow-section swing-arm is also believed to be on the new machine. Luca from Bar-Design has made some exclusive renders of the Ducati Vyper for Asphalt & Rubber, and if the original looks anything like this, we might just be believers in the Italian chopper concept.

The New York Times ran a great article this week about the challenges facing Harley-Davidson, both from the current economic depression, and more generally as the quintessential Harley rider gets older in age.

In summation, Harley-Davidson dealers around the US and overseas are seeing sales drop dramatically as people scale back their expensive purchases, and as the access to credit becomes increasingly difficult.

There’s no real surprise there, and any hardcore fan will be quick to tell you that Harley will be back on top once this financial turmoil is over. However, looking farther down the road at Harley-Davidson’s long-term business position, there is additional trouble brewing as well.

Baby boomers account for the majority of Harley sales, and they are getting older. The NY times ends there with its commentary, but we think there’s more to the story on Harley-Davidson and the American bike market in general. 

Harley-Davidson has announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group will invest $300 million in the motorcycle maker through a purchasee of senior unsecured notes that will mature in 2014. These funds match a similar investment by Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., which is already the largest shareholder of the company’s stock. Harley-Davidson will use the money to bolster its lending services, hopefully making it easier for the troubled motorcycle maker to lend cash to consumers. In exchange, Berkshire Hathaway will reportedly receive a lucrative 15% annual interest rate on the cash infusion.

The markets have responded to the news rather favorably, with Harley shares hitting $13.56 in trading yesterday afternoon – a 14% increase from where they started yesterday. Just about a week ago, Harley-Davidson announced a plan to shed 10% of its workforce. This move marks the first time that Buffett has ever invested in the company.

wall-street

Harley-Davidson () shares dropped 12% Monday as financial analysts grew bearish over motorcycle purchases in 2009. Sparking the plummet, Goldman Sachs downgraded Harley’s shares to sell, lowered its target price to $11, and cut its 2009 profit outlook by 50%. Goldman analyst Patrick Archambault said he expects Harley’s retail bike sales to fall by 30% this year, making it the worst year for new registrations since 1982.

Part of the reason for the downgrade is becauset Harley-Davidson CEO, James Ziemer, said last month that he plans to retire from his 40 years of service with Harley in 2009, and on Thursday last week, Sy Naqvi stepped down as interim president Harley’s finance unit.

Another concern has been Harley-Davidson’s financial services division. The division is expected to make less revenue in 2009 off of sales, lose more money on delinquent loans, and be stuck with loan obligations because of a frozen LBO and secondary loan markets.

Source: Visordown

Spanish magazine Solo Moto has gotten word that Harley-Davidson has put together a plan to revive the Cagiva brand. Cagiva, like many Italian marks, has struggled the past years because of poor financing and business management. In its deal to acquire MV Agusta, Harley-Davidson also acquired Cagiva with that hopes that the American company could provide a remedy to these problems, and has recently laid out its plan on how it is going to achieve those goals. Read more about their road map for Cagiva after the jump.

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Harley-Davidson is getting creative with selling motorcycles, and we here at Asphalt & Rubber like it. HD must really want to capitalize on those sales, as it’s just announced a unique incentive to purchase a new Sportster, or alternatively to trade in your recently purchased model. 

All new 2008 and 2008 Sportsters, bought between December 26, 2008 and March 31, 2009, will be sold with a guarantee that Harley-Davidson will offer the full MSRP of the bike when traded in for a larger bike, within on year of the original purchase. The offer does not apply to the new XR1200, and the bike bought after the trade-in must be a Dyna, Softail, VRSC, or Touring model. 

Economically, this is an interesting deal. Harley-Davidsons, unlike most other marquees, generally appreciate in value over-time. This is mostly a function of long-waiting lists, and difficulty of purchasing abroad. Regardless, its a bonus point for buying the Milwaukee brand. The Sportster line, being at the bottom of the Harley totem pole, is the most susceptible to having this trend end with the economic crisis. This promotion, effectively squashes that possibility for the time being. Anyways, for the average consumer, revile in the fact that an otherwise depreciating object will hold its value for the next year minus the rate of inflation, and in the event of deflation in the value of the dollar, will actually be a decent investment. Booyaca!

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Harley-Davidson has announced that CEO Jim Ziemer will retire next year. The Board of Directors has formed a search committee to find Harley’s new leadership, both from internal hires to external prospects. Until a replacement is found, Ziemer will remain at his post.

The 58 year-old’s 40 year career at Harley-Davidson is truly an embodiment of the American dream, starting out as a freight elevator operator and working his way all the way to the top.

Harley-Davidson is recalling 349 Dyan series motorcycles for problems in their fuel-venting system. The defect in the construction can cause fuel to leak when the bike is tipped-over, which could lead to horrible, horrible, horrible burning. The affected models are the:

2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob (FXDB)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide Custom (FXDC)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob (FXDF)
2009 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider (FXDL)

Owners of these year and model bikes should take their hog into the dealer for an inspection of the fuel vent tube assembly, where the dealer will replace it if necessary. Owner may also contact the NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 or visit safecar.gov for more information.

On December 31st, Massimo Tamburini will be retiring from his position of design chief at MV Agusta. With this news it will be interesting to see who at MV (or should we speculate Harley-Davidson?) will step in to fill possibly the most important role to MV’s future. 

Massimo Tamburini has been the hand behind some of the most cosmetically important motorcycles in the industry’s history, those are some big shoes to fill, and it will be the first test of Harley-Davidson’s management of their new brand. Read more for MV Agusta’s official press release.

 

It was rumored before, but Asphalt and Rubber has just received confirmation from Harley-Davidson, that a limited production run of 750 XR1200’s (to pay homage to the XR750 which started it all) in the United States for the 2009 model year. Like we reported earlier, pre-orders will be allowed between December 1st until the 15th, good luck finding one on the 16th. You can find your closest dealer by going to h-d.com/XR1200.

According to a dealer announcement, the Harley Davidson XR1200 will be released in the U.S. at the IMS show in Long Beach, California this December 5th. If you’re not quite up to speed on Harley’s performance oriented bikes, the XR1200 is based off of the 1200cc air-cooled Sportster engine, and has styling and design that harken back to Harley-Davidson’s dirt-tracking days with the XR750. Read more after the jump.