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Matt Levatich

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When we broke the news that Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors were parting ways, we teased the idea that the Bar & Shield brand might go it alone with its electric future.  Since that breakup, there have been murmurings that Harley-Davidson was going to build its own EV design and research center, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, and today those rumors became true.

Announcing the plans during the company’s 115th birthday celebration, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich described the plan as an extension of Harley-Davidson’s commitment to make electric vehicles, and the move is an obvious grab at some of the top electric vehicle talent that resides in Northern California.

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson's Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka.

No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well.

Milwaukee even impressed with its more "core" offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be "a real motorcycle" in our eyes...we think.

Let us too not forget that the iconic American brand is poised to lead the motorcycle industry with the first full-size, production, electric motorcycle from an established OEM. Stodgy, old, conservative Harley-Davidson will be an industry-leader this time next year, with its Livewire machine. Crazy.

Sprinkled into the news was a look at Harley-Davidson's lineup of electric vehicles, which creates a pathway for non-riders to become diehard Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

Harley-Davidson talked about its plans abroad; its desire to make entry-level / price-point motorcycles; its goal to add more riders, from more diverse demographics; its plans to add another engine platform that would range from 250cc to 500cc in displacement, and power bikes for the American, European, and developing markets.

Oh yes, there were certainly high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week, but it wasn't because everyone was talking about all of this information that Harley-Davidson sprung on the motorcycle industry.

Instead, there were high fives in Milwaukee last week because no one was talking about Harley-Davidson's shrinking Q2 sales, or the fact that the company's stock price dropped 0.5% on the news.

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We bring you big news this first day of March, as Harley-Davidson has announced its strategic investment in Alta Motors, which will see the two American companies co-developing two new electric motorcycle models.

As one can imagine, the news has big ramifications for both brands. For Harley-Davidson, it means having access to cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, and a technical partner that can help them navigate the coming shift to electric drivetrains.

And for Alta Motors the news is perhaps even more impactful, as Harley-Davidson brings not only a key monetary investment into the San Francisco startup, but the deal likely provides access to a variety of assets for Alta, namely purchasing power with parts supplier, access to a worldwide dealer network, and instant credibility with other future investors.

For the immediate future though, Harley-Davidson and Alta Motors foresee their collaboration including two new electric motorcycles, which will be branded under the Harley-Davidson name. 

Two labor unions have ended a partnership agreement with Harley-Davidson, citing differences with how the Bar & Shield brand handles staffing issues at its factories (Harley has been accused of replacing hourly union workers with temporary seasonal workers).

The move comes after a meeting on Monday, which saw leaders from the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), and Harley-Davidson President & CEO Matt Levatich unable to agree on how to handle staffing issues going forward.

While the disagreement ends an accord that has existed between the unions and Harley-Davidson for the past two decades, it does not affect the collective bargaining agreement that the unions have with Harley-Davidson, which has been incorrectly reported elsewhere.

Any hopes of the US motorcycle market making gains in 2017 appear to be going out the window, as Harley-Davidson reports that its Q2 2017 sales are down a whopping 9.3% – prompting the Bar & Shield brand to readjust its delivery numbers to dealers in the United States.

Sales worldwide were equally bleak for the American company, with international figures down 2.3% for the same time period. This means Harley-Davidson’s combined worldwide sales numbers are down 6.7% for Q2 2017.

As a result, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said that Harley-Davidson would see a reduction in its workforce, though he would not offer specifics on what that could look like for its mostly union workforce.

As motorcycle manufacturers report their 2016 numbers, we see the continued trend that last year was a tough year for OEMs in the USA. Harley-Davidson reports that its sales dropped 1.6% overall (262,221 units) in 2016, but that number doesn’t paint the full picture for the Bar & Shield brand.

Harley-Davidson sales were down 3.9% in the USA for the 2016 sales cycle (161,658 units), which is a stark contrast to the 2.3% growth Harley-Davidson saw abroad with its international sales.

These losses translated to Harley-Davidson’s balance sheet, with the company posting an 8% decrease in net income, making $692.2 million in 2016. Consolidated revenue remained steady however, at $6 billion.

No matter your political leanings, you cannot deny that the upcoming presidential election is grabbing a lot of headlines, and dominating our social discourse – and that is perhaps the way it should be, as electing the leader of the free world is no trivial matter.

Whoever leads the United States of America after January 20th will have a dramatic affect, not only on the American public sector, but also on the American private sector. The daily business and life of America are intrinsically linked to this country’s politics.

It is therefore not that uncommon to hear of American business leaders voicing their opinions, and endorsing political candidates for office – sometimes they themselves even run for office – so, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised to hear that Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich weighed in on the 2016 election cycle.

It is a bit surprising to hear what he has to say though…

Harley-Davidson released its second quarter sales results today, showing the Bar & Shield brand taking a dip in sales in Q2 2016.

According to its report, Harley-Davidson sales are down 1.9% worldwide, a figure that is due mostly to the company’s performance on its home turf in the USA, which are down 5.2% when compared to Q2 2015.

In fact, Harley-Davidson sales abroad saw a modest gain of 4.3%, but since the iconic American brand still sells roughly two-thirds of its units here in the United States, the sales trends here steer the company’s fate heavily.

To that tune, Harley-Davidson notes that the US motorcycle industry as a whole is down 8.6% in Q2 2016 – a fair point to make, but it is also skewed by the fact that Harley-Davidson accounts for one-in-two of every new motorcycle sold in the USA.