Jul 22, 2015
Harley-Davidson Inc.'s market share continues to shrink amid discounting by Japanese rivals.
The Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker, which early Tuesday reported a 15% drop in second quarter profit, said its sales trends improved in June after a weak April and May. Harley is refusing to cut prices, but is offering cheaper financing to some buyers and free motorcycle-riding training to U.S. military personnel and veterans. It also hopes to spur sales with new products to be announced in August.
The pressure on Harley is evident at Pittsburgh Cycle Center, a motorcycle dealer in that city. A shiny black Honda Motor Co. Fury with a 1,300 cubic-centimeter engine was available there last week for $9,999. Glenn Dansey, sales manager, said that chopper sold for more than $13,000 several years ago. A $3,000 rebate on a Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie cut the effective price of that cruiser to about $14,500, he said.
Harley's share of the U.S. market for heavyweight motorcycles, those with engines of 601 cubic centimeters or greater, skidded to 47.5% in the second quarter from 50.3% a year earlier. That compares with a peak of 58% in the final quarter of 2013. One factor, Harley said, is the inclusion in market-share data of new three-wheeled vehicles resembling cars, such as the Slingshot from Polaris Industries Inc. Harley doesn't make a similar vehicle.
Pricing is the bigger issue. Harley fears it would destroy its profit margins and premium brand image if it slashed prices to match those of rivals.
Harley's profit in the second quarter was $299.8 million, or $1.44 per share, down from $354.2 million, or $1.62 per share, a year earlier. Wall Street had expected earnings of about $1.40 per share, according to FactSet. Revenue, including motorcycle sales and financial services, declined 8.8% to $1.82 billion.
To ease the near-term pain for shareholders, Harley said last month it would take on $750 million of debt in the third quarter to finance share repurchases.
Harley cut production in the latest quarter to trim inventories, reducing world-wide shipments to dealers 7.6% from a year earlier.
In the U.S., second-quarter retail sales of Harley motorcycles were down 0.7%. Retail sales outside the U.S., where Harley hopes to get much of its long-term growth, fell 2.7%. Harley's market share in Europe declined to 10.2% in the first half from 12.1% a year earlier. Second quarter retail sales of Harley motorcycles fell 8.9% in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and 2.6% in Latin America but gained 16.6% from a low base in Asia, where Harley said its smaller Street models are selling briskly.
Source: Market Watch