What's going on?
American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson reported a weaker-than-expected fourth quarter on Tuesday – and the wheels fell off its stock, which dropped 5%.
What does this mean?
Both revenue and profit fell at Harley last quarter, riding in below investor predictions. The company’s European challenges were well flagged last year – but in the US, where it sells 60% of its bikes, sales fell more than anywhere else. With the US president kickstarting a boycott of Harley in response to the bike builder’s plans to shift some production to lower-cost plants overseas, US consumers might’ve ridden political pillion.
Harley expects to sell between 217,000 and 222,000 hogs in 2019 – not exactly firing on all cylinders compared to investors’ forecast of around 228,000. It’ll be the fewest number of bikes the company’s sold in eight years.
Why should I care?
For markets: A new pitch for new markets.
Harley-Davidson’s bikes once thrummed the heartstrings of stereotypical Terminator types – but that’s not working so well with today’s buyers. That is, if they’re buying vehicles at all. Harley’s hit on a new wheeze to win customers: a fresh generation of premium electric motorcycles, more pricey but probably safer than an e-scooter. The first-ever police car was electric – and as the world comes full circle, Harley’s investors will hope that the retro trend for big-but-green catches on.
The bigger picture: More hair in Harley’s face.
Data this week showed that the number of people in England and Wales turning to insolvency last year – a process by which debtors wrangle a new repayment plan for debts that’ve spiraled out of control – hit its highest level since 2011. And with the amount Brits owe on credit cards now the highest since records began, potential customers there probably can’t afford a Harley. For those who can, the strength of the US dollar means Harley’s local currency profit won’t translate into quite as many dollars back home – a problem hitting several US firms, including Pfizer.