Harley rolling toward layoffs

Rick Barrett

Hurt by weak U.S. motorcycle sales, Harley-Davidson Inc. on Tuesday reported a sluggish third quarter and said it expects to lay off 225 salaried positions by the end of the year.

Harley said it had a profit of $114.1 million in the third quarter ended Sept. 25, down 18.7 percent from $140.3 million in the same period a year earlier. On a per share basis, the company earned 64 cents, down 7.2 percent from 69 cents a year ago.

The company says it is throttling back motorcycle production between now and the end of the year and is taking other steps to cut costs.

In an email, Harley spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim said, “The reductions are company-wide and will occur between now and the end of the year. Roughly 225 salaried employees and 70 contractors will be affected.”

Harley reported $1.27 billion in revenue in the recent quarter, down 3.8 percent from $1.32 billion a year earlier.

Weakness: The company said its worldwide retail motorcycle sales were down 4.5 percent, primarily on weakness in the U.S where sales fell 7.1 percent from a year ago.

“We continue to effectively navigate a fiercely competitive environment and an ongoing weak U.S. industry,” Matt Levatich, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Recognizing the continued slower industry growth in the U.S., the company said it will streamline its operations in the fourth quarter, and that it expects to incur expenses of approximately $20 million to $25 million, primarily for employee separation and reorganization costs.

In August, Harley said approximately 200 employees could face layoffs this fall as the company adjusted motorcycle production following recent slower sales. The separation costs don’t include those 200 jobs, according to the company.

Union sources said many of the 200 layoffs would take place at Harley’s assembly plant in Springettsbury Township but that a handful would occur at the engine plant in suburban Milwaukee where the company employs approximately 1,000 people.