Harley-Davidson Inc.: Take a Free Ride

With sales falling, company tries to attract new riders through promotional activities

A motorcycle is a luxury most people cannot afford during a recession. For Harley-Davidson Inc., that meant a dramatic drop-off in sales during the first two months of 2009. In an unusual move, the 2008 IW 50 Best Manufacturer filed a regulatory report on March 5 stating that retail sales fell 13% from the same two-month period last year.

Domestic sales dropped 9.4% while international retail sales plummeted 21.5% during the year-earlier period. The company expects to ship between 264,000 and 273,000 new motorcycles in 2009, putting it on track to meet 2009 guidance stated in its 2008 fourth-quarter earnings release.

Harley-Davidson Inc.
At A Glance

Harley-Davidson Inc.
Milwaukee, Wis.
Primary Industry: Motor Vehicles
Number of Employees: 10,100
2007 In Review
Revenue: $5.97 billion
Profit Margin: 15.20%
Sales Turnover: 1.09
Inventory Turnover: 11.97
Revenue Growth: -0.69%
Return On Assets: 16.88%
Return On Equity: 33.88%
Harley-Davidson typically does not provide retail sales information or updates to earnings outside its regularly scheduled quarterly reports, but the company made the data available to comply with the Security Exchange Commission's fair disclosure regulation.

"Because of unprecedented economic conditions, the company is providing this interim retail sales and guidance update as part of a regularly scheduled presentation to a group of its bankers and financial advisors on March 5," the company reported in the filing.

The company is trying to win back customers through various promotional campaigns, including an offer that allows buyers to purchase a new Sportster motorcycle and trade it in a year later for its original value.

Known as the We Ride Free promotion, buyers have until March 31 to purchase either a new 2008 or 2009 Sportster 883 or 1200 to be used as a trade-in for Big Twin motorcycles, excluding certain models.

In addition, Harley-Davidson has been reaching out to minority bike riders with the February announcement of its Women Riders Month in May and its celebration of African-American riders during Daytona Bike Week on March 6 and 7.

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