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Harley plans for fewer models, simpler factories after coronavirus shutdown
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Harley-Davidson Inc. is reopening its factories this week at lower production rates and sending dealers a narrower range of motorcycles, steering away from more expansive plans to stop a yearslong sales slide.
Milwaukee-based Harley's U.S. assembly plants and most of its dealers closed in March as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. As many of the company's 698 U.S. dealers were making plans to reopen, Harley's director of product sales, Beth Truett, told them in a memo earlier this month that about 70% of them likely wouldn't receive any additional new motorcycles this year.
"We are using this time to course correct and rewire the company in pursuit of making Harley-Davidson one of the most desirable brands in the world," Ms. Truett said in the memo, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Harley's strategy reversal shows how some companies are pivoting amid the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, reviewing operations or products that may not work amid an uncertain recovery.
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Former Chief Executive Matt Levatich had planned to offset declining sales of the big, expensive bikes favored by Harley's core baby boomer customers with dozens of new models by 2027, many of them smaller, cheaper and aimed at foreign markets. Mr. Levatich stepped down in February under pressure from shareholders threatening to initiate a proxy contest for board seats after Harley closed its fifth consecutive year of falling U.S. sales.