Harley Davidson sales fall as appeal wanes for younger riders

US motorcycle maker's loud, bulky and expensive cruising bikes have not clicked with millennials but hope may come in the shape of its electric bikes

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 17 JANUARY 2018. The 2018 Harley Davidson Fatboy 107 cubic engine. Photographed at Al Qudra lakes in Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Antonie Robertson. Section: Motoring.
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Harley-Davidson reported a lower than expected quarterly profit on Tuesday, hit by declining sales in the United States, its biggest market, as its loyal baby boomer customers age, sending its shares down nearly 6 per cent.

Harley's loud, bulky and expensive cruising bikes preferred by baby boomers have not clicked with millennials, as many of them spend on paying off home, car and student loans.

The company, whose bikes can cost upwards of $28,000, last year unveiled a plan to introduce cheaper, nimbler motorcycles to woo the younger riders.

Harley is also investing to develop electric motorcycles and will launch its first motorbike without the traditional clutch and gear-shift controls by autumn this year.

Last summer, The National reported that the American manufacturer had announced its first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire.

The LiveWire is due to be on sale initially in North America and Europe, and will be made at Harley's plant in York, Pennsylvania.

The bike arrives off the back of Project LiveWire, an electric prototype model created in 2014.

The firm described the LiveWire as the first in a range of "no-clutch, twist-and-go" electric two-wheelers that will be followed by additional electric models "through 2022".

Harley also announced a new 500cc to 1250cc "middleweight platform" of petrol-powered motorcycles, which will be kicked off by the Pan America 1250, the 1250cc Custom and the 975cc Streetfighter, with a mooted 2020 launch date.

On Tuesday, it said it expects to ship 217,000 to 222,000 motorcycles in 2019, its lowest in eight years.


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Analysts on average were expecting 2019 shipments of 228,190 motorcycles, according to research firm Consensus Metrix.

Harley's US retail motorcycle sales, or sales by dealers to customers, fell 10.1 per cent in the fourth quarter ended December 31, more than the 8.3 per cent decline expected by analysts.

The company's total global retail sales were down 6.7 per cent.

Harley said it earned 17 cents per share in the quarter. Analysts had expected the company to report earnings of 28 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue from motorcycles and related products fell 8.7 perc ent to $955.6 million.