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Harley-Davidson Back From The Lost Years After Restructuring

A few short years ago, the prognosis was looking grim for America’s iconic motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson.

With a history of posting annual sales losses piling up, the recession hit the Milwaukee company hard and forced it to sell off its holdings in MV Agusta closing down the Buell Motorcycle line in order to keep its core business unit operating.

But in the second fiscal quarter of 2011, Harley-Davidson posted its first year-to-date growth since 2006, and the Motor Company brand continued that trend throughout the rest of the year and finished the last quarter of 2011 with sales up 10.9% worldwide (11.8% in the US) over the previous year, Harley-Davidson finished the year strong with sales up 5.9% worldwide and sales in the United States up a similar 5.8% for units sold.

The total unit volume of 235,188 bikes being sold worldwide broke down to 151,683 units sold in the US and 83,505 units sold internationally, and during Q4 2011, Harley-Davidson sold 40,359 units worldwide while 23,753 of those units were sold to US buyers. Sales were also solid outside the US with 16,606 units sold internationally in Q4 2011. That represents an uptick of 9.7% over the same quarter of the previous year.

Those solid sales numbers meant Harley-Davidson posted some some gains on the bottom line in the bargain. Though they took a $46.7 million loss in net income for Q4 of 2010, Harley-Davidson reported a positive net income of $105.6 million and it was that increase which helped Harley-Davidson quadruple its net income for 2011, as the Motor Company brand made $599.1 million in net income. No small change, that, as compared to the $146.5 million in net income the company made in 2010.

Totaling $4.6 billion in revenue for 2011 (11.6% over the $4.1 billion it hauled in for 2010) Harley-Davidson performance can be attributed partially to dramatic sales increases domestically and abroad, but the real lynchpin of the numbers was the fact that the company saved several hundred million dollars in expenses due to a comprehensive restructuring effort which pushed Harley back to consistent profitability.

The expectations? That Harley-Davidson expects to ship 240,000 to 245,000 bikes worldwide in 2012, and that would be a 3% – 5% increase over last year. For Q1 of 2012, Harley-Davidson expects to ship 58,000 to 63,000 bikes to dealers worldwide to open the year.

It might just be better than that if a couple of new models keep the revival moving forward.

The two new motorcycle models, the Seventy-Two and the Softail Slim, were inspired by what the company thinks is a move by buyers toward favoring a “garage-built” custom motorcycle look. They should be available immediately at authorized Harley-Davidson dealers.

The Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two

Based on the Harley-Davidson Sportster, the Seventy-Two will feature a sparkling, metal flake color option, a solo seat and side-mount license plate bracket, a bobbed rear fender and the whole beast will be moved along by the Evolution 1200 cc V-Twin powertrain finished in gray powdercoat with chrome covers and a new round air cleaner with a dished cover. Also in the mix, a Sportster 2.1-gallon fuel tank, narrow white wall tires, chrome laced wheels, and high mini-ape handlebars. The whole thing is supposed to look like the chopper customs of the 1970s.

Harley-Davidson Softail Slim

This is Harley-Davidson’s attempt to pare a Softtail chassis down to essential elements along the lines of the custom bobbers of the 1950s. Featuring a trimmed-down front fender and a narrow rear end, a solo seat and very little chrome. Hollywood handlebars and a headlight nacelle are finished in gloss black, a period “cat’s eye” tank console, half-moon rider footboards, and gloss black wheel rims and hubs complete the hot rod look. Harley’s 1690 cc Twin Cam 103B powertrain will sport polished covers instead of chrome, and the the Softail chassis is set up to ape the clean lines of a vintage hardtail frame. They kept the rear suspension control which is provided by coil-over shock absorbers mounted horizontally and out of sight within the frame. A 23.8-inch seat height and rider foot boards make this bike ideal for a wider range of riders large and small.

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