2019 Letter to Shareholders
Dear Fellow Shareholders,
As a passionate Harley-Davidson Board member - and now Acting President and Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board - I compose this letter with deep appreciation for the progress we have made and confidence in our ability to return to growth. As we embark on our next chapter and seek new leadership, we are steadfast in our belief that we have both much to be proud of and much to look forward to. With this letter, I’d like to share a summary of key highlights in 2019.
During 2019, we significantly advanced "More Roads to Harley-Davidson", our plan to accelerate our progress towards achieving our long-term objectives. The plan addresses our challenges and opportunities through four growth catalysts: amplify brand, new products, broader access and stronger dealers. With More Roads, we have made investments, built capabilities and achieved milestones that will set us up to realize sustainable growth in the future.
Last year, the retail sales rate of decline of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the U.S. significantly tempered. After four years of accelerating declines, such improvement was supported by our More Roads actions, notably in how we’re Amplifying our Brand and delivering on our New Products catalysts for growth. Key progress includes:
- Delivering industry-first innovations like ReflexTM Defensive Rider System (RDRS), a suite of electronic technology designed to link motorcycle performance to traction control and braking, and H-D CONNECT, technology which seamlessly links rider and motorcycle.
- Leading in the electrification of motorcycles with the launch of LiveWire®, our first electric motorcycle. LiveWire launched with acclaim from media and customers alike, helping shift perceptions about who we are and what Harley-Davidson is capable of.
- Further asserting our leadership in the electric space with the acquisition of STACYC and the launch of Harley-Davidson IRONeTM electric-powered two-wheelers for kids.
We also continued to Broaden Access, expanding our reach and relevance by improving our global eCommerce sales and digital capabilities. In 2019, 75 percent of people who purchased Harley-Davidson products on Amazon were new to Harley-Davidson.
Our efforts to build Stronger Dealers advanced last year, as well:
- In the U.S., dealers participating in our operations consulting engagements experienced on average a nearly 6% increase in motorcycle retail sales over dealers in the same market who were not in the program.
- 27 international dealerships were added, providing more opportunities to connect with global consumers.
Further, we continued to leverage our financial services business to support our quest to grow riders. Harley-Davidson Financial Services achieved a strong market share as nearly 64% of customers buying new Harley-Davidson motorcycles financed their purchase with HDFS.
In 2019, we also continued to manage our business to address current market conditions across the globe. We expanded our Thailand plant to serve the ASEAN markets and increase customer access with more competitive prices, and we continued our work to mitigate the bulk of the impact of recent EU and China tariffs. Thanks to our ongoing diligence, we expect the impact of these tariffs on our business to be significantly less in 2020 than in 2019.
BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF RIDERS GLOBALLY
Underpinning all our efforts is our topline strategy to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders. During 2019, we sharpened and intensified our U.S. growth objective for 2027, challenging ourselves to expand the total pool of riders in the U.S. to 4 million by adding and retaining more riders each year. And on this effort, we are making progress. We finished 2019 with 3.1 million Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S., 55,000 more total riders than in 2018. During the year, 527,000 riders joined the Harley-Davidson brand, 24,000 more than joined Harley-Davidson in 2018.*
The number of people who continue to join Harley-Davidson each year is a testament to the power of our brand and our strengthened capabilities. We are becoming a company that excels at and exists to not only build great bikes, but to build riders.
*SOURCE: IHS Markit Motorcycles in Operation (MIO) data for On-Highway and Dual purpose bikes in the U.S. as of Dec 31, 2019 compared to Dec 31, 2018. Data as of December 2019.
As further evidence of this transformation, in 2020 we will expand our focus from heavyweight motorcycle unit shipments to revenue from motorcycles and related products segment as a primary objective and measure for the year. This measure best reflects our comprehensive efforts to expand into new product segments and foster a customer-creation culture - one that is laser-focused on our riders and fans who are passionate about our great brand. Looking forward, our efforts will only intensify.
In our More Roads quest, we remain crystal clear that riding is, and has always been, what it’s all about. We believe 2020 is a pivotal year in our More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan, and we are excited for the future we are defining.
On behalf of everyone at Harley-Davidson, thank you for your investment and continuing to ride with us.
Acting Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of the Board