How many times will Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) use this tactic to make its sales
numbers? To me it’s suspect, and investors should be wary that things might continue to
get worse before they get better.
The big-bike maker’s recent fourth-quarter earnings results showed Harley just making it
over the hump of the low end of its dealer shipment forecast. After adamantly refusing to
lower its guidance for most of the year despite every indication sales would keep falling, it
finally capitulated after it posted its disappointing third-quarter results, reducing its dealer
shipment forecast from a range of 276,000-281,000 motorcycles shipped in 2015 to
265,000-270,000 motorcycles. And when it reported its results late last month, it indeed
made those numbers, albeit at the low end, with 266,000 bikes shipped.
Whew, right? Missing those numbers would have been horrible. Exactly! And that’s what’s
A year earlier, Harley-Davidson’s Numbers were also under pressure and scrutiny.
Just as it did last year, the bike maker was suffering from falling sales as competitors like
Polaris Industries introduced popular new models, such as the Indian Scout, and
Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha were discounting their bikes. Even Polaris bemoaned
having to join in on keeping prices low to attract customers.
But Harley’s been bucking the trend, refusing to give up the premium it charges for its bikes
for the sake of market share. And as the past year proved, it lost share to rivals, even though
it still does own almost half of the big-bike market.
Yet Harley also needed to keep up appearances, so despite falling sales in 2014, it still shipped
more bikes to its dealers in the fourth quarter and just managed to squeak over the low end of
its promised delivery threshold of 270,000-275,000 motorcycles, with 270,726 bikes. Boy, that