It never seems to get better for Harley-Davidson

Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Harley-Davidson, which manufactures motorcycles, has been trying in recent years to transform itself into a company with a long-term future. Or, at least, not a company that primarily sells heavy V-twin-powered bikes to an aging population. In that regard, there was both good and bad news on Thursday, as Harley announced its fourth-quarter 2022 earnings results.

The good news is that Harley brought in $1.14 billion in revenue, which was higher than analysts were expecting, according to The Wall Street Journal, which itself probably had a lot to do with Harley’s stock price which is up more than 10 percent today. Harley also said it had Harley-attributable net income of $42 million, a figure the wsj extension said it was also higher than analysts had expected. (Who are Wall Street analysts and why publications love The Wall Street Journal give so much weight to their opinions? I’m afraid you asked one question too many, mate.)

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“As we conclude the second year of the Hardwire, Harley-Davidson finished the year with solid execution of our strategic pillars,” Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz said in a statement. (What’s Hardwire? It’s something like, uh, “do better.”)

The bad news is that LiveWire, Harley’s electric motorcycle division that actually morphed into a new company to go public from SPAC last year, is doing poorly. Harley, for example, says he expects LiveWire to lose up to $125 million this year. Harley also said LiveWire sold just 69 motorcycles in the fourth quarter of 2022, a number I initially thought was a typo. He says that by 2023 he hopes to have up to 2,000 electric units.

For context, Harley said it sold approximately 19,200 internal combustion motorcycles in the fourth quarter in North America, with total units sold in 2022 down 12% from 2021, to 117,100, and sales stable globally. Harley blamed some of their problems on last year’s production shutdown, which makes sense.

Harley also said it would report LiveWire’s results separately from Harley’s results, even though Harley has an 89.4% stake in LiveWire. That will at least make it easier to see which parts of the company are or aren’t working, but part of me wonders if Harley is really looking forward to reporting that LiveWire sells dozens of electric motorcycles every quarter. Only dozens, I say.

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