Harley Davidson is going through some rough waters the past few years, with the struggling company trying to bring more young buyers into the fold, while also revamping its product lineup to be leaner and economically focused. The company has a tall order on its plate, and things just became even loftier, with the company revealing Friday that Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich is leaving the company, and will also relinquish his seat on Harley’s board of directors.
Board member Jochen Zeitz will become acting president and CEO while a board search committee is formed, with the company even hiring an outside search firm to help fill the job.
“The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson” stated Zeitz in a prepared statement.
Levatich was tasked with trying to expand Harley’s presence in overseas markets, while also trying to bring more young buyers to bolster the large but aging fanbase that have supported Harley Davidson for the past several decades. However along with the stagnation in the age of its buyers, the brand has also been struggling with declining sales of even its most popular bread and butter models, with Levatich’s efforts at reversing this being largely in vain when viewed in the broader scheme of things. The announcement of the leadership change (which was made after the markets closed) helped push Harley’s stock price by 5% in after hours trading. This helped blunt the effect of a 2.3% drop in the broader market during the trading day. Harley is also wrestling with lower than expected profits in its bottom line. While the company made a net profit of $423.6 million in 2019, it only managed a $13.5 million dollar profit during the fourth quarter.
Levatich’s announcement certainly shocked many in the industry, but his departure will not be an abrupt one, with Harley Davidson revealing that Levatich will stay through March to help provide assistance during the transition process. In addition to replacing Levatich, Zeitz was also named board chairman and will be replacing Michael Cave who will now move over to the presiding director post. Cave revealed that the board is confident that its leadership experience as well as a broader understanding of the company as a whole will help create a seamless transition, but we are still holding judgement until the new CEO and the shuffled board can have a n opportunity to make moves to help solve some of Harley Davidsons persistent issues.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.