Steane Klose | Jan 24, 2009

The tail-end of 2008 was a tough year for stock brokers, bankers and financiers, with most taking a comprehensive fiscal pounding. Big Christmas bonuses all but disappeared, and along with them went a chunk of Harley-Davidson sales.

America’s iconic manufacturer of ‘cool’ is suffering like most other manufacturers and has announced a cut to production of up to 13 percent in 2009.

Harley-Davidson has confirmed that it will close plants and cut 1,100 jobs (12 percent of the workforce) after reporting worse-than-expected results for the last three months of 2008. In fact, net income came in at USD 77.8m, down 58 percent on the same period in 2007.

The planned production cuts, plant closures and job lay-offs are required to realign Harley’s operation with the downturn in demand.

Harley-Davidson also reported losses at its in-house financing unit due to (you guessed it...) bad debts and continuing credit market related issues.

Sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles fell 13.1 percent on a worldwide basis during the last three months of 2008. Harley’s largest market, the US, saw sales decline by 19.6 percent, while sales in Latin America fell by a massive 28 percent. (Australian sales may have been the one bright spot on H-D sales ledgers, breaking previous annual sales records as we reported late last month on The Motor Report.)

Harley-Davidson plans to reduce the number of its manufacturing plants by combining two engine and transmission plants, moving its various paint frame operations into a single plant and closing its parts and accessories distribution centre. Parts and accessories distribution will be contracted to other companies.

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