Jochen Zeitz named Harley-Davidson interim CEO after Levatich steps down

Harley-Davidson Inc said on Friday Matthew Levatich has stepped down as chief executive officer and the motorcycle maker named Jochen Zeitz as the interim CEO.


"The board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson," Zeitz said.


Harley has, for years, failed to increase sales in the United States, its top market, which accounts for more than half of its motorcycles sold. As its tattooed, baby-boomer base ages, the Milwaukee-based company is finding it challenging to woo new customers.


Levatich, who took over the company's reins in May 2015, bet on building riders and new launches including battery-powered bikes to turn around the company's fortunes in the domestic market.


The results, however, remained elusive.


Harley's bike sales in the United States last year were the lowest in at least 16 years. Falling sales in the past 12 quarters have forced the company to tighten the supply of its bikes to prevent price discount pressure and protect profit.


In 2019, the shipment volume of its bikes in the United States was the lowest in at least two decades. Global shipments were the lowest since 2010.


With no sales revival in sight, investors were becoming restless.


Since Levatich came to the helm, Harley's shares have fallen 46 per cent. By comparison, the S&P 500 Index has gained 40 per cent.


On Friday, Harley's shares closed down 2.2 per cent at $30.47.