Harley-Davidson CEO steps down as company's struggle to ramp up sales continues

Harley has announced Jochen Zeitz, famous for turning an ailing Puma in the 1990s into one of the top sports brands in the world, as its interim CEO

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Harley-Davidson's CEO Matthew Levatich will be parting with the company after failing to arrest the sales slump that has left the iconic motorcycle brand near-bankrupt. Harley-Davidson has named board member Jochen Zeitz as the acting president and interim CEO, with expectations of the company finally making a turnaround.

The announcement of the change in leadership was announced late on Friday after market closed, which saw the company's shares jumping 5% in after hours trade. Harley-Davidson has been ailing for quite some time, with changing consumer preferences, which has resulted in a decline in sale of its iconic brands.

Not a memorable journey

Harley-Davidson Pixabay

Harley said that Levatich will stay on through March to assist the company with the transition. Levatich will also be leaving his seat on Harley's board of directors Levatich didn't have a memorable tenure at the helm of the company since taking charge in May 2015, as he failed to push sales of vehicles. Harley is now looking at Zeitz to help the company bounce back.

However, Zeitz has been appointed the interim CEO. Harley has also formed a board search committee, while a hiring firm looks for a new chief executive officer. "The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson," Zeitz said in a statement.

Will Harley-Davidson's fortunes turn?

Harley-Davidson Pixabay

Harley has been ailing for quite some time now, with sales slumping every year in the United States, its biggest market, as the company struggles to adapt to an aging customers. The company has also been trying to expand its overseas market but hasn't succeeded much. Harley's bike sales in 2019 hit a 16-year low, while its motorcycle shipment volume was the lowest since 2010. This has compelled made the company top cut down on production.

Levatich since assuming office had tried to introduce revive sales through multiple initiatives like new launches, including battery-powered bikes, but failed to get the company back on its feet. The Milwaukee-based company now looks up to Zeitz in the interim period to help it turn around. Zeitz is known for helping an ailing Puma in the 1990 to emerge as the top three sports bands in the world.

That said, it won't be easy for Harley to make a comeback given the changing taste and preferences of the consumers. Harley's sorry state has also seen investors fast losing hope in the company, while analysts have been speculating if the company will finally take refuge in a buyout or go private.