Harley-Davidson’s president and CEO has announced he’s leaving the position, effective immediately. Well, sort of.
Matt Levatich made the announcement today, and although he’s going to help the company through a few weeks of transition, he’s leaving the big boss role at the MoCo, a job he’s held since 2015 when he became CEO. He’s also leaving the board of directors.
Levatich started working with Harley-Davidson in 1994, and was there for years of the company’s greatest successes, but also through tough times after the 2008 recession. Bloomberg’s headline for the story was “Harley-Davidson CEO Steps Down After Five-Year Sales Slump,” which is true, but also a tad unfair; the whole big-bore motorcycle segment has seen sales hit the toilet since ’08.
However, Harley-Davidson’s sales numbers have been particularly bad, and under plenty of scrutiny, as it’s publicly traded in the US. In recent years, Harley-Davidson’s aggressively expanded into the electric motorcycle market and significantly updated its Big Twin line, and is about to build a new adventure bike and a new streetfighter. That’s been counter-balanced by trouble in overseas markets due to trade wars, the shuttering of production lines in the USA, and some outcry over plans to outsource some production overseas.
The blame for both the good and bad will be assigned to Levatich, and with growing concern about the company’s future, he may have felt it was time to step down. Given the current hammering the stock market is taking, it could have been a very smart thing to do, as financially troubled times won’t be good for Harley-Davidson. Bloomberg reports Harley-Davidson shares have already dropped 18 per cent this year.
So who’s taking over? No permanent replacement has been named yet, but board member Jochen Zeitz has been announced as temporary CEO/president and chairman of the board. Previously, Zeitz worked with footwear brand Puma and luxury goods company Kering. He’s on the board with Cranemere Group Limited and The B Team as well. He’s been a Harley-Davidson board member since 2007.
Harley-Davidson is said to be looking for its new leader through an outside search firm.