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Harley-Davidson announces massive workforce cuts

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As part of its restructuring plan, Harley-Davidson will cut 700 jobs, it announced today. On top of that, chief financial officer John Olin is leaving the company, too.

The announcement comes as Harley-Davidson’s new CEO/president Jochen Zeitz pushes the company through major internal changes. The company laid off 140 workers last month, including employees at its Wisconsin and Pennsylvania factories. Presumably, those jobs are included in today’s announcement, although it’s unclear from the release exactly how everything’s going to play out. As per the release, Harley-Davidson is aiming for “approximately 700 fewer positions across the company’s global operations with approximately 500 employees expected to exit the organization through 2020.” Do the 500 job cuts for 2020 include workers already laid off?  Where does Harley-Davidson plan to cut the 700 positions—production?  Head office? Will the US factories bear the brunt of the cuts, with its overseas operations mostly unscathed?

The press release doesn’t share those details. However, it’s very clear the company is in the midst of big changes. Ever since Zeitz took over (previous big boss Matt Levatich exited the company in February), he’s been working on revitalizing the company, reversing its backward slide of the past couple years. Upcoming new models will see their launches delayed, and Harley-Davidson has cut production drastically. The company’s restructuring plan is called The Rewire, and we’re supposed to know more about it later this month. By Q4, we should see a new strategic plan for 2021-2025. For now, Harley-Davidson says these are the main details of The Rewire plan:

  • Enhance core strengths and better balance expansion into new spaces
  • Prioritize the markets that matter
  • Reset product launches and product line up for simplicity and maximum impact
  • Build the Parts & Accessories and General Merchandise businesses to full potential
  • Adjust and align the organizational structure, cost structure and operating model to reduce complexity and drive efficiency to set Harley-Davidson up for stability and success

In other words, Harley-Davidson is going to cut where it can, and make money where it can. Likely, more big changes are coming.

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