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Sonntag, 22. März 2009

Harley, You’re Not Getting Any Younger

Sales have plunged at Spuck Bennett’s Harley dealerships. “We’re just trying to survive,” he says.
Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times March 21, 2009 SPUCK BENNETT’S dealership just outside Ocean City, Md., is cluttered with 65 shiny Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including the chrome Sportster and the sleek V-Rod. Last year, Mr. Bennett, 79, sold 200 bikes, down from 280 the year before. This year, sales have slowed to a crawl.
The V-Rod, a cruiser that costs about $17,000, is aimed at younger riders, who have been more likely to embrace rival bike makers like Yamaha.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in the 33 years I’ve owned a dealership,” he says. “We’re just trying to survive.” ........... Harley’s core customers are graying baby boomers, whose savings, in many cases, have gone up in smoke in the market downturn.

Few are in the mood to shell out up to $20,000 or more for something that is basically a big toy, and the company, in turn, has not captured much of the younger market.

And though Harley’s woes pale in comparison to what the automakers face — Harley’s revenue dipped 2 percent last year while Detroit was crashing — overproduction and loose lending practices have burdened the company’s finances......Harley, based in Milwaukee, is finding that borrowing is difficult — and expensive. In early February, Harley announced that Berkshire Hathaway, Warren E. Buffett’s company, would buy $300 million of its unsecured debt. (Harley reported total debt of $3.9 billion last year, more than double what it held in 2007.)
In exchange for his good name and millions, Mr. Buffett demanded 15 percent interest from Harley on his investment (similar to deals he received from Goldman Sachs and General Electric when he invested in those companies last fall).... more details in NY Times here-->

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