Harley-Davidson. Moving Plants Out Of Wisconsin?

Harley-Davidson may leave Wisconsin if costs don’t fall at 2 of its plants. Yesterday, the company warned its employees that it could move its Wisconsin manufacturing operations to another U.S. state if it can’t cut millions of dollars in costs.

The Wisconsin plants at risk include:

1-Its powertrain operations in Milwaukee with about 1,320 employees. 2-The Tomahawk plant making components including motorcycle windshields with about 375 workers. While holding discussions with union leaders the company plans to look at sites in other states but didn’t name them. Harley-Davidson’s CEO Wandell said again that the company still faces challenges from the still struggling economy and that he can’t make no guarantees when it comes to the job security of its employees. Every month the situation with Harley-Davidson seems more eery. I expect Harley-Davidson to emerge from this Great Recession a much smaller and very compact company (picture copyright Harley-Davidson)

Zipper's

38 Responses to “Harley-Davidson. Moving Plants Out Of Wisconsin?”


  1. 1 Jason Bruer Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    The situation at Harley is much worse than what people could predict one year ago. Because cutting costs is the priority, I really wonder if they are going to come up with new 2011 models in Sturgis, or just pass 1 model year.

  2. 2 fuji Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:31 am

    lets hope the relocation does not happen and the state being referred to is not a communist state [China ] or is that what Milwaukee, Wisconsin is becoming in the eyes of Harley employees.

    Can you imagine the rumors and tension at corporate each day.

  3. 3 Ryan Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Soon they are going to move all plants south of the border and only keep the white collars in the Juneau building.

  4. 4 Joseph Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    It’s the end of Harley the way you knew it since it was bought back from AMF. Will become a small “American” manufacturer with few models having a good residual value because bikes will be difficult to get. Harley waiting for orders before building motorcycles? Waiting lists? Bike prices going up? Bad bikes but taking value. Happy bikers. Harley very profitable again. End of the story.

  5. 5 john Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    DOES H-D really need all the models they are trying to sell? What do they have 35 models.
    Does that V rod sell? Yes we know its going to be in a bagger soon. Do they need all the XL models?

  6. 6 fuji Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Supporting HD at times is like supporting the politicians of this country for making stupid decisions.

    It is very unfortunate that previous management / board as far back as 2006 didn’t take the proper measures to down size when the economy started to decline and business falter.

    Support them any way you can because they are American. HOW ABOUT EVERY ONE SENDING ME FIVE BUCKS. I KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT ONE ! that would make you a fool right.

    Remember back when Harley spent 4 million on a Sound Lab to measure exhaust note/ tone. Brilliant ! Listen to the noise now.

  7. 7 deadwood Apr 30th, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Look at their executive compensation. It’s public. Everyone but them is overpaid. These guys are not vested. They come in and walk away with millions and screw eveyone else. Employees and customers alike. Thats it for me. I’ll look elsewhere for my new bike this year. HD is not the only option. Congrats Mr. Six Million Dollar Man. You just drove off another loyal rider. Good ole Keith can’t make any guarantees except that HE will walk away with FULL POCKETS. I’ve had enough of this sleazy corporate crap from Milwaukee.

  8. 8 burnout Apr 30th, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I have said this many times, There ain’t no love in business. Yesterday afternoon my local dealer calls me and says’ NO MORE PARTS DISCOUNTS’ ? Well,well,well. Back when things were “good” he had 6 girls workin the apparel. now he has 2. He had 6 guys in parts, now he has 2.5 (parts manager doesnt count, he’s never there) NOW ‘the company’ wants to relocate the plant? give me a freakin break! They can justify the cost of new plants? Eery is correct Mr Huze! peace

  9. 9 Seven Apr 30th, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Isn’t this threat just a usual HD bargaining chip with the unions. I seem to remember they did the same with the York plant.

  10. 10 VTwinner Apr 30th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Harley is breaking its union workers to have free hands for the necessary master plan. Be profitable under the lowest estimates of bike sales for the next years (will be lower sales than in 2009 during the next 5 years and beyond.) Wandell does the right thing to keep Harley alive. It’s what he is paid for. At this point of panic they don’t care much about what bikers think. It’s SURVIVAL by all means.

  11. 11 Dave Blevins Apr 30th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    We’ve been hearing this wolf cry for a few years now, it is really about getting breaks on state and local taxes and kicking the union in the nuts.
    If, and that is a big IF, Harley was to make good on this threat, (and it never has in the past because it always got what it wanted), it would likely be about union concessions, a move to another state and simply not bring the union along. This has happened many times in all types of manufacturing in the last 20 years.
    Personally, I feel that the modern American workplace no longer has a need for unions, and unions exist now only to feed the suits that have no real interest in workers rights or pay, but rather thier ability to collect union dues from them.
    Adapt or die. Perhaps a move would be a good thing…

  12. 12 WT Apr 30th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Their bikes are no longer a Milwaukee made motorcycle and haven’t been for years. Their parts and their bikes are made all over the country/world. I’m really surprised they haven’t had only one of each type of bike (Softail, Sporster, Dyna, Touring) and then have a massive P&A catalog. Sell the base models cheap and then sell a bunch of P&A to make them what you want. Of course they are probably afraid of the aftermarket.

    Best of luck to them and it’s bad when you forget where you’re roots are. Keep the office buildings, but not the factories…….isn’t this a trend in the United States?

  13. 13 Woody Apr 30th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I worked in factories for 29 years, union & non. I know how I’d feel to have negotiations begin with threats in a press release. The idea of H-D walking away from all these paid-for facilities and starting over from scratch during times of slow sales shows a need for some other State(s) to come up with some real sweet tax and free money deals. It is getting old, isn’t it?
    A huge part of Harley’s sales have come from tradition and image, not superior quality and engineering. Acting like Walmart isn’t going to help those sales continue or come back.

  14. 14 just my opinion Apr 30th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I doubt that HD will move their plants unless it is too Taiwan or India. It makes no sense to move from a building that should be paid for, only to move to another state and a building that will likely have paymentsnot to mention that it is not cheap to move that equipment and training cost are also not cheap and they will still face the same worker wage/ union problems no matter were they go within the USA. I think some of you guys hit this one right on the head when saying that HD is just posturing to get the unions to lower wages and or benifits and possibly too get the county and city to lower tax liability or to get some type of incentives. The only part of this story you can trust is that HD does have serious problems and if not dealt with quickly I do believe that some of their models will be dropped soon. I would think that the V-Rod and Rocker will go first then soon after some of those Sportster models will likely drop as well. I believe that if HD does not do something to gain the trust of young riders they will be a very small company. Go to any motorcycle rally and look and see how old the average rider of Harley’s are. You will see that the average guy is 45 or older. That fact alone tells the story of HD and their inability to connect with the younger riders. I hope they wake up soon and start building bikes the younger crowd will buy.

  15. 15 m switzer Apr 30th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Wisconsin was looking at making a license plate with a Harley logo on it I imagine that program will be ended

  16. 16 Chopper Kid Apr 30th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    If they are going to move the plant, they might as well change their name. Moving it would be wrong in my opinion. Milwaukee and HD go together like spanky and alfalfa 🙂 Figure out how to make it throught the tough times, I am sure they can. I agree they need to have fewer models and downsize.

  17. 17 pabstbluerigid May 1st, 2010 at 12:13 am

    The motor company has been at this, what – how many years? survived how many recessions? mishaps? wars? financial ups & downs that have sunk far greater enterprises?

    Being in the industry long enough to know “both the good and bad,” appreciating the 70’s through current market conditions, i feel that they WILL end up on their feet…a lil’ leaner, but still standing?

    At what cost? well, what is it worth…or what will it take to maintain a primarily American made/sourced product.

    All the haters on here amaze me…JEALOUSY is a strange trip. do you have even the slightest clue about operating an icon like HDMOCO? all the facets of the company? the daily operations? advertising? the dealing with the government? everyone has so much to say, so “critical” yet so comical.

    I am an OEM…proud HD dealer 35 years. Buell dealer since 1994 too. but you probably figured out already i am a “team player.” i “finished assembling” bikes in the 70’s that the factory shipped with parts in a box strapped on the crate….we made it through the carter years, ridiculous oil ups & downs, amf’s out/HD’s return…2 year waiting lists in the 90’s cuz we ALWAYS SOLD AT MSRP and NEVER placed a value on instant delivery.

    I digress.

    You all just keep hating, building what you can thanks to Harley’s R & D – you’ve got your “Ultima” and “S & S” powerplants that would NOT be possible without somebody making a path.

    Anyway? FYI – Numerous models “out for 2011.” FXSTC (softail custom), FXD (superglide), XL 1200C (1200 Sporster Custom), XR 1200, and the VRSCAW (VROD).

    And look for exciting upgrades, changes and new models for 2011.

    We will move forward. count on it.

    Their success (HDMOCO) helps us all….just as their failure hurts us.

    Why do so many hate? So critical, so demeaning…i used to love this blog, but in the last year or so i loathe any comments made by neanderthals who pick apart Cyril’s attempt to objectively report corporate items of note.

    my .02

  18. 18 Brett May 1st, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Well as a Wisconsin resident I will bet the company never leaves. This is just like when Mercury outboard was threatening to leave. The state will step in & offer up billions to keep them here. They were just passing laws or whatever to make Harley a state symbol for God’s sake.

    Basically what they are saying is they want to break the union. That is the deal with the entire thing. If they move to say, Utah, I am willing to bet the plants would be filled with all non union workers.

    Anyone who follows business though, can tell you companies ALWAYS try taking from the workers, but employee salaries are usually down the line in companies expenses. Usually materials are the biggest expanse. However, like many have said, it’s always the office execs making the cash. Those guys get millions while I’m guessing most of the workers range somewhere between $30,000 & $40,000 a year.

    What I can tell you is, Tomahawk is a very small town in the north woods of Wisconsin. Harley is the ONLY place there where people can make good money, unless you are somehow tied to the business of hunting. They have less then 4,000 residents there, which means HD is basically running the town. Everyone else is employed at a gas station, diner or unemployed.

    Bottom line again is that HD could not see in the future even 7 years ago. They were in their glory for the 100 year anniversary & thought things were just going to keep getting better. Instead, 7 years later, they are struggling trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Ridiculous.

    1st step…..since every single dealership was forced to turn itself into an HD shrine, how about tearing down the God awful money pit known as the HD Museum they just spent a fortune to create? Everything around it has flopped. The biker themed hotel…out of business. The 2 resturaunts across from it, struggling at best.

    If HD leaves, there will be a major backlash against them. Worse then what they already have. If they are threatening to pack up & go, well then they may as well just close their doors.

  19. 19 Woody May 1st, 2010 at 9:52 am

    pabst-I really don’t see chronic “hating” going on here. Perhaps you’re a little biased to ‘whatever it takes” as long as you have a continued supply of product to sell? Not an accusation, just wondering. Having just seen how the smaller (than H-D) Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, WI made out like a bandit last year with a huge incentive/bailout pkg. including a .5% sales tax in FDL county to help pay for it, I’m sure Harley is licking their lips to get their turn.
    I don’t hate H-D at all, but I am disgusted with how they’ve been changing the company to just another import with an American badge. Did you know even the cute cute little 105th medallions for the bags & other places were made in SE China? I believe Harley forgot what made them special, and now they’re just charging a premium price for an image of the past. I don’t think they are “too big to fail” to use the bank analogy, and I’m not hating them just because I think they may be killing themselves off. You don’t like how this blog collects all sorts of comments? That’s what makes it a blog instead of a newspaper. It’s what made this site a must-read compared to many one-way e-publications. Cyril gets good stories and strives to be unbiased in reporting them, he must be aware on how he’d be called out if he tried to slant things against fact, and that can only help him stay on the great path he’s chosen.

  20. 20 tattooeddmike May 1st, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Harley would love to break the union! Once again the union workers take the hit! They are accused of making too much money, not being productive enoungh, and of course with everything else being in the shitter, not too many bikes are being sold… same story where I work, union workers make too much, have it too good (health & welfare benifits), and do not produce enoungh! My guess is corporate greed plain and simple.
    Wah, the company isn’t making any money,…. or so they would have us believe, and they own the books so the company can make them read anyway they want! The government tells us things are getting better and we believe them, right? Yea, right….and I’m getting a raise with some extra vacation time!
    With new upper management and their costs, how can a company justify making threats, or asking for economic relief? Really? Do these corporate types really think American workers are stupid? If the workers can’t make a living wage, who do they think can afford their bikes? Just sayin.

  21. 21 Doc Robinson May 2nd, 2010 at 4:17 am

    pabstbluerigid – you are spot on the money man! I agree 100% with each and every one of your comments. Well put. As for the haters, who knows, they irritate me also but the core info in the blog keeps me coming back.

  22. 22 Cade May 2nd, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Harley may have to install propellers on their new models so riders can travel to China for the annual Harley Shindig.

  23. 23 Motorcycle Madness May 2nd, 2010 at 9:16 am

    The Rise of INDIAN MOTORCYCLE is at hand.. Bring back that good ole 1901 REAL AMERICAN MADE Heritage

  24. 24 fuji May 2nd, 2010 at 10:38 am

    pabstbluerigid .

    You come across as a stand up guy but not all dealers are

    Buy American I try. How about U.S. company’s taking care of American customers.

    In conversation in a ” relaxed atmosphere ” one hears disgruntled comments about Harley Davidson and Dealers.

    Let me point out that it is not always about the bike but about the way they / riders are treated. The mind set that there is only one choice and no where else to go. Gotcha
    Now that the Company is on their knees people now have a chance to say Gotcha how does it feel.

    MY home is my shrine not Milwaukee WI. or a motorcycle over family.

    I hear people repeating the story that Harley owners would give up everything before their bike. That’s not a selling point or bragging rights but Childish immaturity.

    The company and dealers need to read / listen for we / some are telling you how we really feel.

  25. 25 Red State May 2nd, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Part of the GOP 2010 election strategy is to make it more expensive to do business in any democrat blue state olagarchy. The bottom line is if you want to be a taxpayer supported freeloader its going to cost you or bankrupt you either way this progressive nonsense being pushed right out of your state into mainstream red state america. As it stands from the Great Northwest of Sarah Palin Land (ALASKA) down the center of the lower 48 to the Gulf coast of Red State America owns the majority of America’s wealth & non union industry that thrives while blue state america is bankrupt & business is leaving in droves. Let’s face it the majority of Harley owners are white male or female part of the southern culture that leftwing cultural bigots hate. Too bad all you leftwing suckers have become a joke just look at whose in charge in washington…

  26. 26 KSW May 2nd, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    It’s about Tax Amnesty or that nicer phrase, Economic Development. IF it looks
    like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a duck, so I’ll call it Tax Amnesty.

    So while fire, police and teachers are being cut across this great country of ours
    corporations are getting Tax Amnesty to maintain executive salaries and perks as
    well as a dividend for their investors. I’d rather have my Firemen, Policemen and
    teachers personally. Corporate failure doesn’t bother me, excess greed at the top
    where their life style is more important than everyone else’s does.

    Harley will not and can not walk out of Wisconsin.

    The only way to settle the score with corporate america especially the wall street
    crowd is to start burning down their personal houses. Oh right, that’s not how we
    do it in America. The common worker and citizen just keeps taking a bigger stick
    up the bum while workers around the world rally against such practices and government.

  27. 27 mike hunt May 3rd, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Ive said this many times………….hd isdone….this year….sold to someone else….so let it be written…so let it be done…

  28. 28 Pat May 3rd, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    If Harley is going to move from WI, let it come to us in Texas! There is one condition, no need to bring the unions cuz they will destroy it wherever it ends up, until it does go to China once and for all!
    Pat/Midland, TX

  29. 29 mike May 4th, 2010 at 8:55 am

    texas is a huge harley state. would be a great place for h-d. great weather, no snow issues.

  30. 30 Jeff & Robbie May 4th, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Tx for sure… unions NO!

  31. 31 pabstbluerigid May 4th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    mike hunt – wow, super intelligent response, and classy “fake name” – “Ive said this many times………….hd isdone….this year….sold to someone else….so let it be written…so let it be done…” a class act, you are!

    sounds to me like you’re a big contributor/supporter to the v-twin industry? thought invoking response! you wouldn’t last a day in my store with that attitude, not even as a bike washer/grounds person as i do not minimalize the importance of ANY position cuz a potential customers first & last impresions of my store are sooooo important…so, i think your piss-poor attitude makes you eligible for…a job at walmart or BK drive-thru?

    in the meantime, those who share “PASSION” and a commitment to the product, the lifestyle & the motorcycle will try to perservere and push the industry forward.

    we will strive to cultivate new customers/markets, strive to provide the customers the accessories & modifications they want….oem or aftermarket? whatever it takes! we will continue – to forge a path.

    i will continue to sell msrp, sell value/good service, give away thousands annually in “goodwill,” loose money but gain positive PR doing bike nights for the benefit of “potential customers,” and do what i can to promote an American Icon.

    i admit, a lot of oems have not been around long enough to know how to survive? discounting cheapens the product. WE still have graybeards & clubbers that frequent OUR store as we NEVER stopped carrying “old parts” and NEVER forgot where we came from…yeah, our service is “pretty much evo-forward,” but a knowledgable parts staff & mature service writers can walk “do-it-yourselfers” thru the darkest valleys….

    we’ll hang in there for another deade or two (35 years now and counting!)

    what will you do?

    smilin’ in the southland, NOT a Democrat, and NOT “pro-union!”

  32. 32 T.Bates May 7th, 2010 at 12:15 am

    If they move out of the country I will not buy another Harley. ( I have owned three and still own one). Made in U.S.A. means something if not everything to me. Live or die here. If not, it doesnot belong here. It cannot be just about making more money for the already wealthy officers of the company. It has to be for the loyal consumers who put them there.

  33. 33 Brian Huebner May 22nd, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Well seems Harley Davidson just made another stupid decision to add to the long list of previous mistakes. I’m still dazed over the closing of Buell and putting MV Agusta up for sale. Times are hard all over, and the economy will eventually come back around. On the upswing I’d want my company to be building the bike that won the Daytona Sport bike Championship its first year out. The next generation Buell Barracuda would have made an even greater impact on the industry. The MV Agusta F1000 just made the top three in the 2010 Superbike Comparison beating out all the Japanese liter bikes. Yeah, wouldn’t want either one of those bikes in my lineup.
    When it’s all said and done H-D will emerge the same single minded company it has been since its conception. Bike makers like Star, Victory, Kawasaki and Suzuki will continue to refine their bikes and absorb more of the big cruiser market. Harley is already loosing customers to the other manufactures that want more a more refined, more comfortable, more reliable, more powerful, better handling bikes. Lowering production will only push riders away that don’t want to be on a waiting list while so many great bikes are there for the taking at a much better price.
    And to Eric Buell, you ARE the man, and it was nice to see your dream materialize over the last twenty five years. To bad H-D had to be such a narrow-minded, self-centered company. While you are in the H-D imposed, bike building restriction, you should make nails……….H-D will need them for their coffin.

  34. 34 09 Ultra Aug 4th, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    You can thank the union for the cost over runs. They are doing it to more and more industries….look at what they did to the steel industry in PA. They’re doing it to the auto industry too……..

  35. 35 PaulInPittsburgh Aug 15th, 2010 at 9:10 am

    But, but, but, unions create jobs and increase standards of living and I know this because union leadership keeps telling us it’s so.

    Saw them destroy Pittsburgh in the seventies, watching them try to do it again with health care jobs… when are people going to wake up?

  36. 36 Chiqua74 Mar 10th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Eric Buell IS The Man ! I was lucky enough to meet him at a dealer show and found him to be one of the most gracious and humble people I’ve ever met. It broke my heart to watch him announce the end of Buell. Perhaps when the economy gets better Buell will return.

    As for Harley, it has been a legendary American icon for more than 100 years. During such an expanse of time, though, it has to be expected that things change. I do not care for the fact that Harley parts are now made in other parts of the world, but I believe the quality is the same. If Harley wants to move it’s plants, I say, “Please come to Washington County in Oregon ! I would dearly love to work for them and do not require a Union to do so.”

    Unions were great at their inception, but having been a recent union member, it seems I just paid dues for nothing. Sure, the money was nice but the job stress wasn’t. And we were always outnumbered by the other group ( teachers ) in our union.

    I’ve heard that union factory workers are paid more than $50.00 an hour. That’s huge. Heck, I’d be willing to do the same job for $20.00 an hour ! If only ! Unfortunately, no-one wants to hire a 55-
    year-old who can only lift 20 lbs ! 😀

    I believe Harley will survive this recession. They will have to make some changes, and not everyone
    will like the changes being made. Sometimes it’s just that way.

  1. 1 Harley-Davidson. Moving Plants Out Of Wisconsin? at Cyril Huze … | Harley Davidson Rocker Pingback on May 2nd, 2010 at 7:01 pm
  2. 2 Harley Davidson Corporate Strategy Pingback on May 11th, 2010 at 2:18 am
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