Johnson Controls Exec To Lead Harley-Davidson

Analysts said Keith E. Wandell is expected to bring the international sales and manufacturing experience the company needs, as it tries to reach a new audience.

DETROIT (AP) -- Analysts said the new chief executive of Harley-Davidson Inc. is expected to bring the international sales and manufacturing experience the company needs, as it tries to reach a new, younger audience amid a sales slump.

Keith E. Wandell, 59, president and chief operating officer of Milwaukee-based automotive supplier Johnson Controls Inc. was named the new CEO of Harley-Davidson Monday. He replaces, James L. Ziemer, who is retiring after 40 years at Harley and four years at the helm.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams said in a research note that the move, along with other management changes and new product investment will "help better position the company to bring its brand to the global market."

RBC Capital Markets said it was expecting an external CEO hire with global industrial experience.

"We think Mr. Wandell very well qualified from an operations standpoint," wrote RBC Capital Markets analyst Edward Aaron. "He is also well regarded as a leader from what we gather."

Wandell represented auto suppliers at Congressional hearings in December.

Aaron said that the Wandell is likely to lower financial expectations, adding that the company's 2009 guidance is "on the aggressive side."

Wandell will take over Harley as sales of its iconic heavyweight bikes have slumped as the tough economy keeps buyers out of dealerships and the credit crisis continues to make it difficult for some customers to get financing.

Harley, which is also based in Milwaukee, said in January its 2008 profit fell 30 percent to $654.7 million, or $2.79 per share. Its motorcycle shipments fell 8 percent to 303,479 during the same period.

Ziemer will step down May 1.

Wandell has worked for Johnson Controls for the past 21 years. Johnson Controls makes car battery and interiors. He said some of his first priorities for the job are establishing long-term goals for the 106-year-old company.

Harley also announced a series of other leadership changes. Matthew S. Levatich was named president and chief operating officer of Harley-Davidson Motor Co., James A. McCaslin will take on the newly created role of executive vice president for corporate product planning and Enrico D'Onofrio will become managing director of MV Agusta.

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