MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Harley-Davidson Inc. said Monday its president and chief executive, Jim Ziemer, plans to retire next year, ending his 40-year career with the company.
The Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker said in a news release the 58-year-old Ziemer told the board of directors Monday that he intends to retire in 2009, staying on until a new CEO is named.
The board has formed a search committee to find a successor.
Ziemer is a native of Milwaukee and grew up in the neighborhood next to the company's original factory in the city. He started working for Harley in 1969 as a freight elevator operator while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. When he graduated he joined the company's accounting department and worked there much of his career. He was named financial chief in 1990 and president and CEO in 2005.
Board Chairman Jeffrey L. Bleustein called Ziemer an advocate for the 105-year-old company in a statement and said Ziemer was a lifelong motorcyclist who "exemplifies the great legacy and spirit of Harley-Davidson."
Ziemer said working at Harley fulfilled a lifelong dream, and he looked forward to spending more time with his family.
Ziemer's departure comes as the venerable motorcycle maker is seeing sales slip as consumers around the world pull on their spending amid worries about a weakening economy. Analysts say the company is also facing weakness due to its aging customer base, who may not be as apt to keep riding and buying new bikes.