Fitch Upgrades Ratings On Harley-Davidson

CHICAGO (AP) — Fitch Ratings upgraded its ratings on Harley-Davidson Inc. and its related businesses Friday given high demand for the motorcycle manufacturer's bikes and strong financial position.

The rating agency lifted the issuer default ratings of Harley-Davidson Inc., Harley-Davidson Financial Services Inc. and Harley-Davidson Funding Corp. subsidiaries one notch in investment-grade status to 'A-'. The rating outlooks for all the companies are stable.

Fitch said the upgrades reflect the Harley's leading position in the U.S. heavyweight motorcycle segment, its strong cash position, high profit margins and low debt.

The demand for the company's motorcycles remains strong in the U.S. and it is seeing growth trends in emerging markets. While demand is softening in Europe due to tough economic conditions, the rating agency noted that the company's cost structure continues to improve, thanks significant restructuring actions.

The company launched a drastic restructuring process in 2009 that froze pay, cut hundreds of jobs and brought in part-time workers to improve the company's performance.