Analyst: Harley-Davidson CEO A Strong Leader

NEW YORK (AP) -- Harley-Davidson Inc.'s new CEO is seen as a capable leader suited to take on the company's challenges, but demand for the company's high-end motorcycles remains soft, an analyst said Thursday.

Baird's Craig Kennison reiterated his "Outperform" rating on Harley shares in a note to investors. He said retail sales appear to be down 25 to 30 percent during the quarter, though some dealers reported an uptick in August, Kennison said. He cited a Baird survey of 70 Harley dealerships.

Kennison also said dealers and investors have a positive view of the company's new CEO, Keith Wandell, who took over the job in May.

Dealers surveyed highlighted Wandell's "straightforward approach," Kennison said. "Meanwhile, automotive investors that know Mr. Wandell consider him a 'world-class operator' and see an opportunity in Harley."

Harley has been grappling with falling profits as consumers put off sales of the company's high-end bikes during the recession. The company reported a 91 percent drop in second-quarter profit last month.

Earlier Thursday, Harley announced it would begin selling motorcycles in India next year. International sales have been a growing part of the company's business amid flagging sales at home.

In 2008, motorcycle shipments in the U.S. fell 15 percent to 206,000 units while international shipments climbed 9 percent to 97,107.

Shares of Harley added 11 cents to $22.06 shortly after Thursday's market open.

More in Supply Chain