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Harley-Davidson's CEO Is Done With Harley

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Harley CEO Matt Levatich, left, with President Trump at the White House in February 2017.
Harley CEO Matt Levatich, left, with President Trump at the White House in February 2017.
Photo: Getty Images

Matt Levatich, who has been CEO of Harley-Davidson since May 2015, is stepping down from the job, the company said in a news release late Friday. In Levatich’s time at the top sales have fallen every year.

To be fair, being CEO of Harley in 2020 might be an impossible job, as its base demographic of customers—baby boomers—age out and as millennials largely reject motorcycles, especially the big, expensive, and heavy ones that are Harley’s bread and butter.


The company said that Jochen Zeitz, a board member, will take Levatich’s spot on an interim basis until a permanent successor has been named. Cue the usual statements from everyone when a CEO has been fired, or quit, or had a contract that wasn’t renewed, or asked to be fired, or some other truth in between. Either way, the parting is “mutual,” of course.

Zeitz said, “The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson. Matt was instrumental in defining the More Roads to Harley-Davidson accelerated plan for growth, and we will look to new leadership to recharge our business. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Matt for his 26 years of service to Harley-Davidson. He has worked tirelessly to navigate the Company through a period of significant industry change while ensuring the preservation of one of the most iconic brands in the world.”

“The Harley-Davidson Board and leadership team will continue to work closely together as we search for a new CEO. We have confidence that our combined leadership experience and deep understanding of Harley-Davidson will ensure an effective transition. As a passionate Board Member of Harley-Davidson, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and other Harley-Davidson stakeholders to advance and deliver the Company’s strategy and execution during this important time,” Zeitz continued.

Levatich said, “I am very fortunate to have spent many years with a company as revered as Harley-Davidson. The grit and determination of the employees and dealers and their passion for bringing our brand of freedom to people around the world has always been inspiring. I am proud of what we have achieved during my time as CEO, in one of the most challenging periods in our history, and I am confident that the progress we have made on the More Roads plan will position Harley-Davidson for long-term success.”


This is all getting a bit hard to watch, but Levatich never struck me as the type of transformational leader that the company so sorely needs, so I’m hopeful this might turn into the kickstart Harley needs.