Harley-Davidson profit up 44pct, CEO Optimistic image

Harley-Davidson Inc. the biggest U.S. motorcycle maker said Wednesday that its first-quarter profit jumped 44 percent as improving economic conditions and early spring weather boosted U.S. sales of its famous motorcycles.

Harley rose 4.9 percent to $52.83 at 11:29 a.m. New York time, after reaching $53.03, the biggest intraday jump since Nov. 30.

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and Related Products Segment Financial Results First-quarter operating income from Motorcycles and Related Products grew 66.4 percent to $208.1 million on higher shipment volume and operating margin improvement, compared to the year-ago period.

“The warm weather pulled some sales forward,” chief executive officer Keith Wandell said in an interview, adding he was cautiously optimistic about the U.S. economy. “The economy had an impact [but] the underlying fundamentals still aren’t that dazzling.”

Harley motorcycles can run from $8,000 for a basic model to more than $30,000 for a large highly customized model and when the economy crashed, the Milwaukee company saw sales plunge by double digits within a year.

The company, which said it has limited ability to produce additional motorcycles if necessary, also reiterated a goal to further expand its reach in markets outside the U.S.

Harley doesn’t expect production shutdowns because of a shortage of a resin used in fuel and brake parts, Wandell said in the interview.