Harley to cut 1,100 jobs as 4Q profit falls

Harley-Davidson Inc. said Friday it will cut 1,100 jobs over two years, close some facilities and consolidate others as it grapples with a slowdown in motorcycle sales.

The Milwaukee-based company also reported its fourth-quarter profit fell nearly 60 percent, and said it is slashing motorcycle shipments in 2009 to cope with reduced demand.

The iconic motorcycle maker said it will consolidate two engine and transmission plants in Milwaukee into its facility in Menomonee Falls, Wis. It will shrink its paint and frame operations in its York, Pa., plant and close its distribution facility in Franklin, Wis., whose duties will be handled by a third party.

Harley also is exiting its domestic transportation operation — its fleet of long-haul truckers who transport parts between manufacturing facilities — and outsourcing duties to a third party. The cuts make up slightly more than 10 percent of the company’s total work force.

“Harley-Davidson is not immune to the current economic conditions,” said Jim Ziemer, the company’s outgoing chief executive, in a conference call. “We’re going to show great discipline in protecting the value of the brand.”

The company said the cuts include 800 hourly production positions and 300 non-production, mostly salaried positions. It said 70 percent of the job cuts will occur this year and the rest in 2010.

In an interview, Ziemer said about 650 of the cuts will be in Wisconsin, while more than 400 jobs will be lost at its facility in York, where its transportation operation is also based. About 85 cuts will be made at the company’s motorcycle plant in Kansas City, Mo., he said. Read more…

Honda Fury factory chopper leaks ahead of official New York unveiling

This is the Honda Fury, a chopper-style production bike from Honda. Due for an official unveiling at the New York International Motorcycle Show on Friday, this shot and details of the bike have leaked, revealing a machine that’s identical to the Honda Fury patent images we brought you last week.

Honda Fury

At 1808.5mm, the Fury has the longest wheelbase of any production motorcycle. It’s powered by a 1312cc fuel-injected and liquid-cooled V-twin — the radiator is neatly tucked in between the front frame rails, check out the patent images for details. The 200 series rear tire is supported by a hidden monoshock, while the front tire is a seriously skinny 90/90-21. Controversially, the Fury uses shaft drive as opposed to the more traditional belt associated with custom-style motorcycles, although we suppose it had to differentiate the Fury from every custom Harley ever made somehow.

Our favorite parts are the wheels, the bladed spokes are both handsome and subtle and the red stripe offers a classy contrast to the understated grey paint on this example. While we’d prefer to see Honda developing more ambitious motorcycles like the 2010 Honda V4 or the Honda Electric Motorcycle, we suppose this is their attempt to give middle-aged men from the Midwest who never figured out that the Village People-look was actually intended to solicit butt sex exactly what they want.

We can’t help but be impressed by how well Honda has been able to reconcile the style of non-functional custom choppers with the functionality of a production bike. The overall look is incredibly clean, but should be relatively safe and comfortable to ride and can even accommodate a passenger. However, we can’t help but question the wisdom of creating a bike that’s intended to hide rather than showoff its technology. Honda’s choice to use a 1300cc engine for a bike intended to appeal to the compensating crowd is also somewhat puzzling, but could at least indicate a sub-$20,000 price tag.

If we can be bothered to tear ourselves away from setting up for our exhibition of actually innovative motorcycle design on Friday morning to head over to the International Motorcycle Show, we’ll bring you shots live form the Fury’s unveiling.

Publishing this story is going to be somewhat controversial. The Fury isn’t scheduled for official release until the NY show on Friday. Honda failed to include Hell For Leather in its list of publications made privy to this embargoed information and therefore isn’t subject to any contractual obligations or agreements to keep any of this private. Since Honda didn’t enable us to compete on a level playing field with other media outlets, we had no choice but to move forward with publication once we obtained these materials. This isn’t an embargo break; had we been subject to any contract or agreement we would have honored it. This is a good old-fashioned leak.

Remember, you can click the image up top for a bigger version. It’ll expand to fit your browser window, but is actually 1280px wide, so you can use it as a desktop wallpaper if you save it.

Prototype motorcycle wash debuts in Indy with MotoGP

The country’s first automated, touch‐free wash for motorcycles (Patent Pending) is being introduced this week, coinciding with the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP motorcycle race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The prototype wash – Moto Express Wash™ was designed and built by Harrell’s Car Wash Systems, a local company that’s built and operated car washes for three decades around the Midwest.

motorcycle wash

Owner Mark Harrell, a long‐time motorcycle enthusiast, got the idea several years ago after talking to Paul Teutul Sr. from Orange County Choppers and the cable TV series American Chopper. Harrell was intrigued and went to work developing the country’s first automated touch‐free motorcycle wash (Patent Pending) at his shop on the west side of Indianapolis. It has taken three years, but Harrell’s team of engineers, computer technicians, welders and other specialists have designed and built the prototype, which is open for business at the Dirt Stripper Car Wash at 4980 Crawfordsville Road, about a block west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

From a distance the Moto Express Wash™ looks like a normal automated car wash bay. The motorcycle is ridden into the bay, which is the same size as a standard car wash bay. The kickstand is put down, and the rider dismounts. The bike is secured through a computerized system that activates blocks at the kick stand and at the front tire, so whether you’re riding a Vespa or a chopper, the bike is held in place in an upright position during the entire wash process.

An arm moves across and over the bike for pre‐soak, wash and spot‐free rinse – at the same time, the front and rear wheels are being rotated and cleaned, and then it’s air‐dried. The whole process takes less than five minutes. Until now, motorcycle owners had to rely on hand washing to clean their bikes, a process that could take at least two hours. “Wash. Dry. Ride.℠ It’s really that simple,” says Harrell, who has spent the last several months test marketing Moto Express Wash™, and plans to make it available to other car wash owners and motorcycle dealers beginning in the spring.