Monday, December 17, 2007

Idling at Harley-Davidson (Vroom, Vroom)

While I'm afraid I'm one of those nice girls born more to be mild than wild, I've always found Harley-Davidson an interesting company and as good a brand as you're going to find anywhere. (As they say, how many brands end up tattooed on the customers' biceps?)

I'm also a sucker for anything that's still Made in the USA.

And I just love a good layoff story.

Last September, Harley-Davidson, which has been experiencing a downturn in sales, announced that they were going to furlough workers in their Wauwatosa and Menomonee Falls Wisconsin,  Kansas City, and York PA plants for a week in late fall.

Here's what H-D did that was completely right:

  • They didn't lay-off a permanent part of their workforce. Rather than slow production and achieve savings by out and out firing people, they kept their workforce of 5,400 intact. In most places I've worked that had lay-offs, people would actually have preferred everyone take a relatively small hit, rather than have a minority take the ultimate hit. This isn't always feasible, but it's nice to see that there are some circumstances where it is - and that there are some companies willing to make it happen.
  • They gave their employees a couple of months notice that they were going to have an enforced week without pay. Let's face it, no one raises their hand for a 2 percent pay-cut, but if you have a head's up on when it's coming, you can put a few bucks aside, or forego some discretionary spending.
  • They continued benefits during the downtime, so employees didn't have to worry about hiccups in medical coverage.
  • They maintained good relationships with their employees and their union by being upfront and forthcoming.
  • A little over half of the furloughed workers were in Pennsylvania, and the downtime coincided with the opening of deer hunting season. For a lot of employees, that meant not having to take vacation days off.

Plus Harley-Davidson is running some ass-kicking, bad boy holiday ads that are a bracing antidote to most of the gloppy, sugar-rich advertising that plagues the airwaves this time of year.

At this point in time, what is not to like about Harley-Davidson? Doesn't this company really and truly deserve success?

Source for information contained in this post: AP article in Business Week online.


John Whiteside said...

They are also a great story of a company fixing things that are broken. I remember when the running joke about H-D was, "What's the most important accessory for your Harley? A truck to bring it home in."

But they addressed that and their bikes are now as good as any on the market, and get a premium for the brand name and image. (Although I'm still happy with my Honda...)

I'm unlikely to become a customer in the forseeable future, but I think they're a great company.

Iknowyourider said...

Let's hope this company goes completely out of business. Their products are absolute junk and their customers are nothing more than two wheeled terrorists, disturbing the peace in our communities and acting like bad asses with their fat guts and fatter girlfriends on the back.

Mr. Organized Garage said...

I have an H-D motorcycle, and it runs wonderfully. I have never had a single problem or breakdown.

Anonymous said...

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