A press release from the MoCo today says Matt Levatich has stepped down as CEO of Harley-Davidson.
Jochen Zeitz, a board member, will serve as acting president and CEO. According to the release, Zeitz will remain chairman of the board after the search for a new CEO is concluded.
Levatich’s joined the company in 1994 and took on roles of increasing leadership before becoming CEO in 2015. Levatich set the tone for the last five years of Harley-Davidson’s strategy, most notably the “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” campaign and the related development of vehicles outside Harley’s traditional scope, such as the electric LiveWire. Both publicly and internally, Levatich repeatedly communicated the message that Harley-Davidson needed to be in the business of building riders, not just building motorcycles.
Despite Levatich's efforts to change the company's direction, sales declined steadily during his time as CEO. Now it will be up to new leadership to implement the strategy of moving Harley-Davidson into new market segments and finding replacements for the company's "core customers," mostly Boomer-aged white males, who are aging out of motorcycling.
“The Board and Matt mutually agreed that now is the time for new leadership at Harley-Davidson," said Zeitz.." 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."
Levatich added that he felt “fortunate” to have been at the helm of Harley-Davidson for half a decade. He expressed confidence that the “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” initiatives would continue under the next CEO.
As for Zeitz, he’s best known as the former chairman and CEO of sporting goods company PUMA. He’s been on Harley’s board since 2007.