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Harley-Davidson’s stock tanks as motorcycle sales continue to slide

This picture taken on July 13, 2019 shows Harley-Davidson motorbikes displayed during the seventh edition of the annual "Morzine Harley Days" festival, in Morzine. - Some 25.000 motorcycles and 40.000 bikers from across Europe are gathering in Morzine from July 11 to July 14, to participate in the event. (Photo by ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Shares of Harley-Davidson fell 3% in early trading Tuesday after the company reported sales and earnings that missed Wall Street’s forecasts. The stock is now down more than 10% this year.

Most alarming: Demand for Harley’s bikes continued to fall in the United States — even as they rebounded overseas.

Harley’s retail sales in America were down 3% in the fourth quarter. That’s the 12th consecutive decline. US sales fell more than 5% for the full year.

Sales were up slightly internationally, led by a more than 6% jump in Asia. But that wasn’t enough to lift Harley’s worldwide motorcycle sales, which fell 1.4%.

The weakness in Harley’s home market is particularly disappointing given that the United States and China have now reached a “phase one” trade truce. Harley has been complaining about tariffs put into place by the Trump administration for the past few years.

President Donald Trump has also been critical of the fact that Harley — based in Milwaukee — had shifted some of its production outside of America to avoid tariffs in Europe that were put into place on the company in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trump even supported a boycott of Harley by US consumers in 2018.

But Harley clearly has bigger problems than global trade policy. The company is trying to revitalize its sales with the launch of its LiveWire electric motorcycle.

Harley CEO and president Matt Levatich struck a hopeful tone in the company’s earnings release.

“We see 2020 as the pivotal year in the transformation of Harley-Davidson. This year we will broaden the reach of our brand and build more committed riders as we enter new and growing segments in motorcycling and eBicycles,” Levatich said. “More and easier access to two-wheeled freedom on a Harley is well underway.”

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