Harley-Davidson Closing Kansas City Plant by Summer 2019

Harley-Davidson's Kansas City plant. Photo courtesy of FOX4.
Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant. (Photo courtesy of FOX43)

Citing a drop in U.S. motorcycle sales, in addition to shifting demand across its lineup, Harley-Davidson has announced that it will close its Kansas City, Missouri, plant by July 2019, eliminating 800 jobs. It will shift operations to its York, Pennsylvania, plant, adding 450 “full-time, casual and contractor” jobs to that location, for a net loss of around 350 jobs.

In a letter to local York station FOX43, Harley explains:

“We are launching a significant, multi-year manufacturing optimization initiative that is anchored in the consolidation of our Kansas City, Mo. final assembly operations into our York, Pa. final assembly plant. This decision was made after very careful consideration of our manufacturing footprint and the appropriate capacity given the current business environment. We are constantly evaluating capacity and our current U.S. capacity exceeds U.S. demand.

We anticipate an increase of approximately 450 full-time, casual and contractor positions will be added at our York facility, which will be expanded to support additional production. Specific details on expansion are still being developed.”

It’s no secret that the U.S. motorcycle industry is in a downturn right now; industry-wide Q4 sales are down 6.5 percent compared to 2016, with Harley alone down 11.1 percent. Heavyweight, cruiser and touring bike sales have taken a big hit, thanks to aging Baby Boomers and a lack of interest from younger generations.

As the market contracts and demand drops, Harley is doing what it has to do in order to remain competitive.

Harley-Davidson's Kansas City plant. Photo courtesy of FOX4.
Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant. Photo courtesy of FOX4.

The Kansas City plant was built in 1998 and produces the Sportster, Dyna and Street lines. The Dyna line was killed off and rolled into the new Softail family, while Street line sales have been soft. Closing the plant will cost an estimated $170 to $200 million over the next two years, but is expected to save the Motor Company $65 to $75 million per year after 2020.

Read our First Ride Review of the new 2018 Softails.

In an official statement, Harley CEO Matt Levatich said, “This decision was extremely difficult but necessary under the circumstances. The Kansas City operation–and our employees there–have an impressive tradition of safety, quality, collaboration, and manufacturing leadership. I have profound respect for the men and women in that facility and I thank them and the Kansas City community for their years of support and contribution to serving Harley-Davidson–our dealers–and most importantly, our riders.”

According to its Q4 earning report, which was released this morning, Harley’s net income fell 82 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with a year earlier. Revenue, however, was up, from $1.11 billion to $1.23 billion. The drop in net income was attributed in part to a charge associated with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and a $29.4 million charge due to its voluntary recall of 57,000 motorcycles earlier in 2017, due to a faulty oil line clamp.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe they should keep this plant open and make mufflers there. I have yet to see a HD with a muffler. This is a serious flaw in a HD motorcycle. I guess HD is trying to save money by leaving off the muffler. I feel sorry for those poor HD riders without a muffler as I am sure they would want one if one was available.

  2. Harley, and I truely hope you read this, your prices are out of touch with reality. I have heard your arguement about keeping all formerly purchased motorcycles at a higher value by not lowering your prices, I understand your logic.
    However I also know that many harley riders and owners would rather see a value deprecieation by you lowering prices and employing americans than staying focused on greed and ending what was once an american icon.
    For me the choice is clear.
    Your constant focus on your profit margine and how much the heads of the company take home at the end of the year will ultimatly force you to end up just like our other american icons of business did, Sears, JcPenney,Toysrus, Montgomery Wards, etc.

    And why the hell does a T shirt at the local harley shop cost 40 to 60 dollars, that alone should give you pause.

    • This comment is probably the most accurate interpretation of how most Harley owners feel. You CANNOT purchase anything for your Harley or anything with Harley depicted on it without it ultimately costing you nearly hundred bucks. Its crazy.

    • Concur! All my old sport bike riding friends switched to Harley in 2000-2005 timeframe – I went to used Suzukis and saved a bundle over the past 15-yrs on both purchase and maintenance while still having a good ride. If Harley could sell a $10-15K soft-tail, I’d consider it (or 2-yr old used at $7-$12K).

    • I’ve been riding since 1964 and have owned many bikes. From 125 HD Hummers to a ’37 Indian Junior Scout that I rebuilt from a trailer full of parts, to Ducks, BMWs and a ton of UJMs. I have always kept stock exhausts on except for the one that I ran on flat track. I once looked at trading in a fully loaded Yamaha 1100 for a used Heritage model at a local dealer in northern WI.. The sales guy wouldn’t even look at my shiny steed and I left , never to return to a HD dealer. My 1100 was spotless, shiny and stock. I don’t ride with HD guys because of the loud noise they create. Where are all those stock mufflers that have been replaced?

  3. The motorcycle industry in general is in trouble…world wise. That’s a fact. Manufacturers have taken the easy way out by catering to their base and mining their market seam. But the simple fact is that bikes today are too specialized, costly, expensive to maintain and more “appliance like” than ever before. Not conducive to the rider tinkering or communing with his/her bike. Harley….and lesser extent BMW…had a loyal following and market. Harley in particular is failing/ failed to refresh themselves and build newer/different models to attract new, younger millennial buyers. BMW, on the other hand, went the other extreme — they strayed from their engineering/design roots and watered down their brand/image with too many models that departed from their roots. The Japanese big 4 just keep specializing and stressing performance…or Harley cruiser looks. But $ 20,000 + bikes? Crazy. Only the older/mature rider can really afford/justify that…and those are the very demographic riders aging out and on the decline. I fear that motorcycles and riding just isn’t of interest to the younger folks. They’re too busy engaged with their social media, video games, metro-sexual pursuits and new, more trendy hobbies and pastimes. So I fear Harley’s future is bleak and finite…IMHO/FWIW.

    • Pack44 . . . I agree that the industry is in a down cycle (NPI), but it is what it is. Harley has bikes ranging from $7,995 to $39,995. You can get a Street model 500 or 750 on the cheap. These are marketed to the millennials that only need to get to work and back, so they are trying to cover the bases. Will they become Victory? Who knows. But I would have bet money that Indian wouldn’t be around. Or Triumph, or Guzzi for that matter.

  4. Triumph sales are up year upon year! They believe in R & D. Their motors are to be used, to replace Honda motor in MotoGP 2 for 2019. What have Harley done? Keep making 1930’s relics to the devoted…buy it regardless consumers! They never did deserve the success. The electrics, wheels, forks and tires are all CHINESE! Buy American my A$$

  5. I’m a 68 year-old boomer who recently purchased a BMW R1200R because I needed a bike that was light weight, had traction control, fully adjustable front and rear suspension, rider-adjustable engine mapping and a weight-to-power ration under 5. Triumph, Ducati, Honda, BMW and several other manufacturers sell bikes that meet these criteria. But not Harley Davidson. Harley offers bikes that look and sound good while resting on their side stands, but are otherwise second-rate in terms of performance, handling, ergonomics and cost competitiveness. Neither I nor our younger generation of riders are impressed. Good luck to Harley, however. I hope they turn on some lights and see that their old, weak push-rod engines and rudimentary suspensions just don’t cut it anymore.

    • I second the comment on suspension. The older we get the more we appreciate a reasonable ride. I have a friend who is in his 70’s and has been riding Harley’s forever. He recently traded his ’14 for a ’18. After spending a ridiculous amount of money trying to get the ride improved he finally gave up and sold the new bike. It just beat the shit out of him every time he rode it. He also has a R1200GSA and a new Multistrada as well as a ’17 Tuono in his garage that he rides regularly without getting beat up. Until Harley decides to increase the 3″ worth of rear suspension travel on their Touring bikes which they had the opportunity to do in ’09 and put on some quality shocks this problem isn’t going to get solved and more and more older riders are going to find more comfortable bikes. Harley just needs to wake up.

  6. It’s amusing to see some of the posts here; I’ll be the first to admit that the Motor Company has some items that are priced to the point where most people wouldn’t cough up the money for their shirt or bike. Nobody is forcing you to buy their product, apparel or machine.
    I have an early ’90’s Harley bagger that does everything I need and has been reliable; currently shows 124,000 miles on the odometer; the paint and chrome has held up well for the past 25 years.
    Contrary to popular verbal bashing, if maintained properly, their motors hold up well. They are what they are; an American motorcycle that has withstood a depression, two world wars, near bankruptcy thanks to AMF, and an economy that pushed other businesses out of existence.
    As far as foreign parts on them is concerned, like it or not, we live in a global economy.
    The Motor Company looked hard at building the Sportster solely with American sourced parts shortly after buying out AMF’s interest. Back in that time, a 100%made Sporty would cost way too much, thus the decision to out source other suppliers; Bosch, Mahle, KYB and Showa as examples; much like the American auto industry does.
    Just to be clear, there are other machines In my stable that come from other continents; and appreciate them equally for their engineering, handling and heritage.
    Thank God we all have different opinions; this Earth would be very dull if we all rode the same motorcycle and had the same thoughts and ideas.

  7. No doubt 15 to 25 grand for the average Harley and well over 30 for a CVO is alot of money, but in my opinion you do get a lot for your money. The dealers are always sponsoring events for their customers such as cook-outs, weekend rides, bands and bike nights. The dealers and Harley Itself sponsors the Harley Owners Groups around the country, so that all Harley riders feel a sense of community and support. It truly is an opportunity to meet lots of new friends who enjoy the lifestyle of riding a Harley to different rally’s around the country and abroad. I’m a baby boomer and have a great time riding with friends to Sturgis, or Daytona or Bikes Blues and BBQ. I don’t mind paying the price for a new Harley, but the new kids don’t seem to have that enthusiasm and there are fewer and fewer of us baby boomers as we age out. Anyway I love my 2015 CVO limited and believe it or not it actually did come with a muffler !!! LOL

  8. When I started riding in 65, the most used comment was “Is your hog running yet?” The other was that Brits didn’t make typewriters cause they couldn’t make them leak oil. My Triunph could though. And did. The Harley riders I knew and still know are brand loyal to a fault. I’ve ridden Harley’s but never really enjoyed the ride that much. To me they are heavy, clunky, hard to handle, and way too loud. On the other hand I live in Missouri and hate to see all these folks out of work. But still and all, I want to ride a motorcycle that’s good for me. I’m 78 with one artificial knee and a brace on one leg. I just want to ride to 80 and then will quit. Honda is the only brand that makes a bike that suits my needs perfectly. I’d like to see all brands prosper and make money but I have to spend mine on a ride that makes me smile when I get on it. Sorry HD, I’d help if I could.

  9. So much hate. The last I looked, a touring bike from Japan or Germany was priced the same as a Harley. My 2016 BMW 1200 GS-A was $25,500; my 2015 Street Glide Special $21,000; my wife’s 2015 Suzuki Burgman scooter was $10,500. They’re all overpriced – but so are today’s cars & trucks ($75-100,000 pickup trucks??!). All bikes are cool; they’re all toys, all are fun, and we’re all brothers regardless of what we ride; so why the animosity for Harley owners? I like the way my Street Glide sounds (& performs) with its Fullsac pipes and have also opened up the exhaust on my BMW (and my wife’s 650 Suzuki Burgman); and would likewise change the exhaust on a Triumph, Honda, or other bike too; EPA mandates have choked off engine performance and reduced our bikes to sounding like sewing machines and grass cutters. So… please, enough with the Harley-bashing; it just makes you look small.

  10. how about if I look smaller yet. I harken back to a friend who bought a new softtail. do you remember the problem with the cam bearings? my friend proactively wanted to aviod the problem with a $800+ price tag that the company would not participate in at all. avariciousness if that is a word has come to home to roost. one of my biggest mistakes in life is when at age 84 I thought I’d like a trike. so I sold my beloved 91 softtail classic and bought a tri glide. talk about the ride and handling—-it was a piece of —-. sold it two months later to some sucker in Iowa. looking at a Triumph Bonneville- one I rode back in the 50s.

    • kilowatt, you think Jap & German bikes don’t have major brand-specific problems?? Guess again. You ever delve into a Gold Wing to fix the defective stator they’re known for? You want a 3-wheel POS, try out a CanAm Spyder. I mistakenly bought one and it steered so badly & tramlined every road imperfection that I sold it for a $10,000 loss two weeks & 200 miles later.

  11. Harley has corrected a lot of the geometry needed adding to improvement. I agree that the motorcycle industry as a whole is suffering mainly due to economic uncertainty globally. Buyers are reluctant to spent money in these areas. As an instructor, I am finding younger riders prefer a bike that offers dual ability such as on / off riding . A lot of us older riders especially approaching retirement or are already retired have to consider economics, practicality.
    It should be a consideration of all manufacturers to seriously reconsider their pricing if they seriously want to sustain. Also another consideration is the movement to make all vehicles electric which has been mandated in some countries by 2024 .

  12. I just went to my garage to check if my 2014 CVO Softail Deluxe had a muffler and it does phew. I’m not sure what you mean by comfort any cager on the street is more comfortable then any motorcycle and drier. No matter what dealer you go to and what make you willpay to the nose. I also have a Corvette and you also pay dearly to buy clothing and accessories for that car. To me HD is like a cult and having road bikes for 50+ yrs. I have seen it all. HD owners seemed to me a great bunch and they really seem to enjoy their lifestyle and their rides. I have been a HD owner for 10 yrs. now and probably my biggest complaint is those stupid loud pipes. Loud pipes don’t save lives but they piss people off including me.

  13. I’m a true motorcycle nut, always have been. I grew up riding couple year old 60’s and70’s Japanese, British , European and American bikes. My newest bike is a 1999, it is fuel injected,belt drive, and a cruiser, but that’s as fancy as I get. My other bikes are carborated, some shaft, some chain, all old, but extremely functional and incredibly fun. I’m definitely an aging baby boomer, but I hope to be be riding for a good number of years to come. I never bought in to the Harley culture, mostly because I rode many different bikes, and was always looked down on by Harley groupies for not riding what they rode. Funny thing was, when I did ride a Harley, the same Harley faithful didn’t think it was the right year and model to be acceptable to them. I loved the bikes, but couldn’t buy into the ” look at me” culture of it. I may buy a newer bike in the near future, most likely an Indian Vintage, possibly a Triumph Speedster…… and maybe even a Harley Softtail Deluxe, but I’ll always enjoy motorcycles of all makes and styles, and respect the very different bikers that ride them.

    • I’m with you F.Eddie; I too like ’em all but enjoy most the way a large comfy luxury cruiser chugs down a country road; usually at 45-50 & rarely over 60 mph. BTW, I bought a new 2014 Indian Vintage (& a new 2015 Indian Chieftain) and they were both superb bikes. They have more seat-of-the-pants power than my 2015 Street Glide had when stock and their suspension is excellent (gas-pressurized Fox shocks & cartridge forks). Surprisingly the Chieftain bagger handles noticeably better than the Vintage (different frame geometry). However, if you enjoy modifying & personalizing your bikes, there’s nothing like a Harley. For years (until the mid-’90s) I resisted buying a Harley because the tough-guy image is not for me but have found that image is no longer the case and most HD riders are mature regular motorcyclists. I love the look, sound, & feel of a Harley. Other bikes may be technologically superior (traction control, variable power modes, electronic suspension adjustments, etc) but I have yet to own one that I fell in love with.

  14. I went through the Harley school in Milwaukee in about ’10. The instructor there said Harley didn’t really want to improve, just keep building basically the same thing. I don’t think a company can survive if they don’t strive to get better. I’m now riding a BMW.

  15. I have always been and probably will always be a Harley rider. But I have issues with their pricing. Most of my friends are older and buying Can Ams. Nobody I know can afford Harleys anymore and the used ones aren’t holding their value anymore like they used to. I do long distance on my trips as do they so I understand why people my age and older want comfort for their aging bodies and need 3 wheels. I think I will always ride Harleys though. It does piss me off that I ride a Harley but can’t afford to buy their clothes. I love Harley shirts but I won’t buy them because their pricing is just ridiculous. I love their styles but the quality has declined in the clothing even though the designs are good. My opinion of the younger generations is they want to go fast on a small bike and do tricks, not something that Harley is known for.

  16. In the last 40 years I have owned at least 30 bikes, I have always loved motorcycles,. Currently I have 8 bikes. I have had three Harleys and still have a Road king that I will be selling in the spring. All three Harleys have been the most problem prone bikes I have ever owned. I was hoping HD would make a tourer model of the V-rod, but for some reason not. I now have a Yamaha V twin tourer and it is way nicer than the HD. More power, handling, comfort and reliability. Fit and finish just as good as the HD and the best part, Half the price! The new 2018 Harley line up is horrible, the best engines they make is the V-rod and sportster 1200, yet they refuse to lengthen the chassis and make a true tourer. HD is finding out, refuse to listen to the customer and you won’t have any.

  17. I have owned many bikes in the last 50 years, and one thing still holds true. Price is not the only reason for my choices. My latest ride costs far more than an average Harley, but i find it is worth the price of admission. The last Harley i owned was a V rod, and it laid bare the problem with Harley Davidson. The V rod was an engine in search of a motorcycle. If i wanted an antique, i would buy one. Harley is lost in the past, while their new customers are riding into the future.

  18. From my understanding the far majority of H.D. employees have been “temporary” for years. That means lousy pay,few benefits and lay offs at any time. What motivates them to do a quality job if they’re treated like throw aways? Did H.D. drop their prices a dime with lower labor cost-no. Another greedy corporation that will die off as the ageing baby boomers are doing or quitting. Few young people with limited income,being risk adverse & electronic addicted,have any interest in motorcycles. Sad but that’s the future.

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