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Harley-Davidson to cull 700 jobs globally this year

This workforce reduction is part of a broader plan to restructure the venerable motorcycle manufacturer.

Harley-Davidson Layoffs

Layoffs are never easy.

Craig Cole/Roadshow/Harley-Davidson

Big changes are afoot at Harley-Davidson. As part of a restructuring program called "The Rewire," which was announced in April, this iconic American motorcycle manufacturer will cull 700 jobs across its worldwide operations this year in an effort to become leaner and more efficient. Globally, it employs around 6,000 people. Additionally, John Olin, the company's chief financial officer, has departed after 17 years and will be temporarily replaced by Harley's treasurer, Darrell Thomas.

If there's any good news in this announcement -- and let's be honest, it's never great when people lose their jobs -- about 200 of those 700 positions are already vacant, meaning only about 500 additional jobs will be eliminated by year's end.

2020-harley-davidson-livewire-002

Motorcycles are all about freedom.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

"The Rewire is progressing very well and substantial work is being done to eliminate complexity and get Harley-Davidson on a path to winning," said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson in an announcement released by the company. "We are building a strong foundation to drive a high-performance organization in the future."

Harley's second-quarter earnings will be shared later this month. Additional details about The Rewire should be made public at that time, though the motorcycle manufacturer has already announced this plan is expected to incur around $42 million in costs, which should be reflected in this report. In addition to job cuts, the company has slashed spending in other areas in an effort to save around $250 million this year.

The Rewire will focus on a number of things, including enhancing the brand's core strengths, prioritizing markets based on importance and adjusting new-product launches. Beyond that, Harley is aiming to improve its parts-and-accessories and general-merchandise businesses. The Rewire is an initial component of a new strategic business plan for the 2021-to-2025 time frame. Details about this will likely be shared in the fourth quarter of the year.