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UPDATE 2-Harley plans to ship fewer models to U.S. dealers - WSJ

(Adds detail on Harley dealer meet, model launch timing)

May 20 (Reuters) - Harley-Davidson Inc is reopening its factories this week at lower production rates and sending dealers a narrower range of motorcycles, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The U.S. motorcycle maker, which closed its U.S. plants in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, may not ship any additional new motorcycles this year to about 70% of its 698 dealers in the country, the report said on.wsj.com/2Tn92JP.

The company did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Harley would reopen its plants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and accelerate production in phases that would be limited to bestselling models and palette of colors and without customizable features for the rest of the year, the report said.

The company has failed for years to increase sales in the United States, its top market which accounts for more than half its motorcycles sold.

As its tattooed, baby-boomer consumer base ages, the Milwaukee-based company has found it tough to attract new customers. To make matters worse, the pandemic has further dented demand as Americans stay at home.

In April, then acting Chief Executive Officer Jochen Zeitz, who has since taken a permanent role at Harley, told investors about plans to cut costs and “de-emphasize” some of its unprofitable international regions.

Jochen and team have been working on a new five-year strategic plan here to revive sales, which the company plans to reveal in the second-quarter earnings update.

Harley has also moved the launch timing of new models to the early part of the first quarter from August to better align with the start of the riding season. That provided some boost to its U.S. retail sales in the first quarter.

Harley’s annual dealer meet, usually held in August, will now take place early next year.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera and Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Arun Koyyur

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