Motorcycles

How to predict market bubble tops?

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Triumph Motorcycle is about to launch the 750 unit limited edition Rocket 3 TFC. The bike will sport the largest engine ever fitted to a production motorcycle – a 2,500cc 3-cylinder behemoth. 170ps power and 221Nm of torque. Triumph has really got its act together with its motorcycle line up. In 2012 the UK maker sold 49,000 units. In 2018 that topped 60,697. There must be customers who wish to tow caravans. The bike is sure to annoy every environmentalist.

Although there is something of a pattern with “limited edition specials” and economic cycle tops. Honda released a homologation special 3000-unit RC-30 in 1987 ahead of the stock market crash. At the height of the tech bubble in 2000, Ducati sold a 2000-unit limited edition MH900e replica on the internet for 15,000 euro ahead of market collapse. CM bought one. Ducati sold the 1,500-unit US$72,500 limited edition Desmosedici RR in 2007/8 right ahead of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Triumph’s Rocket 3 TFC will retail for US$36,000. Has Triumph signalled the top?

The idea of buying one to annoy climate alarmists is desperately tempting.

Harley delinquencies at 8 year high

Just noted from the conference call that Harley-Davidson (HOG) motorcycle loan delinquencies (30+ days in arrears) are at an 8 year high of 3.73%. While actually loss experiences have tracked sideways for the past few years, they are still higher than 8 years ago.

Interestingly, HOG loans outstanding were $7.53bn in 1Q 2015. In 1Q 2019 that figure was $7.63bn. So next to no loan growth against c.20% lower unit sales. In 1Q 2015 HDFS made $683.6m in new loans, 80% prime out of $1.5bn in 1Q motorcycle (incl parts/accessories) sales (43.6% financed). In 1Q 2019, $685.3m in new loans were made with a claimed 80-85% “prime” against $1.124bn (61.0%) of m/c and P&A sales. Essentially total sales would be worse without the finance arm. Why does CM smell Ford Credit all over?

So delinquencies up against a strategy to pump more bikes through financing. Is it the non-prime portion is faltering at greater rates? Or the prime?

Luxury motorcycles are generally considered discretionary spend items. Are aspirational consumers just tapped out?

HOG’s 2mn new riders in the US by 2027 seems an irrelevant target. 200,000 “new” riders per year by definition should not include existing customers. Management combine new and used sales using IHS Markit Motorcycles in Operation (MIO) data, not their own! That is fine if all are new Harley customers yet the brand has some of the highest loyalty rates of any maker period. Are we to believe that long term Harley owners didn’t upgrade?

Of the 138,000 new domestic US sales in 2018, the brand assumed 278,000 new riders to the family. It also cites that 50% of that were 18-34yo (implies poorer product mix), women (smaller capacity hence poorer product mix) or ethically diverse (irrelevant) riders. So by definition at least 140,000 sales were used bikes. Harley used bike sales in America are around 2.5x new, or 350,000 units. So assuming half were new customer sales for new bikes, 60% of used sales must have been to ‘never owned a Harley’ customers. Seems high.

It doesn’t much matter if HOG hit targets for new riders, the actual financial results point to further deterioration across the board at the top of the cycle. Most competitor luxury brands are ticking along just fine.

100 new high impact motorcycles has all the hallmarks of chucking spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

This stock should continue to flounder. CM thinks it will get back to the GFC $8 handle.

CM is not invested in HOG nor short the stock. This doesn’t constitute financial advice.

Harley has another howler

Harley-Davidson (HOG) announced Q1 2019 earnings today. The results continued the horrendous pattern we’ve written about. HOG is a good example of discretionary spend.

Motorcycle revenue fell 14% vs Q1 2018 and group operating income crashed 37.3%. US retail sales fell 4.2%, slightly better than market decline of 4.7%. Operating margin fell from 12.7% to 9.1%. The company expects FY margins to be 8-9%.

Volume projections of 217,000-220,000. This is down from 228,000 deliveries in 2018.

CM has been critical of the company’s mid term business plan. It is preposterously over optimistic. How has CEO Matt Levatich managed to hold on over the past 4 years? Since taking the helm, volumes have fallen from 268,000. Revenues have shrunk from $6bn to $5.7bn and EBIT of $1.2bn to $733mn.

Harley continues to suffer from the divine franchise. It isn’t about introducing 100 new high impact motorcycle models. It needs to revamp what it has. It needs to go back to is roots. Not use the metrics of an expensive consultant to paint rosy pictures that are unattainable.

Harley bought a kid’s electric scooter company. It should be looking to M&A to diversify the portfolio of motorcycle brands and segments. Harley building an adventure bike is not going to cut it. They need to buy Ducati, something CM has encouraged for ages.

Remy Gardner gets his first ever podium

Aussie Moto2 motorcycle racer, Remy Gardner (son of 1987 500cc world champ Wayne Gardner), won his first ever podium in Argentina today taking 2nd place. It is always interesting to see the prodigy follow in his father’s footsteps. This sport takes no prisoners and Remy showed all the mongrel of his old man today. He was really in with a chance to win. Rode a near faultless race.

With this confidence boost he may well see himself as a challenger for the title. A long shot? Today’s performance showed he’s up for it. Second in the championship.

Harley has another Howler

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Harley-Davidson (HOG), perhaps the most iconic form of discretionary spending, came out with a howler set of Q4 numbers.  Revenue down 9% and operating losses in the last period. FY operating income fell 30% on revenues that finished 1% up. Domestic sales for the 2018 year fell 10% while international sales were flat. Worse was guidance pointed to unit sales falling between 217,000 & 222,000 units down from 228,000 in the fiscal year just past. This new range of unit targets would mean a decline for five consecutive years. If this pattern continues into 2020, luxury competitor BMW, which targets 200,000 units, will likely even up the tally, despite being less than half HOG was in FY2012.

Operating margin guidance for the motorcycle segment is forecast at 8-9% in 2019 down from 12% in 2017.

In June 2018, CM wrote, ““Harley-Davidson (HOG) is the classic case of a divine franchise. While still the world’s largest maker of cruiser motorcycles, it is being swamped by new competition. HOG’s EBIT performance has slid for the last 4 years and is even below the level of 2012…Sadly for HOG, 1Q 2018 has revealed even worse numbers. Global unit sales were 7.2% down on the previous year and 12% down at home.  Japan and Australia were soft. Looking at the strategy it looks like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping it sticks.

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Harley may have a grand master plan to incubate 2,000,000 new riders and launch 100 new bikes out to 2027, but all the while they remain stuck in a design studio, the competition, including the Japanese, keep stealing sales away from the Milwaukee icon.

The strategy looks completely unrealistic because growing 200,000 new bikers a year for a decade in the domestic market would mean that based on 2019 global unit sales projections,  92% of customers would need to be brand new, not repeat or existing. However the plan is to grow in the US where it had 138,000 sales in 2018 that would mean new customers would need to be 145% of all current sales in the US. No auto maker on the planet has ever had such pie in the sky assumptions for cultivating new customers, much less at that pace for 10 straight years. How can the board of HOG honestly think this is even remotely achievable? Sadly the company has been too eager conducting buybacks to flatter EPS. Net income for HOG was +1.8% for FY2018, diluted EPS was +5.6%. Time to stop playing games and properly delivering for shareholders.

Motorcycling reduces stress

According to a Harley-Davidson funded UCLA study, motorcycling reduces stress. The report findings were:

  • Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress (cortisol) by 28%

  • On average, riding a motorcycle for 20 minutes increased participants’ heart rates by 11% and adrenaline levels by 27% —similar to light exercise

  • Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators versus non-meditators

  • Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee.

CM already knew the benefits. Nice to have them confirmed.

KTM wins 18th straight Dakar

Aussie Toby Price has won the grueling 10-day Dakar endurance race in Peru overnight. Despite starting the race with a broken wrist, he still managed to overcome his disadvantage.

This chalks up Austrian brand KTM’s 18th consecutive victory. The manufacturer took 2nd and 3rd with its sister brand, Husqvarna taking 4th & 5th.