Hog Wash

Harley-Davidson to shut down Kansas City plant, lay off 800

The most recognizable motorcycle manufacturer in the world, a brand long representative of American culture, will shut down a heartland facility by 2019 at the expense of 800 employees. Harley-Davidson announced Tuesday it will close its Kansas City production premises by next summer.

Part of a consolidation plan that involves moving production to its York, Pennsylvania plant, the looming Kansas City closure is also indicative of a slew of recent struggles for the famous hogmaker. Harley sales fell substantially in 2017, with a drop of 6.7% worldwide that was even worse in the United States (-8.5%).

The company is also navigating the unfamiliar waters of the electric vehicle market, which is surging in the United States and factoring into auto sales. H-D jumped on board the EV market in 2014, when it announced plans for its Livewire line of electric motorcycles, but these have yet to materialize while stirring up mixed feedback from Harley loyalists who don’t quite consider a motorcycle authentic if it uses an electric motor.

Lastly, the company was forced to abandon its popular flagship merchandise store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile at the end of 2017, a location that had been a staple for three years. It will open a new Chicago location of the same variety in the Wrigleyville neighborhood in 2019, and the company is considering a Navy Pier location for the interim period, the Chicago Tribune reported in July 2017.

The Kansas City plant opened in 1996, and has produced Harley’s Softail, Sportster and Street models ever since. In November, Harley-Davidson announced the plant was producing the company’s newest motorcycle to hit the market — its Sport Glide model. At the time of that announcement, the company said the addition of the Sport Glide in Kansas City would not change the size of the workforce, then at 748. Many employees at the 400,000 square foot location are reportedly shocked by the announcement to close the Kansas City facility and some even said they weren’t forewarned, according to the Kansas City Star. Consolidating to the York location is being celebrated in the Keystone State, however, as the move will bring 450 new jobs to the area.

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