In a surprise move, Harley-Davidson announced that it will close its Kansas City, Missouri, plant by summer 2019.
Harley-Davidson announces it will shutter its Kansas City plant in 2019
Things are tough all over these days. Prices are up, wages are down, the motorcycle industry is in decline, and the guy in the White House is everybody's drunk, racist uncle jabbering about some forwarded chain email regarding those people that he barely understands while his friends loot the country. It's hard times, friends. We know about hard times, though. I've been through them, you've been through them, hell, even Dusty Rhodes had hard times and he was the American Dream. You know who's really had some hard times lately though? Harley-Davidson.
It's been a constant stream of butt kickings for the Motor Company over the past few years – sales are down, layoffs are endemic, The Youths aren't buying chaps and bandannas anymore. Hard times indeed. This week though, times got a lot harder for Harley and for workers at its Kansas City, Missouri, plant as the Motor Company announced that it will close the plant by summer 2019 and move production to the York, Pennsylvania, facility. Ouch.
"We are launching a significant, multi-year manufacturing optimization initiative that is anchored in the consolidation of our Kansas City final assembly operations into our York final assembly plant," a company spokesperson told York's FOX43. "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."
While 450 new jobs is pretty good news for York, it's seriously bad news for the 800 or so employees of the Kansas City plant who were apparently caught totally off guard by the announcement at a plant meeting on January 29. Kansas City's FOX4 sent a reporter down to the plant after the announcement to speak with employees and the scene was the same all over: shock, sadness, surprise.
“I thought it was a meeting for something else,” one employee said. “I didn’t think it was a meeting to shut down the whole plant. No, it’s just very heart-hurting. A lot of people don’t know what to do. I mean, I’m a fighter, so I’m going to look for another job."
Harley-Davidson President and CEO Matt Levatich stated that he sympathized with KC's plight, but closing the plant was a hard decision that had to be made to improve the company's further prospects.
"This decision was extremely difficult but necessary under the circumstances," said Levatich. "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."
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So what, ultimately, does this mean for the Motor Company? Aside from revealing a bit more about just how hard times really are in Milwaukee, are there hints of the company's future plans in this decision? Kansas City was home to the Dynas, and with the end of that storied family closing the plant certainly makes financial sense. With the move to York, could some other product line be on the chopping block soon? The Sportster, perhaps? Honestly, it's too soon to say, but if we hear anything we'll be sure to let you know.