We still don’t know if a new CEO can save Harley-Davidson, but we do know now that Jochen Zeitz is here to stay. The Motor Company officially announced on May 7, 2020, that Zeitz has been named CEO and president, with no need for the ‘acting’ in front of either title anymore. Additionally, he’ll also remain chairman of the board.
"During this extraordinary time of crisis my first priority is the well-being of our H-D community as I execute our COVID-19 response plan efforts to stabilize the business, resume operations, and recover. I am also leading a necessary and comprehensive overhaul of the company structure, operating model, and strategy as we adjust to the new post COVID-19 realities,” Zeitz said in a press release.
"Over the next few months, we will rewire the business and define a new 5-year strategic plan later this year. I will then oversee the implementation of these changes and reignite Harley-Davidson as one of the most revered and iconic brands in the world,” he continued.
Presiding director Thomas Linebarger added, “As the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and recovery persists and given the significant changes that are needed at the company, solidifying Jochen as CEO demonstrates both the board’s confidence in him and Jochen’s commitment to leading the company through this extraordinary time. His two decades of experience as Chairman & CEO of a leading global company and brand [Puma], and his enthusiasm and determination to challenge everything about the company based on his turnaround experience is exactly what we need right now to lead Harley-Davidson to long term success.”
The challenge is vast, but Zeitz has faced down a seemingly insurmountable company turnaround challenge before, with Puma. Can he do it again? Only time will tell. Here’s hoping that Zeitz is the breath of fresh air the company needs to find its way and make itself matter to new riders, as well as its longtime faithful fans.