As a battle raged in D.C. over the perceived urgency of a border wall with Mexico, an actual crisis unfolded for iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson and tens of thousands of its customers. In the end, it fell to Harley to reach out and notify customers of a critical recall, as the government shutdown made it impossible to update the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 13,000 of the affected motorcycles were sold in the United States and the manufacturer was left without a primary means of publishing a recall action.
At issue was a fault with the braking system that could allow the brakes of Harley-Davidson Street motorcycles to drag if a critical component called the brake caliper piston bore had corroded. That drag could lead to problems with the stability and handling of the bike and cause a crash. In fact, Harley-Davidson was notified of four crashes related to the fault and two incidents that resulted in injuries.
Shipments and manufacturing of the Street; Harley’s smallest motorcycle, could be delayed for months and will likely cost the motorcycle maker millions. The added expense could not come at a worse time.
2018 was a bad year for Harley-Davidson as it endured a combination of recalls as well as tangential repercussions from Trump administration trade and steel tariffs and policies. The company had previously been highlighted by Trump as an American corporation that stood to benefit from his policies. Instead, as costs skyrocketed and sales took the inevitable hit, the company that was once a symbol of America and the freedom of the open road was forced to move some manufacturing overseas and expand its push into international markets.
That, combined with an additional unrelated brake recall as well as a recall over the potential for clutch failure, has Harley’s workers and executives alike hoping beyond all hope for a better 2019. This latest recall is a less than promising start.