Harley-Davidson has appointed Jochen Zeitz as its new president and chief executive officer, removing the “acting” tag from the position that he has held since H-D removed his predecessor, Matthew Levatich, in February.
“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,” says Thomas Linebarger, a board member and presiding director.
The company had been searching for a permanent replacement for Levatich before deciding on Zeitz, who also serves as chairman and had been a member of the Harley-Davidson board of directors since 2007. The choice is unsurprising, considering it was Zeitz who announced Harley’s new “Rewire” business plan during the company’s first quarter presentation. The finer details of Rewire, a reworking of the previous “More Roads” plan, remain to be determined, but having Zeitz outline the plan was a sign his interim role would become permanent.
“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,” says Zeitz. “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. 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.”
Zeitz previously served as chairman and CEO of Puma from 1993 until 2011. He was 30 when he started in that role, which made him, at the time, the youngest ever CEO of a public company in Germany. Zeitz was credited with helping turn Puma from a struggling company to the fourth largest athletic apparel brand in the world.
According to a profile on business magazine FastCompany, Puma re-established itself against brands like Nike, Reebok and Adidas by focusing on color, line and style instead of competing against them in performance and sportiness. Which seems like a fit for Harley-Davidson and the Rewire plan to refocus on the company’s core strengths.
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