Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell told a group of stockholders and United Steelworkers Union members that as much as he’d like to, he cannot guarantee them a job for life. “You know what? Life isn’t that simple.” Said Wandell. The top HOG spoke at the annual shareholders meeting Saturday at the HD Museum April 24th and refused to sugar-coat what he said is the reality of unprecedented economic challenges the company faces.
“I will come to work every day, roll up my sleeves, work next to you on the line, whatever has to happen to ensure that we are a great company,” Wandell said. “But I’m not going to tell people something that isn’t true.”
Wandell has been criticized for being an outsider and not understanding or respecting the “culture” of the motorcycle maker. He said that management isn’t thinking about changing the “core aspect” of the company. He likened changing Harley-Davidson to the Coca-Cola company changing its formula. “We have no intention of changing the formula for Coca-Cola” said Wandell.
Wandell stole a page from President Obama when he blamed the previous leadership for employees expectation of continued growth and uninterrupted employment. “It’s unfortunate that the people that made that promise aren’t standing here today to tell you why it isn’t true.”