Harley-Davidson CEO to Retire; Replacement Named

Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson says its chief executive is retiring and will be replaced by an executive from car battery and interior maker Johnson Controls.

Keith E. Wandell, 59, replaces James L. Ziemer, who is retiring after 40 years at Harley and four years as its CEO.

Wandell is currently president and chief operating officer at Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls , where he was worked the past 21 years. Harley board member Barry K. Allen in a statement called Wandell a "seasoned global business leader."

Wandell will take over Harley during a challenging time for the motorcycle company. Sales of its iconic heavyweight bikes have been in a slump recently, as the tough economy keeps buyers out of dealerships and the credit crisis makes it difficult for potential customers to obtain financing.

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Harley said in January its 2008 profit fell 30 percent to $654.7 million, or $2.79 per share. Its motorcycle shipments fell 8 percent to 303,479 new motorcycles during the same period.

The company also faces other challenges as well, including bringing newer, younger riders to diversify its aging customer base. The company has also been aggressively expanding abroad in search of new markets.

Harley also announced a series of other leadership changes, including a new president and chief operating officer, a new executive vice president for corporate product planning and a new managing director of the newly acquired Italian motorcycle maker, MV Agusta.