Double Trouble? Ford’s CEO Also On Harley-Davidson Board

How can you be the head of one of the largest corporations in the world and still have time to be on another manufacturer’s board of directors? That’s the question some are asking about Ford CEO Jim Farley. Both Ford and Harley-Davidson are iconic American brands, and in some ways share similar challenges. But does being on the board of directors of one company take away from the time and efforts of your CEO position? Is Farley short-changing Ford

Farley is an avid Harley-Davidson owner with a number of traditional Harleys in his stable. But tradition may be out the window when it comes to both Ford and Harley. Electrification is the name of the game, and both Farley and Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz are proponents. 

How will Farley help Harley-Davidson?

A dark-green 2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 by a river-bridge tunnel
2021 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 | Harley-Davidson

Both are working toward a refocus on electric power for their respective companies. Zeitz was solidly behind Harley’s electric LiveWire when he took over last May. Ford has doubled its development spending on electrification to $22 billion since Farley took over in October. Harley sales in 2020 were down 29% from the previous year. 

It sold 103,650 bikes, which in and of itself is not a terribly bad amount of production. Yet, it was the worst performance for the company in the last 10 years. Harley needs to pull in new customers to replace those opting out or dying. It’s a sad truth that the Harley demographic is increasingly older. 

The electrification of Harley-Davidson will go as far as creating a separate division. It has already hired its first Chief electric Vehicle Officer in Ryan Morrison. “Jochen’s vision to bring adventure to a wider audience in different forms resonates with me,” Farley told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m honored to be nominated for a seat on the Harley-Davidson board.”

Farley will help implement “Project Hardwire”

Harley-Davidson bikes in a row
Harley-Davidson motorcycles | Getty

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Harley has left a lot of markets and decreased inventory to help bolster demand. Under its “Project Hardwire,” Zeitz has a multi-pronged set of targets that pretty much pick up where 2020’s plan left off. It will invest in touring, cruisers, and trikes; all three of its strongest profit segments. Harley plans to expand its parts and accessories, merchandise, and financial services businesses. And it plans to reward employees and shareholders while aiming for a net-zero environmental impact. 

It is hoping to be able to grow over the next five years under this plan. Farley is the only new Harley-Davidson board member being proposed. The board meets next in May when it is expected it will formally appoint him to the board.