What happened

Shares of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) fell more than 4% on Wednesday afternoon after a Goldman Sachs analyst threw in the towel on the company even after it reported first-quarter results that came in slightly better than expected.

So what

It's been a miserable few years for investors in Harley-Davidson, with shares down more than 23% since 2016 on a combination of tariff retaliation, higher raw material costs, and quality issues. The company has faced a trend of quarterly sales declines since 2015 that continued with first-quarter results.

On April 23, Harley-Davidson reported first-quarter earnings of $0.80 per share, beating Wall Street's $0.67-per-share consensus estimate but slipping below the $1.03 per share it earned a year prior.

Harley-Davidson's Touring Ultra Limited parked in front of a mountain landscape.

Harley-Davidson's Touring Ultra Limited. Source: Harley-Davidson.

Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino has seen enough, on Wednesday downgrading the shares to sell from neutral and lowering his price target to $34 from $37. Tamberrino called Harley-Davidson the "worst-positioned" company within his coverage universe, given its exposure to what he called a "secularly declining" motorcycle market.

Harley is attempting to expand into new markets, including smaller bikes and electrification, but Tamberrino said those markets tend to be more crowded and lower margin than its core business.

Now what

Harley-Davidson is far from a troubled company, producing nearly $1 billion in free cash flow last year and boasting a dividend yield of more than 4%. But the question that has plagued the stock for the better part of the last three years is where future growth will come from.

The company was able to beat expectations in the first quarter, but at least according to Tamberrino, the fundamental growth question remains unanswered.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.