What happened

Shares of Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) were tumbling 19% in midday trading Tuesday after the company reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 earnings that fell well short of expectations.

So what

After the motorcycle maker's third-quarter report held out hope the company's reworked turnaround plan called The Hardwire might be gaining traction, the latest numbers show Harley is still mired in the same quagmire it has been.

Where Wall Street anticipated Harley would post an adjusted profit of $0.21 per share, it actually came in with a big $0.44 per-share loss. Last year it posted a $0.20 per-share profit.

Motorcycle rider on LiveWire electric motorcycle

Image source: Harley-Davidson.

It blamed the downturn on softness in the motorcycle market, which more than offset the profits generated by its financial services division.

Now what

Harley-Davidson sales are still in a tailspin. Motorcycle revenue plunged 51% in the quarter with U.S. sales down 15% year over year, and off 13% elsewhere in the world. Shipments fell 48% to under 21,000 units.

While the bike maker didn't mention the LiveWire in its other release, sales are included in its cruiser segment, and those bikes suffered the largest worldwide declines, down 54%. Touring and sportster bikes were down in the 40% range.

It indicates Harley-Davidson has a much longer road to recovery than analysts previously thought. Considering Polaris Industries recently reported its own results that showed sharp sales gains for its Indian Motorcycle brand, investors shouldn't expect Harley to come roaring back.

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