Harley-Davidson reports 21 percent boost in profits

Harley-Davidson on Tuesday reported another boost in its quarterly profits as buyers in the U.S. and abroad snapped up a lineup of new motorcycles introduced in August.

Third-quarter earnings rose 21 percent while U.S. sales were up 20 percent from July through September for the Milwaukee company. International sales rose 6.5 percent. The improvement follows an increase in the second quarter and continued the company’s comeback from the economic meltdown in 2008.

The increased profits also got help from Harley-Davidson’s curbing of costs including controlling inventory. Its Kansas City plant, for example, recently started a two-week suspension of production.

“It’s something we’ve had to do the last few years,” said spokesman John Mink.

Labor costs have also been cut across the company, including the use of more temporary workers during production spurts. About 70 full-time employees lost their jobs this spring at the Kansas City plant, which has about 650 full-time hourly employees and 150 salaried.

Harley-Davidson made $162.7 million, or 73 cents a share, in the third quarter, up from $134 million, or 59 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue from motorcycles and related products rose 8 percent to $1.18 billion.

Harley sold almost 71,000 motorcycles worldwide in the quarter, 16 percent more than a year ago. Sales rose 10 percent in the Asia-Pacific region and gained nearly 16 percent in Latin America.

Buyers responded well to Harley’s new Project Rushmore line of motorcycles, which was introduced on Aug. 18, Chairman and CEO Keith Wandell said.

“Initial retail sales of the new Project Rushmore motorcycles sparked the largest year-over-year new model sales increase in two decades,” Wandell said.

The Star’s Steve Everly contributed to this story.