Incorporated: 1903 as Harley-Davidson Motor Company
Sales: $466.52 million (1997)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: HDI
SICs: 3751 Motorcycles, Bicycles & Parts; 3711 Motor Vehicles & Car Bodies; 3443 Fabricated Plate Work—Boiler Shops; 6719 Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3089 Plastics Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; 2900 Petroleum & Coal Products; 2389 Apparel & Accessories, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3714 Motor Vehicle Parts & Accessories; 3716 Motor Homes; 3792 Travel Trailers & Campers; 2522 Office Furniture Except Wood; 2521 Wood Office Furniture; 3524 Lawn & Garden Equipment; 3519 Internal Combustion Engines, Not Elsewhere Classified; 5651 Family Clothing Stores
The only motorcycle manufacturer in the United States, Harley-Davidson, Inc. has been designing heavyweight machines for bike enthusiasts for almost a century. The company is legendary for the great loyalty its vehicles have inspired in generations of cyclists.
Early 20th-century Origins
The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle was built in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—still the location of the company’s headquarters—in the early 1900s. The Davidson brothers—William, Walter, and Arthur—along with William S. Harley, designed and developed the bike and its three horsepower engine in their family shed. The machine went through many refinements until 1903, when the men established the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and produced three of their motorcycles for sale. Over the next several years both demand and production grew at a healthy rate, and by 1907 the company had begun to advertise.
Two years later the company produced a new model featuring a V-twin engine that produced a low, deep rumble now identified as the signature Harley-Davidson sound. The revolutionary engine—still a company standard—enabled riders to reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, which until that time had been believed impossible. Such capabilities served to set the company’s motorcycles apart from the competition; by 1911 there were 150 other companies manufacturing the vehicles.
Growth During and Following World War I
The onset of World War I was actually a boon for Harley-Davidson. The motorcycle, having done well in its utilization by police, was commissioned for use by the military. It proved especially useful on the U.S.-Mexico border, which was suffering incursions by the forces of Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. In all, 20,000 of the company’s machines were employed by the U.S. infantry during the war.
The battlegrounds of the war also served as proving grounds for the motorcycles. After resuming normal production, Harley-Davidson was able to begin incorporating improvements into its new machines. The 1920s saw the company taking the lead in innovative engineering with such features as the Teardrop gas tank and the front brake. In 1921, the winner of the first race in which motorists reached average speeds of more than 100 miles per hour was riding a Harley-Davidson machine. Only Harley-Davidson and Indian would survive the grueling years of the Great Depression. However, a strong dealer network, continued use by the military and police, as well as the U.S. Postal Service, and strong exports to Canada and Europe, allowed Harley-Davidson to weather the economic disaster.
Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line, on which he could quickly and inexpensively produce his Model T automobile, had a profound effect on the motorcycle industry. While motorcycles had traditionally been used by workers and businesspeople, the more affordable car became their vehicle of choice. The motorcycle, in the meantime, was gradually becoming a recreational vehicle.
World War II: Military Demand Again Spurs Growth
Military procurement during World War II proved as helpful to Harley-Davidson as it was during World War I. In 1941 the company turned its entire manufacturing effort toward supplying U.S. and Allied troops going into battle, shipping nearly 100,000 machines overseas. Harley-Davidson’s efforts earned them the Army-Navy “E” award, an honor bestowed upon companies that excelled at production during wartime. The healthy postwar economy found consumers with money to spend on recreation. To meet burgeoning demand, the company purchased additional manufacturing capacity in 1947.
The Superbike Era: 1950s and 1960s
As the second generations of the founding families began moving into management positions at the company, Harley-Davidson found itself “king of the road”—with the shutdown of Indian in 1953, the company became the sole American motorcycle manufacturer. Continuing to prove itself a design innovator, the company introduced its Sportster model in 1957, heralding the era of the all-powerful, throaty “superbikes.” An entire subculture began to grow up around these motorcycles, and leather jackets and riding boots became as much a statement of one’s desire for a life of freedom on the open road as a necessity for motorcycling. Unfortunately, the film The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, depicted biker gangs riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles as packs of lawless renegades. The stereotype that grew out of this is one the company still actively strives to dispel.
In 1965 Harley-Davidson went public when the two families decided to give up control and put the company’s shares on the market. Four years later the company was bought by the American Machine and Foundry Co. (AMF), a leisure equipment manufacturer headed by Harley-Davidson fan Rodney C. Gott. The arrangement proved, at least initially, to be a good one for Harley-Davidson, for it was also in the 1960s that the company experienced its first competition since Indian went out of business. The financial resources and stability that AMF was able to provide helped the company battle Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, who had begun exporting their vehicles around the world, placing themselves in direct competition with Harley-Davidson.
Problems and Corrective Measures: The 1970s and 1980s
Demand for motorcycles continued to grow through the early 1970s, and, in an effort to keep up, the company opened an assembly plant in York, Pennsylvania, in 1974. While engines would still be made in the Milwaukee facilities, the bikes themselves would be assembled in the new plant. In 1975 AMF put Vaughn Beals at the head of Harley-Davidson, and Jeff Bleustein was named chief engineer. Bleustein was charged with making manufacturing improvements, which were becoming increasingly necessary as production grew.
These efforts added an extra $1,000 in costs to each bike, however, and the profit line suffered as a result. To compensate, AMF management began to apply pressure for greater sales volume, with the result that quality began to suffer. The production standards that customers had come to count on were being lowered, and there were chronic shortages of parts, with the result that as many as 30 percent of the vehicles coming off the assembly line were incomplete. This, in turn, meant extra manpower searching for spare parts to finish outfitting the machines, a task that even fell to dealers on those occasions when incomplete bikes were accidentally shipped.
Such problems took their toll on the company, especially in light of rising Japanese competition. In 1969 Harley-Davidson had enjoyed an 80 percent share of the U.S. motorcycle market for super heavyweight machines—bikes with engines over 850 cubic centimeters (cc). Ten years later, just when Honda Motor Co. was opening a plant in Marysville, Ohio, that share had dropped sharply to 20 percent. While there were still some riders who would settle for nothing but a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, newcomers to the motorcycle market were opting for Japanese affordability and dependability.
To make matters worse, the 1981 recession severely threatened Harley-Davidson’s share of the market for heavyweight bikes—motorcycles with engine capacities of 700-850 cc—nearly finishing the company off as a manufacturer. Soon AMF began to lose interest in keeping the struggling business afloat. To save the company, and to effect a turnaround, 13 Harley-Davidson executives, led by Vaughn Beals, put together a plan for a leveraged management buyout. With the financial support of Citicorp, the management team succeeded in taking control of Harley-Davidson from AMF on June 16, 1981, at a cost of $81.5 million.
Harley-Davidson ‘s Worldwide Mission Is To: Preserve and perpetuate the Harley-Davidson institution through continuous improvement in the quality of our products and services and achievement of our financial goals. Provide motorcycles, accessories, and services to motorcyclists in selected niches. Provide the general public brand identified products/services to enhance Harley-Davidson’s image and attract new customers. Engage in manufacturing or service ventures that can add value (not only profit) to the motorcycle business.
The group’s turnaround strategy called for getting back on the quality track through new management and manufacturing techniques. Unable to beat them, Harley-Davidson instead decided to join their Japanese competition, adopting such management techniques as decentralized quality discussion groups and “just-in-time” inventory control. After the company’s top management toured Honda’s Marysville plant in 1981, Vaughn Beals noted in Fortune, “We were being wiped out by the Japanese because they were better managers. It wasn’t robotics, or culture, or morning calisthenics and company songs—it was professional managers who understood their business and paid attention to detail.” In an effort to do likewise, management at the York plant developed three principles for change: worker involvement, manufacturing materials available as needed, and statistical operator control.
One of the first steps Harley-Davidson took was to group the employees in a plant-wide network to ensure their input in improving the manufacturing process. The York plant management met with workers’ representatives for months in 1981 to achieve a consensus on what was sought and also to ease skepticism. The increases in productivity stemming from these measures were deemed to be the effects of effective communication, shop floor enthusiasm, and increased recognition.
The second point of the revitalization program involved managing the company’s inventory. A program of just-in-time inventory control called MAN—Material As Needed—was developed, based on Toyota Motor Corporation’s Toyota Production System. The plan called for the use of expanded communication in monitoring the flow of inventory. Harley-Davidson also introduced a statistical operator control system to improve quality control. The aim was to reduce defects and scrap by reworking machines right on the assembly line. The process began with the operators, who established parameters for quality using statistical methods. Then workers along the assembly line would chart actual quality and introduce improvements where warranted.
During the early 1980s, the company began making cosmetic changes to its motorcycles, prompted by Vice-president William G. Davidson, grandson of the founder. Davidson, who felt it was important to remain close to the bike maker’s customers and their needs, would often mingle with Harley devotees at gatherings, sporting his own beard, black leather, and jeans. As he explained in Fortune, “They really know what they want on their bikes, the kind of instrumentation, the style of bars, the cosmetics of the engine, the look of the exhaust pipes, and so on. Every little piece on a Harley is exposed, and it has to look right. A tube curve or the shape of a timing case can generate enthusiasm or be a turn-off. It’s almost like being in the fashion business.” In addition to changing the look of established models, the company began to design new motorcycles to appeal to a broad range of consumers.
Meanwhile, the competition was moving ahead. Though the recession of the early 1980s had depressed demand for heavyweight bikes, Japanese manufacturers swamped the U.S. market with their surplus inventory, driving average market prices down still further. In 1982, however, the company won an antidumping judgment from the International Trade Commission (ITC). This led then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan to impose additional tariffs on imported heavyweight Japanese models, as allowed by the ITC.
The additional tariffs—45 percent on top of an existing 4.4 percent measure—were meant to decrease gradually over five years, until April 1988. These measures would give Harley-Davidson the opportunity to effect its revitalization plans. Predictably, as the company’s market share began to increase, so, too, did its profits. Harley-Davidson had lost $25 million in 1982, but rebounded into the black again in 1983 before posting $2.9 million in profits on sales of $294 million in 1984. Though Japanese bike makers were able to elude some of the tariffs by building more machines in the United States, by 1986 Harley-Davidson’s share of the U.S. super heavyweight market had crept back up to 33.3 percent, ahead of Honda for the first time since 1980.
During this time, Harley-Davidson began placing more emphasis on its marketing efforts. In a 1983 public relations move, the company established the Harley Owners Group (HOG), a club with its own newsletter for fans of the motorcycle. By the end of the 1980s, membership in HOG had grown to 100,000 members. The company developed the SuperRide promotion, several years later; it was designed to attract large numbers of new buyers from an upscale niche. Television commercials invited people to visit one of Harley-Davidson’s 600 dealers across the United States to test ride a new bike. Over 40,000 people took Harley-Davidson up on its offer. Though immediate sales did not cover the promotion’s $3 million price tag, the effort did result in increased sales over the course of the next several years, and many of the new buyers were owners of rival Japanese models.
Although Harley-Davidson was making great strides, the company suffered yet another blow in 1984. Citicorp—nervous that the economy was headed back into a recession, especially in light of the 1988 deadline on import tariffs—informed Harley-Davidson that in future years they would no longer provide overadvances—money over and above the conservative lending limits set as part of the company’s business plan. Taking this as an indication that Citicorp wanted out of its arrangement with the company, Beals and Richard Teerlink, who was then the finance officer, began searching for another lender. Once word concerning Citicorp’s plans got out, however, other banks showed little interest in making the commitment. By October 1985 Beals and his management team had contacted the investment firm Dean Witter Reynolds in order to begin Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Before those plans were finalized, Beals and Teerlink were approached by an interested lender. After weeks of hard bargaining, Heller Financial Corporation—whose second in command, Bob Koe, was a Harley buff—agreed to supply Harley-Davidson with $49 million to buy out Citicorp’s stake in the business. Thus Citicorp was forced to take an $18 million writedown on its original investment. Heller Financial Corporation’s faith in Harley-Davidson paid off handsomely. The company’s market share began to climb steadily, and profits for 1986 topped $4.3 million on sales of $295 million. That year a revived Harley-Davidson went public, offering two million shares of stock worth $20 million and $70 million worth of unsecured subordinate notes that would mature in 1997.
With the capital raised from these offerings Harley-Davidson purchased the motor home maker Holiday Rambler Corporation. By December 1986 the company had acquired all outstanding Holiday Rambler stock for approximately $156 million, enabling Harley-Davidson to diversify its manufacturing efforts. The company further broadened its business in 1986 when the U.S. government awarded Harley-Davidson a contract to produce military hardware, including casings for 500-pound bombs and liquid-fueled rocket engines for target drone aircraft.
The previous year had proven to be such a successful one for Harley-Davidson that in March 1987 the company asked the ITC to remove the tariffs imposed on Japanese superbike imports a year earlier than scheduled. Even so, Harley-Davidson’s share of the super heavyweight market by the end of 1987 had climbed to 47 percent.
Despite the recession taking hold in 1990, Harley-Davidson saw its sales for that year increase to $864.6 million, up from $790.6 million a year earlier. The company also had a 62.3 percent share of the U.S. heavyweight motorcycle market, far and above Honda, its closest competitor with 16.2 percent. Holiday Rambler’s sales were somewhat affected, however, by lower consumer spending.
Richard Teerlink, who had become president and CEO of Harley-Davidson, warned in the company’s 1990 annual report that “maintaining Harley-Davidson’s growth through a recessionary period will be a difficult, but not impossible task. We could easily exploit our worldwide motorcycle popularity for quick profits, a near-fatal mistake we made in the 1970s, but we are committed to a corporate vision that discourages short-term thinking.”
The 1990s: Facing the Competition Head-On
The early 1990s brought the company some minor setbacks. Though sales in 1991 rose to $939.8 million, profits fell slightly, marking the first decrease since the 1986 refloatation. In addition, the company’s motorcycle division experienced a work stoppage at the York plant, and sales and profits at the Holiday Rambler Corporation continued downwards.
Harley-Davidson instituted new labor and fiscal policies in the late 1990s under the leadership of Jeff Bleustein, policies that revitalized production and sales. The company’s stock has grown steadily and attracted many new investors while keeping the old. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine reporters Steven T. Goldberg and Nancy Stover declared in May 1998 that “Harley stock is now selling at 23 times this year’s estimated earnings. Earnings are expected to grow 15 percent in 1998 and an annualized 18 percent over five years,” and named Harley-Davidson, Inc. to their list of 12 stocks “that keep growing & growing & growing.” Envisioning Harley-Davidson as a wise stock pick in spite of the motorcycle’s rebel image is not misinformed: the company announced in April 1998 that they had realized record sales and earnings for the first quarter of that year. While the company had 32 consecutive quarters of growth, it had to absorb some of the costs of a new Kansas City plant, seen mostly in the decline of the gross margin from 32.4 percent to 32.1 versus the previous year. While company officials warned that further costs would have to be absorbed from plant openings and refurbishings, “the introduction of two new Europe specific Harley-Davidson motorcycle models, a new European marketing campaign, a full year of Buell sales, and additional dealers will result in increased sales for 1998,” according to an article on the corporate web site.
There would be no profit without the product, and Harley-Davidson management has explored and incorporated new labor-friendly production techniques that reflect respect for its manufacturers. As the company borrowed management ideas from the Honda plant in Maryland, so also did it take a close look at GM’s Saturn plant, with its great success through worker empowerment. Harley-Davidson opened a new plant in Kansas City in January 1998, at a cost of some $85 million, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. For two years, the company interviewed some 2,000 applicants for 300 positions. They were put through hours of rigorous personality and aptitude training. Those few who earned a place with Harley-Davidson enjoyed collective decision-making and a strong voice in the production process. Dealernews reported in March 1998 that Fortune magazine had named Harley-Davidson as one of the top 100 places to work in the country.
Harley-Davidson wisely selected merchandising that reflected the changing profile of the motorcycle-worshipping customer. “It’s one thing to have people buy your products. It’s another for them to tattoo your name on their bodies,” the web site crows. Harley-Davidson has gone far beyond tattoos in hip merchandising. The Jacksonville Business Journal interviewed a third-generation dealership owner who planned to dedicate almost a fourth of his floor space to merchandise including, “Anything from blue jeans and T-shirts to leather jackets and boots. It’s not just leather anymore,” said Chris Adamec. He pointed to a new and wealthy clientele, the so-called “Rolex” riders, as a new source of demand. VH1, the MTV for yuppies, debuted a commercial in June 1998 raffling off four vintagestyle Harleys and leather jackets in their “Chrome on the Range” contest. Smiling mothers holding babies posed in front of the bikes (and the American flag) at the close of the commercial suggested a new generation of Harley riders yet to grasp their first Gold Card.
With the approach of the millennium, Harley-Davidson roared into cyberspace. Besides a Lollapalooza of a party, Harley-Davidson’s 95th anniversary was celebrated with a virtual Harley tour online. Visitors to Harley-Davidson’s web site were invited to partake of video and audio journals of actual motorcycle mamas and daddies from Washington to Pennsylvania. Harley-Davidson has proved that heavyweight motorcycles are not just about nostalgia, whether for the early days of motorcycles or the freewheeling 1960s; the classic appeal of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle would certainly continue into the next century, and the company was poised to support continued growth.
Holiday Rambler Corporation; Utilmaster Corporation; B&B Molders; Creative Dimensions; Nappanee Wood Products.
“Bleustein Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc.,” http://harley-davidson.com, June 27, 1997.
“Chrome on the Range,” http://www.vhl.com, June, 1998.
Gallun, Alby, “Manufacturers Expect Growth to Moderate in ‘98,” Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee, January 9, 1998.
Goldberg, Steven T., and Nancy Stover, “12 Stocks That Keep Growing & Growing & Growing,” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, May 1998, p. 66.
“Harley-Davidson Celebrates First Production Motorcycles in Kansas City,” http://harley-davidson.com, January 6, 1998.
“Harley-Davidson, Inc. Announces Record First Quarter Earnings and 32nd Consecutive Quarter of Record Sales,” http://www.harley-davidson.com, April 13, 1998.
“Harley-Davidson Inc. Company Briefing Book,” Wall Street Journal, http://www.interactive.wsj.com/inap-bin/bb, 1998.
“Harley-Davidson Mission,” http://www.harley-davidson.com, 1998.
“How Harley Beat Back the Japanese,” Fortune, September 25, 1989.
“Joe Walsh and the Wallflowers Rock Harley-Davidson’s 95th Birthday,” http://www.harley-davidson.com, May 4, 1998.
“Maintaining Excellence Through Change,” Target, Spring 1989.
“95th Anniversary Web Site Cruises the Virtual Highway,” http://www.harley-davidson.com, May 11, 1998.
Reid, Peter, Well Made in America: Lessons from Harley-Davidson on Being the Best, New York, McGraw Hill, 1990.
“Riding the Road to Recovery at Harley-Davidson,” Labor-Management Cooperation Brief No. 15 (April 1988), Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Labor.
Roth, Stephen, “New Harley Plant Spotlights Training and Empowerment,” Kansas City Business Journal, January 9–15, 1998.
Stuart, Devan, “Shop’s Clothing Sales Ride Motorcycle’s Popularity,” Jacksonville Business Journal, January 16, 1998.
“The Success of Harley-Davidson: 89 Years in the Making,” Harley-Davidson News, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Harley-Davidson, Inc., 1992.
“Top 100 Places to Work,” Dealernews, March 1998, p. 47.
“Why Milwaukee Won’t Die, Cycle, June 1987.
—updated by Christine Ferran
"Harley-Davidson, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2842900063.html
"Harley-Davidson, Inc." International Directory of Company Histories. 1999. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2842900063.html
Infante, Pedro: 1917-1957: Actor, Singer
Pedro Infante: 1917-1957: Actor, singer
During his career Mexican screen idol Pedro Infante made more than 50 films and recorded hundreds of popular songs. His adoring fans nicknamed him the 'Idol of Guamuchil,' after the village he was born in, as well as the 'the King.' Though he made millions as an actor, rode an American Harley Davidson, and flew airplanes, to the Mexican public he always remained the kind-hearted carpenter from the pueblo. "Infante was a symbol of someone who had worked himself up from nothing," noted Fiesta Del Mariachi. Women wanted to marry him. Men wanted to befriend him. Children worshipped him. When he died at the age of 39, all of Mexico mourned. On the 25th anniversary of his death, they were still mourning as 10,000 people made the pilgrimage to his Mexico City gravesite. The Cine Mexicano website noted, "As the new century begins, Pedro Infante continues to be the most important figure of our cinema. It is hoped that 'the King' will continue to reign for many more years."
Came From Talented Family
Pedro Infante Cruz was born on November 18, 1917, in the port town of Guamuchil, part of the larger city of Mazatlán located in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He was the second of nine sons born to Delfino Infante Garcma and Refugio Cruz. The couple also had six daughters. Two of Infante's brothers, Angel and José, also found fame as actors and singers. Infante's father, Delfino, was a professional musician but had trouble making ends meet. When Infante was in fourth grade he had to drop out of school to help support his family. He sold hardware, ran errands, and waited tables, however his most consistent job was as a carpenter. That is, until he fell in love with music. His father taught him the basics of music and with his carpentry skills he soon built his first guitar. He learned how to sing by imitating songs he heard on the radio.
Infante's first musical experience was with a group he formed called La Rabia. They played in local night clubs, performing rancheras and boleros—popular forms of Mexican music. In 1932 he joined the more famous Orquesta Estrella de Culiacán in Sinaloa's capital city. After a 1937 performance at a local festival, Infante's first wife, María Luisa León, insisted that he move to Mexico City to pursue his musical career. Within two years he had a contract to perform on a local radio show. Four years after that, in December of 1943, Infante recorded his first album, El soldado raso. He would go on to record more than 50 albums and hundreds of songs. He made the bolero musical form famous, earning the nickname King of the Bolero.
The Houston Chronicle noted that because he lacked formal training, "Infante's voice was unrefined, yet it was filled with emotion." The songs tugged at the heartstrings, telling tales of love found and lost, friendships built and broken, families together and apart. There wasn't a soul in Mexico who couldn't relate. The Houston Chronicle went on to say, "Infante's signature tunes included the exquisite heartbreaker 'Cien años,' a song about devotion from afar. The male protagonist sings about walking by an ex-love on the street. She looks right past him. He calls her name; she pretends not to hear. Her air of indifference hurts. Despite this indignity, he vows that, though 100 years may pass, he will never stop loving her, so intertwined were their lives." Some of his other popular songs include the bolero "Amorcito corazon," which was played repeatedly at his funeral by hundreds of mariachi bands as well as "La que se fue," and "Asi es la vida."
At a Glance . . .
Born Pedro Infante Cruz on November 18, 1917, in Guamuchil, Sinaloa, Mexico; died on April 15, 1957, in Merida, Mexico; son of Delfino Infante Garcma and Refugio Cruz; married three times: María Luisa León, Lupita Torrentera, Irma Dorantes; children: 12 including the actors Pedro Infante Jr., Cruz Infante, and Irma Infante. Religion: Catholic.
Career: Singer, early 1930s-57; actor, 1939-57.
Awards: Aerial Award for Best Actor, Academy of Cinemagraphic Science and Art of Mexico, for La vida no vale nada, 1956; Best Actor, Berlin Festival, for Tizoc, 1957.
Became the Common Man's Star
The 1930s to the mid-1950s was the golden age of the Mexican film industry. Five major Mexican film studios pumped out thousands of films "[spreading] tales of machismo, glamour and rustic innocence to every corner of the Latino world," according to an article in The Buffalo News. Infante had arrived in Mexico City, the center of the country's film industry, at a perfect time to become a star. He had roles in two short films before appearing in his first feature as an extra in 1942. He appeared in three more films that year, including a starring role in Jesucita en Chihuahua. Over the next five years he starred in or had major roles in over a dozen more films including the 1946 comedy Los tres García and its sequel Vuelven los García released that same year. In 1947 the film that catapulted Infante to stardom and is still considered a must-see of Mexican cinema, Nostros los pobres, was released. In Nosotros los pobres Infante introduced the poor-but-proud character Pepe el Toro, struggling haphazardly through his urban life. The film combined musical comedy with gritty imagery and drama and was so popular that two sequels were made. The film is also a good illustration of Infante's acting style. Rather than lose himself in a role, he remained very connected to the audience. During songs he would often look straight at the camera and wink. His fans loved it. It also didn't hurt that he was dashingly handsome, often eliciting comparisons to Clark Gable.
Infante often portrayed the common man that everyone could relate to. "He was the good friend, the good son, the romantic in love, the caring father, the sexy singer, the 'macho' with a heart," noted a biography of Infante on the Lonestar website. Infante's rise from poor carpenter to cinema star was well-known and it seemed as if onscreen he were portraying himself—the good-hearted worker eager to succeed. He was so revered for these types of characters that movies were specifically written for him with just these sorts of roles in the lead. They proved to be a sure-thing at the box office and continued to draw fans nearly fifty years after his death. They also helped propel Infante to superstardom, making him the most famous Mexican in recent history. Though many of his films were limited to strictly popular success, several also garnered critical acclaim. In 1947 Infante received the nomination for best actor from the Academy of Cinemagraphic Science and Art of Mexico for his role in Cuando lloran los valientes. He was again nominated in 1948 for Los tres huastecos and in 1953 Un rincón cerca del cielo. He finally won the prestigious award in 1956 for his portrayal of Pablo in La vida no vale nada. In all Infante appeared in 59 films, including Tizoc a color film made just before his death for which he received the Best Actor nod at the Berlin Festival in 1957.
Like many stars, Infante was larger-than-life off screen as well as on. He was known as quite the ladies man and by some accounts fathered over a dozen children. Three of them, Pedro Infante Jr., Cruz Infante, and Irma Infante, followed their father's footsteps into acting. He divorced María Luisa, his first wife from Sinaloa and married Lupita Torrentera with whom he had two children. When that relationship ended, he married Irma Dorantes, a fellow actor with whom he also had children. However, being a firmly Catholic country, his divorce from María Luisa was never legal and following his death, his marriage to Irma was challenged, most likely in the course of the division of his estate. Though he made a lot of money during his career, his parents, 14 brothers and sisters, three wives, and many children, relied on him. "His bills were exorbitant," noted Virtualorbe. "During the 1950s he was signing over 50 checks a month for his relatives' personal expenses." Nonetheless, Infante found funding for his two hobbies—his Harley Davidson motorcycle and flying. He often said it was his first wife who made him an actor when she insisted he leave Sinaloa for Mexico City, but that it was God who had made him a pilot. That is questionable as he was not a very good pilot. He flew recklessly and had two accidents by 1949, one quite serious. He had crashed his plane and suffered head injuries that nearly killed him. Mexico prayed during a tricky three-hour operation and finally breathed a sigh of relief when Infante came out of it okay.
His Death Mourned, His Legacy Launched
On April 15, 1957, Infante wasn't so lucky. According to Fiesta Del Mariachi, "Infante woke up early and rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle to the airport." It would be his last ride. Shortly after he crashed his plane near the city of Merida in the Mexican state of Yucatan. At quarter past eleven in the morning, the famed Mexican radio station XEW announced that Pedro Infante was dead. He was 39 and at the peak of his career. He had several more films in the works including possible appearances in American films opposite John Wayne, Joan Crawford, and Marlon Brando. Mexico was devastated. The government declared a national day of mourning. Throughout Latin America and in the Mexican-American communities in the United States, radio and television stations preempted regular programming to play day-long homages to Infante. His death was as traumatic for Mexico as the death of Princess Diana would be for Great Britain decades later. Thousands visited his body, laying a blanket of flowers and shedding a sad river of tears.
Infante left behind a very large legacy including his many films, hundreds of recordings, and large family. Each has helped keep Infante's memory and spirit alive. Compilation albums of his work continue to be released and are readily available in most major record stores. His films are in regular rotation on stations throughout Mexico and Latin America as well as on Spanish-language networks in the United States. One of his descendents living in the tequila-making state of Jalisco, Mexico, created a tequila called "Pedro Infante." Four films have been made about his life, one as recently as 1998. In 2001 acclaimed Mexican-American author Denise Chavez introduced Infante to a whole new legion of America fans when she published her novel Loving Pedro Infante. However, for Mexicans, Infante's memory need not be constantly rekindled. In Mexico, he will always remain an idol and a king, someone far more than a mere actor or singer. "For [us], Infante represented all that a Mexican should be," commented Cine Mexicano. "A respectful son, an unconditional friend, a romantic lover, and a man of his word."
Jesusita en Chihuahua, 1942.
Cuando habla el corazón, 1943.
Escándalo de estrellas, 1944.
Cuando lloran los valientes, 1945.
Los tres García, 1946.
Vuelen los García, 1946.
Nosotros los pobres, 1947.
Los tres huastecos, 1948.
Ustedes los ricos, 1948.
Sobre las olas, 1950.
A toda máquina, 1951.
Un rincón cerca del cielo, 1952.
Ahora soy rico, 1952.
Dos tipos de cuidado, 1952.
Pepe El Toro, 1952.
La vida no vale nada, 1954.
Escuela de música, 1955.
"El Soldado raso," 1943.
"Noche plateada," 1944.
"Ramito de azahar," 1945.
"Vieja Chismoas," 1946.
"Maldita sea mi suerte," 1947.
"La Barca de Oro," 1948.
"Amorcito Corazon," 1949.
"Cuartro caminos," 1950.
"El Lavadero," 1950.
"La que se fue," 1950.
"Ahora soy rico," 1952.
"Corazon, Corazon," 1952.
"Tu recuerdo y yo," 1952.
"Cien años," 1953.
"Las tres hermanas," 1955.
"Pos Cui-cui-ri," 1956.
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Houston Chronicle, April 18, 1999, p. 18.
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LaBalle, Candace. "Infante, Pedro: 1917-1957: Actor, Singer." Contemporary Hispanic Biography. 2004. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3434000041.html
Harley-Davidson, Inc. began in 1903 as the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the brainchild of three young mechanics—William Harley and brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson. The men began by building a three-horsepower motorized bicycle in a backyard shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Demand and production grew, and they began to advertise in 1907. Throughout the course of the company's history, Harley motorcycles have grown to become an industry classic.
The V-twin engine that produced the signature Harley-Davidson sound was introduced in 1909. It enabled riders to reach then unheard of speeds of 60 miles per hour, setting the company apart from its competition. By 1911 there were 150 companies manufacturing motorcycles, which had not yet been replaced by automobiles as an affordable, utilitarian means of transportation.
Police forces throughout the United States adopted Harley-Davidson motorcycles for their use, as did the U.S. military. The company prospered during World War I (1914–1918), making 20,000 machines for the U.S. infantry. Officers also rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles while patrolling the border between the United States and Mexico.
During the 1920s Harley-Davidson took the lead in innovative engineering by introducing such new features as the teardrop gas tank and front brakes. In 1921, for the first time, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle achieved speeds greater than 100 miles per hour. That year, however, the company's production fell to 10,000 machines, its lowest level in ten years. Henry Ford (1863–1947) had perfected assembly line production methods, and inexpensive Model T automobiles were flooding the market, with other automobile manufacturers following suit. In 1924 a basic Model T retailed for $265, while a comparable Harley-Davidson fetched $325. As workers and businesspeople opted to buy automobiles for daily use, motorcycles began to acquire the status of recreational vehicles.
The Great Depression (1929–1939) had a profound effect on the motorcycle industry. Among its competitors, Harley-Davidson was one of only two manufacturers that survived. The company relied on its strong dealer network; its use by police, the military, and the U.S. Post Office; and strong exports to Canada and Europe. And better days came toward the end of the decade: Like many other manufacturing companies, Harley-Davidson prospered during World War II (1939–1945). Devoting itself entirely to the war effort, the company shipped nearly 100,000 machines overseas. After the war a healthy economy found consumers with enough money to spend on recreation, including motorcycles. In 1947 the company purchased additional manufacturing capacity to keep up with demand.
Harley-Davidson's main competitor, Indian Motorcycle Company, experienced a streak of engineering and production difficulties in the 1940s and 1950s. Indian struggled with debt before breaking up in the early 1950s, allowing Harley-Davidson to become the veritable "king of the road." The second generation of the founding families became managers at the company, which continued to stress design innovations. Introduced in 1957, the Sportster model marked the start of the superbike era. During this period, leather-clad biker gangs became popular, spawning a stereotype that the company has continually attempted to dispel.
In 1965 the two families, Harley and Davidson, decided to raise additional capital by going public and putting their stock on the open market. However, they effectively maintained a dominant interest in the company by purchasing many of the shares themselves. Sales had dropped for several years, profits were flat, and the company held a mere six percent of the domestic retail market. With proceeds from the sale of stock, the company introduced its first electrically started motorcycle, the Electra Glide. While the Electra Glide became one of the most sought-after full dresser models over time, in the short run its technical problems did not benefit the company.
By 1967 Harley-Davidson was on the brink of ruin: Its Juneau Avenue factory in Milwaukee was small and outdated, and the company had not recently invested in new models. Japanese and British manufacturers filled segments of the market in which there were no Harley-Davidson models to compete. With liquidation a distinct possibility, executives sold the company in 1969 to American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF), a leisure equipment manufacturer headed by Harley-Davidson fan Rodney C. Gott.
AMF used its financial resources to help Harley-Davidson meet the new competitive threat from Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. In 1974 a Harley-Davidson assembly plant opened in York, Pennsylvania. Although the company would continue to manufacture its engines in Milwaukee, it would assemble its motorcycles in the York plant. Vaughn Beals was put in charge of the company, and 36-year-old Jeff Bleustein was named chief engineer.
The late 1970s brought problems for Harley-Davidson. Improvements had added about $1,000 to the cost of each motorcycle; meanwhile, AMF management began to seek a higher sales volume. Pressure to increase sales resulted in quality-control problems. Production standards dropped, and parts were often in short supply. In some cases manufacturers accidentally shipped incomplete bikes. By 1979 Harley-Davidson's share of the U.S. motorcycle market for super-heavyweight machines (with engines 850 cubic centimeters or larger) fell to 20 percent from 80 percent a decade ago. Compounding Harley-Davidson's problems was the 1981 recession that nearly finished the company.
With financial support from Citicorp, Beals and 13 Harley-Davidson executives effected a leveraged management buyout of the company. On June 16, 1981, they took control of the company at a cost of $81.5 million. The new owners focused on turning around the company by adopting new management techniques copied from their Japanese competitors. Also influencing their thinking was the success of the new General Motors Saturn plant and the concept of worker empowerment. The company soon found that increased worker involvement resulted in increased productivity. In addition, Harley-Davidson introduced two new developments: a just-in-time inventory control program called MAN, or "Materials As Needed," and a statistical operator control system designed to improve quality control.
In 1982, after Japanese manufacturers had swamped the U.S. market with their surplus inventory of heavyweight motorcycles, Harley-Davidson won an antidumping judgment from the International Trade Commission. President Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) was then able to impose on these imported models an additional 45 percent tariff, which was designed to decrease gradually over the next five years. Although the Japanese manufacturers often sought to avoid some of the tariffs by building more motorcycles in the United States, by 1986 Harley-Davidson's share of the U.S. super-heavyweight market had risen to 33.3 percent, ahead of Honda for the first time since 1980.
The company gained back some of its market share by investing in marketing programs, establishing the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in 1983. In addition, manufacturers designed new models to appeal to a broader range of customers. In 1984, however, the company faced another crisis when Citicorp withdrew some of its financial support. By October 1985 Harley-Davidson was ready to file for bankruptcy protection, but at the last minute an interested lender approached the company to offer help. Heller Financial Corporation agreed to buy out Citicorp's stake for $49 million, forcing Citicorp to take an $18 million write-down on its original agreement.
With profits topping $4.3 million on sales of $295 million in 1986, Harley-Davidson went public, raising $20 million through the sale of stock and $70 million through the sale of unsecured subordinate notes. The company used some of the proceeds to diversify its manufacturing efforts and to acquire motor-home maker Holiday Rambler Corporation for $156 million. Also at this time, Harley-Davidson won a government contract to produce military hardware.
By 1990 sales reached $864.6 million, and the company had a 62.3 percent share of the U.S. heavyweight motorcycle market. Harley-Davidson's comeback was complete. Over the next few years the company acquired Eagle Credit, which would provide financing and insurance for its dealers, and a 49 percent stake in Wisconsin-based Buell Motorcycle Company, which specialized in performance bikes. In 1996 the company divested the money-losing Holiday Rambler operation for $50 million, substantially less than it had paid for it.
Under the leadership of Richard Teerlink and, later, Jeff Bleustein, Harley-Davidson achieved record sales and earnings levels throughout the 1990s. The company's merchandising strategy paid off, as dealers and other retailers began to devote more space to just about anything with the Harley-Davidson logo on it. In 1998 the company celebrated its 95th anniversary with a weeklong gathering of its fans in Milwaukee. Its two assembly plants in York and Kansas City were producing 137,000 motorcycles annually and struggling to keep up with consumer demand.
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"Harley-Davidson, Inc." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (May 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406400400.html
"Harley-Davidson, Inc." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406400400.html