Harley-Davidson Inc. on Thursday announced its first-quarter diluted earnings per share increased 33.8 percent.

The increase was credited to higher motorcycle shipments and continued improvement in operating efficiency.

"The successful launch of seasonal surge production at our York assembly operations in the first quarter is the latest example of our efforts to drive greater efficiency and be even more responsive to the market," said Keith Wandell, chairman, president and CEO of Harley.

After motorcycle shipments fell 7.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012, Milwaukee-based Harley announced plans for a seasonal production surge during the first quarter this year at its local plant in Springettsbury Township.

The plan would increase motorcycle shipments 10 to 18 percent in time for the prime selling season, Wandell said.

During the first quarter, Harley shipped 50,683 bikes to U.S. dealers, compared to 41,293 shipped during the first quarter of 2012.

The company shipped 24,539 motorcycles to international dealers during the first quarter, compared to 22,970 sent in the same period a year ago.

The sales of those bikes, however, did not best last year's numbers.

Dealers worldwide sold 54,254 new Harleys in the first quarter, compared to 59,677 bikes sold a year earlier.

U.S. dealers sold 34,706 new Harleys during the first quarter, compared to 39,762 motorcycles sold in the same period a year ago.

Harley attributed the 12.


7 decrease in U.S. sales to "abnormally warm early spring weather" during the first quarter of 2012.

Despite the decrease, the company maintained its market leadership in the United States among young adults (18 to 34 years old), women, African-Americans, Hispanics and Caucasian men 35 and older.

"We believe our continued market leadership in these customer segments demonstrates the strong and growing appeal of our products and brand across generations and cultures," Wandell said.

Last year, nearly four in 10 sales of new Harley-Davidsons were to U.S. customers new to the brand, and nearly six in 10 sales worldwide were to customers new to the brand, he said.

Revenue from motorcycles grew 15.9 percent to $1.15 billion, compared to revenue of $995.9 million during the same period a year ago.

First quarter net income was $224.1 million on consolidated revenue of $1.57 billion, compared to net income of $172 million on consolidated revenue of $1.43 billion in the same period a year earlier.

First quarter diluted earnings per share were $0.99, compared to $0.74 during the first quarter of 2012.

"We believe our strategy to expand our reach to new customers and market segments in the U.S. and internationally, while also growing the base, holds tremendous opportunity for Harley-Davidson's future," Wandell said.

Harley expects to ship 259,000 to 264,000 motorcycles this year-a 4.5 to 6.5 percent increase from 2012.

For more information, a webcast presentation of first-quarter results can be accessed at http://investor.harley-davidson.com/. Click "Events and Presentations" under "Resources."

An audio presentation can be accessed until Thursday, May 9 by calling 404-537-3406 or 855-859-2056. The pin number is 29730809#.

-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.