Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has asked a federal agency to find Harley-Davidson eligible for funds handed out under a federal bailout for financial institutions.

Casey, D-Pa., wrote a Jan. 16 letter to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Blair, saying Harley-Davidson recently inquired whether its financing company and subsidiaries -- Harley-Davidson Credit Corp. and Eaglemark Savings Bank -- are eligible for the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, or TLGP.

Casey said he supports Harley's request for eligibility and wants the FDIC to make a decision on the company's eligibility by Tuesday.

"Without access to TLGP, Harley-Davidson may be forced to make tough decisions that will impact workers in Pennsylvania, jeopardize the local economy ... and negatively impact the state economy," Casey wrote in the letter.

Everything possible: Reached for comment on Friday, Casey said he wants to do everything possible to make sure Harley's financial arm has access to help if it's eligible.

He said the problem with the economy is related to credit, and Harley's participation in the program would allow more people to get Harley loans to buy motorcycles.

"Without the determination (of eligibility) made, it puts their financing company in a much more precarious situation," he said.

In October, in an attempt to improve confidence in the banking sector and to improve liquidity for banks, the FDIC started the program to guarantee newly issued unsecured debt of qualifying institutions and guarantee certain noninterest-bearing accounts.


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Guarantee debt: Harley spokesman Bob Klein said the program would guarantee unsecured corporate debt against default; Harley would only get federal funds if a customer defaulted on his or her motorcycle loan.

Klein said the TLGP is one of several options that Harley-Davidson's financial arm is pursuing "to ensure continued funding of its lending activities" in a challenging economic environment. Lower consumer confidence has affected the motorcycle industry, he said.

The Wisconsin-based company told elected officials in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin about its plans to seek inclusion in the program, Klein said. The company appreciates Casey's support, he said.

Stock downgraded: Harley's Springettsbury Township plant employs 2,866 workers and supports another 1,500 jobs at Harley dealerships in Pennsylvania, Casey said.

"It's hard to even calculate the impact that Harley has on York County, the region and the Commonwealth," he said.

In April, the company announced plans to cut 300 jobs from the York plant; those jobs have since been eliminated. In October, a spokesman said the company was still "positioned appropriately" for the faltering economy, despite falling profits reported in the third quarter.

Shares of Harley-Davidson Inc. tumbled earlier this month after an analyst downgraded the motorcycle maker and estimated its fourth-quarter U.S. sales will decline by a percentage in the low to mid-20s.

Raymond James analyst Joseph D. Hovorka reduced his rating on the Milwaukee-based company's stock to "Underperform" from "Market Perform." In a note to clients, he said that a recent dealer survey shows that year-over-year retail sales appear to have softened from the third quarter, when Harley-Davidson reported a 15.5 percent drop in U.S. retail sales.

Hovorka said of the 55 dealers surveyed, nearly two-thirds reported a unit sales decline in the quarter, "the softest reading ever for our survey."

The company is expected to report fourth-quarter results Friday.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdis patch.com.