The Milwaukee company said Thursday that it earned $224.1 million, or 99 cents a share, from January through March. That's up from $172 billion, or 74 cents a share, a year earlier.
Lower costs due to restructuring and a 17 percent increase in motorcycle shipments drove earnings, according to the company. Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG) shipped more than 75,000 motorcycles to dealerships in the quarter, up from 64,000 last year.
Revenue rose almost 10 percent to $1.57 billion from $1.43 billion.
Harley topped Wall Street profit expectations by two cents.
Shares rose 50 cents to $53.70 in premarket trading Thursday.
Harley also reiterated that it expects to ship 259,000 to 264,000 motorcycles in 2013, up 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent from last year. Second-quarter shipments are expected to be between 80,000 and 85,000 motorcycles, in line with 83,502 a year earlier.
The company said it had $2.9 million worth of restructuring charges in the first quarter, compared with $11.5 million a year ago. It expects to finish restructuring sometime this year, with total spending for the year at $13 million. That would bring the total restructuring costs since 2009 to $495 million. Harley undertook a massive overhaul during the economic downturn, honing its ability to quickly bring production in line with demand as it reshaped operations at its factories.
The restructuring is expected to translate into savings of $305 million in 2013, and that should rise to $320 million in annual and ongoing savings starting next year.
Motorcycle sales at dealers worldwide slowed 9 percent during the quarter, falling to 54,254. In the U.S., Harley's biggest market, sales fell almost 13 percent to 34,706. Harley attributed the drop to abnormally warm spring weather in the U.S. last year, which accelerated sales.
(Updated at 9:25 a.m. ET)