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Trump Publically Attacks Harley Davidson After It Announces Shift to Production Overseas

Photo by Colton Kresser on Unsplash

A couple of phrases come to mind after witnessing what happened in the news in the last 24 hours.  Harley-Davidson is either caught between a “rock and a hard place” or facing a “Hobson’s choice” … or both.  A few days ago, we wrote about trade policies that are hitting Harley-Davidson with a “double whammy”, i.e., an increase in the cost of an important production material, steel, and a 25% tariff the EU is charging U.S. manufacturers of large-displacement motorcycles (principally, Harley).

Harley announced yesterday it is moving additional production overseas as a result of these trade tariffs. Harley already sells close to 40,000 units in the EU, and has a goal of selling at least 50% of its production in foreign markets. This announcement didn’t sit well with President Donald Trump, whose policies are being blamed for Harley’s difficulties. Among other nasty tweets, this one posted by Trump earlier today really stings.

“A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”


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67 Comments

  1. takehikes says:

    This is hilarious! His very demographic is taking it in the rear from him. Of course they will shift production where they can make a buck……just like Trump would. The orange one has no idea how international trade works nor cares to learn. Serves them both right and if his voters think he cares about anything other than himself and his wallet then they are slower than I thought they were. Note: I have voted third party for decades so dont bother flaming me….none of this is my fault.

  2. yellowhammer says:

    nic nic nic ffft ffft ffft… democrats

  3. MGNorge says:

    I didn’t vote for him.

  4. ediehl says:

    If DJ wants to bolster US production of steel and aluminum, instead of starting a trade war that will likely cripple some US industries and be a negative for the economy as a whole, why not enact provisions that directly bolster those industries? Additional tax breaks, subsidies of some kind? Not sure that I favor such moves, but I certainly don’t favor trade wars.

  5. TheMurf says:

    Funny Harley moving product overseas. Didn’t they do that long before this taffif talk ? Plenty of American steel and folks in PA willing to supply it to the Harley factory in PA. Seams to me Harley looking to make a cheaper product to boost laging sales. Having owned three with five in our family if Harley are going to put American s out of jobs,it’s time to ride something else. As I believe Indian is made in America by Americans. With sales figures where they are I believe this is a stupid move by HD.

  6. Tim says:

    I hate to see motorcyclists bickering over politics. I get enough of that back and forth bickering on Facebook.

    I do think Harley will regret this decision. As an owner of German and Japanese motorcycles, I’ve gotten grief over the years from Harley riders about not riding an American made bike. That’s been one of Harley’s most important marketing points, if not the most important. As far as needing to build bikes over seas to stay competitive, give me a break. Harley’s profit margin per bike sold has to be the highest in the industry. I went to a dealership with a friend recently and one of the bikes on the floor had an MSRP of over $40k and the salesman said they were selling at over MSRP. You can buy a low end luxury car for that kind of money, which probably cost the manufacturer two to three times as much to build as that Harley. I realize there are less expensive big bike Harleys that go for under $20,000 but I’m confident their profit margins on those is significantly higher than the profit margins on foreign bikes.

    To me Harley has two problems. One, their aging target market (and they dumped a lot of money into MV, only to sell it back to the original owner for $1– What was that all about? Why not use MV to bring younger riders into the fold? Sell them in Harley dealerships?) The second problem is they’ve priced them out of most people’s reach, unless they’re willing to take out an 8 or 10 year loan (which many buyers have been more than happy to do.) The problem with that is if they want to trade for a new one, several years in, they take too much of a bath to make it feasible. Harley’s problem isn’t the tariffs nearly as much as it is that they’re very poorly managed. They were happy to milk the cash cow, and not cultivate the next generation of buyers, and now they’re going to pay for it dearly.

  7. DP says:

    If this is such a searing issue in United States, what are feelings of citizens in countries whos motorcycle makers already build their product in Thailand? Do you think they care as much? I do not think they give it a squat.

    Trump’s assertions of type “must to be made in America” are complete anachronism. Look at any household or consumer (or even industrial) product where they are made. Just looked under kettle; it says: Black & Decker, made in CHINA. People need to open their eyes to reality. It is harsh, but it is here to stay and to get worse. The question to ask is: will America stand the isolation into which Trump is driving it? Or is it in fact denotation of trend which has been already on the way for some time?

  8. Denny says:

    If this is such a searing issue in United States, what are feelings of citizens in countries whos motorcycle makers already build their product in Thailand? Do you think they care as much? I do not think they give it a squat.

    Trump’s assertions “must to be made in America” are complete anachronism. Look at any household or consumer (or even industrial) product where they are made. Just looked under kettle; it says: Black & Decker, made in CHINA. People need to open their eyes to reality. It is harsh, but it is here to stay and to get worse. The question to ask is: will America stand the isolation into which Trump is driving it? Or is it in fact denotation of trend which has been already on the way for some time?

  9. Harry says:

    President Trump is trying to keep Harley Davidson American through and through.

  10. allworld says:

    Trump the adulterer, demands loyalty. Making American Great means, “We the People” must be changed to “We the Sheep”.

  11. Butch says:

    Religion and politics ruin everything it seems.
    Rarely is anyone’s mind changed by your personal views.
    I suppose blowing off a little steam makes one feel better, momentarily.
    But seriously, does anyone think that anyone gives a FF about your personal feelings about either subject ?

  12. Mick says:

    Harley was stupid to issue the statement. That Baby Donny would throw a tantrum is 100% predictable.

  13. ChrisRR says:

    i agree with Trump 100% on this, a company doesn’t get any more American than Harley, and if they leave they may as well take the American flag with them.

    Harley was in deep trouble already (see their plant closing announcement of January 2018) and conveniently use the tariff’s as an excuse of why they are moving out. York was never the preferred option.

    Harley’s MUST be made in America

  14. J Wilson says:

    I don’t envy H-D’s management: Their market share and sales are slowly shrinking, their bulk steel prices are going up (in my steel-using business, American makers are matching imported steel prices, imagine that . . . . ), the 25% of their business in European sales got an involuntary 20% MSRP increase, and the whole thing is wrapped in a less-than-civil political firestorm, and all this AFTER they closed their other American plant with an attendant loss of line jobs. Hardtail, indeed.

  15. randy d says:

    anyone remember back in the 80’s when Harley made the US govt. put a tariff on imports over 700cc????I sure as hell do.karma is a bitch, ain’t it Harley.

  16. kawzies says:

    No matter what happens those at the top of Harley will be set for life and the workers will be screwed royally up the keester. Today it’s all about “how can we squeeze more money into our pockets at the expense of our workers?” Comfortable cake eating a-holes will never understand how hard it is to “pull yourself up” these days. Everything in our system tremendously tilts toward those with money. Trump is 100% right Harley didn’t wait 2 seconds before leaping at the chance to have cheaper labor from desperate workers in some third world sh#$hole. In the final analysis though, is this lame company, totally devoid of creativity or innovation, with an aging and dying customer base, worth a second thought when all is said and done? If Trump is so pissed at them the best thing to do is leave them alone and let them self destruct….it’s inevitable.

  17. Brinskee says:

    I find it a damn shame that a HOBBY and LIFESTYLE publication – or, okay just an EMTHUSIAST’S WEBSITE has been colored by the political division this country has been embroiled in! Where is the damn commonality? The rallying around the FREEDOM our chosen sport and pastime provides us?

    Tarnished! Tarnished by political agenda, a heart-wrenching split between fellow bike enthusiasts! Taken to polar sides, as always, without an instinct to come together, to understand! How will we possibly survive an ever widening gulf in ideology? This isn’t about some tarriiff, or penalty, it’s clearly political agenda flayed out between alliances, with the commander in chief calling the shots and making the division worse. For everyone involved!

    I am so ashamed at this point, in so many things. Naming them will only make the division stronger. How can we possibly coasllecse before we begin to attack ourselves?

    Shame. it’s all a god damn shame

  18. joe b says:

    Sotamayor’s comments about dissent, pretty much described the situation. I am afraid many here will never be able to see past their hatred and bigotry, to understand what is really happening in the world today. This HD controversy is a sideshow to cater to his base, keeping the real conversations out of the news cycle. (no pun intended) God speed Mueller to get to the bottom of this.

    • Provologna says:

      You know you’ve lost the debate when you rely on claiming your opponent has “hatred and bigotry.” Name calling is absolute proof you do not debate ideas and philosophy.

    • Paul says:

      Yeah, Joe. Don’t you know you are supposed to just ignore the hatred and bigotry? Can’t you just give the hateful bigots the pass the obviously deserve? Oh wait, hatred and bigotry = ideas and philosophy! Never mind, carry on.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry, I see a larger concern the lack of civility on both sides and most recently on the Left. As with any public policy, there will be people favoring opposite viewpoints, but why can’t we discuss things without the name-calling?

    • DP says:

      In every controversy there are opposing views and stances. If you remove polarity, you do not have a productive discussion. If you meant it in relation to Motor Company, I sincerely believe there is no one here who would ‘hate’ H-D. There is a dislike maybe, but ‘hatred’ is unduly strong and unnecessary term.

      I never sat on it and never will, but I show degree of curiosity and respect to the brand and to people riding it.

  19. RonH says:

    It’s not about HD. Getting our steel and aluminum industries back is a strategic defense move as well as an economic one. Can you imagine how WWII would have gone if we had to buy our steel and aluminum instead of producing it ourselves?

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s a valid point that gets lost in all of the noise. It’s too bad that addressing that need has been handled so badly.

    • Jason says:

      The USA produced 70% of the steel it consumed in 2017. The vast majority of our steel imports come from friendly countries with Canada being the largest.

    • guu says:

      You realize that WWII ended more than 70 years ago? I haven’t any plans of reenactment. Also during WWII metal production didn’t keep up with demand. That’s why they collected old pots and pans. So be prepared and recycle!

  20. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    So – what kind of motorcycle does Trump ride ?

  21. Dan says:

    It might be healthier for HD in the long run to expand its international manufacturing capabilities.

  22. thoppa says:

    Harley already make two models at a plant in India. KTM make their smaller bikes in India too. Triumph…. Honda… Kawasaki…. all have overseas manufacturing. It’s really very common and nothing to get worked up about unless you’re more nationalist than motorcyclist. Be aware that the media is stoking emotions, but you don’t have to think like that. What really matters is the build quality of the bike, which no=one is talking about.

    • DP says:

      Very good point. It may be worth of mention that new Ford compact SUV is made in India. It likely represents greater part in sales that all of H-D motorcycles sold in States or abroad.

      We can ask: if Trump have grudges against H-D why he does not have them against Ford? Is Ford less American name?

  23. Jeremy in TX says:

    Well, regardless of what side of the debate one leans towards, it would be hard to deny that Trump doesn’t do a fine job of making himself look like a complete idiot. As if Harley Davidson would move some of its production outside of the USA to try to escape USA tariffs? Do the dynamics of a trade war completely escape him, or am I just misinterpreting his statements?

    • MGNorge says:

      I’ve always viewed international trade as something of a science. Done right, it’s give a little here, take a little there. Any inequalities are worked out the next negotiation round. Instead it feels a bulldozer was used with blinders on.

  24. Mike Johnson says:

    The USG bailed out HD under the Reagan Admin with tariffs on bikes 750 and up. Had that not been done HD would have died in the early 1980s. HDs were serious junk until the EVO came out and was not much better as those Shovelheads and XLs were extremely low quality to the degree that rebuilding them from new was a sound idea- this was the entire reason for the enormous HD aftermarket. If HD has forgotten then just crush their ass.

  25. 1203cc says:

    Relax. The bikes being made in Thailand are the 500cc and 750cc no one in North America want’s anyways. All this tariff crap is going to go away once Trump realizes how much damage he is doing to his base supporters. Trump flips on issues all the time and it will be very easy for him to say “no more tariffs” and pass the blame to the democrats and move on to the next issue he creates for himself. All this tariff crap is just Trump trying to leverage governments into renegotiating new trade agreements anyways. It’s all “art of the deal” crap. All this stuff is going away in 6 months or less. Harley won’t even get a a shovel into the ground for their “additional production”.

  26. regan says:

    Dirck Edge it looks like you have an anti president Trump agenda here regarding your last two Harley Davidson post. Your articles only have one side of the story. Is MotorcycleDaily going to become the CNN of motorcycling and therefore Fake News.

    • Dave says:

      What is the “other side” to the story?

      There is nothing fake about this, or any of the news Dirk posts. These things are happening exactly as their reported.

      • regan says:

        First of all Trumps job isn’t to protect HD it is to make decision to help the US economy. The EU singled out HD after Trump rightly took measures to fight back against a $150b trade deficit with the EU. Which by the way keeps rising. Will you tell me how high this trade deficit with the EU should get before we decide to say no more $300b $500b. Do you think are economy could recover from the damage caused by a $500B trade deficit. Previous President have done nothing while the problem has gotten worse. Well Trump decided to tell the EU no more. That’s the other side of the story.

        • Matt G says:

          While its true that its not Trump’s job to protect HD, It is also not HD’s job to put themselves out of business in order to support Trumps policies. HD answers to their shareholders, and as such, must do what is in their best interests. HD is already hurting due to slumping sales, the last thing they needed was for their costs to go up, and for tariffs to make their product more unattainable in the EU. This is simply business at work here.

          • Superlight says:

            It’s hard to argue with Matt’s point here. While I agree trade should should be fair, it’s not Harley’s obligation to go out of business while this issue plays out on the international stage.

        • hf says:

          Did it increase or decrease the deficit when Mr. Trump invested in a golf course in Scotland? Hint: money flowed to Europe. Who did he answer to in regards of that investment? Will everyone who invest abroad be “taxed like never before”?

        • Anonymous says:

          Exactly! This is bigger than HD.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please point out any inaccuracies you find in Dirck’s reporting. Preferably something more substantial than “It makes my guy look bad, therefore it’s fake news.”

  27. John says:

    Thought this was a website for MOTORCYCLES! Let’s face it. We all think 50% of the country is/are idiots. That shouldn’t take away from our shared love of bikes. Remember, the vast majority of your fellow citizens think you’re an idiot for your rather wierd taste in transportation.
    Time for a chill pill people. Too much info available today to get pissed about everything that the other 6 billion occupants are up to.

  28. paul says:

    Trump’s tirade is proof that he really isn’t a businessman. He is a fake, a flim-flammer. Can’t accept responsibility for his actions. Every shareholder of H-D stock would understand H-D’s required move, a move forced by this ranting idiot who DID NOT LISTEN to H-D when they advised him to not get into a tariff war.

    His idiot followers will always make excuses for this pig. You reap what you sow, in this case garbage.

    • Superlight says:

      More Left-leaning name calling instead of rational discussion. This type of rhetoric is why more and more independents will be voting Republican this Fall, despite concerns about Trump’s incessant tweeting.

  29. Anonymous says:

    So President Trump is throwing temper tantrums and acting like a spoiled child who isn’t getting his way. Who is surprised?

    • Joe New says:

      Don’t Dems ever say ANYTHING that isn’t a vague, blurry, spiteful condemnation of conservatives? No wonder more and more Dems are finding themselves discarded by US voters!

      • Snake says:

        You didn’t prove his statement wrong, in any possible way…

      • Anonymous says:

        pot calling the kettle black.

      • Anonymous says:

        You don’t have to be a Democrat to be tired of the boorish buffoon in the white house. Is it so unreasonable to expect the President of the United States to conduct himself in a manner that the office deserves?

      • hf says:

        I’m curious: how is Trump a conservative? I anything he is a radical (see the above article f.ex.), polar opposite of conservative.

        Only way I can see him being conservative is my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend thinking.

  30. Tank says:

    Trump thinks they are going to sell bikes in America that are made overseas. That’s why he said they will be “taxed like never before”. That’s not the case. Bikes sold in America will be built here.

  31. WSHart says:

    Of late, Harley’s troubles are largely of their own creation. Part of the joy of owning an HD is the country of origin. If they hyphenate theirs by building/assembling elsewhere they knock themselves out of the ring of American pride.

    In truth, they may never even hear the man count ten. Their choice to go against not just their own ad copy and the President, but their customers as well as their own country. When your stock and trade, your corporate soul if you will, is based on national pride then just about the worst thing you can do is sell that soul for 40 pieces of silver.

    If they do this, I will not be buying another Harley. It’s said that home is where the heart is. Seems to me as if corporate HD thinks its where the rainbow ends. FTN.

    • Anonymous says:

      Then you better chuck out all the goods from American companies that manufacture offshore and retail back to you, such as Levi jeans,etc, etc. There are many companies that have done this, mostly out of greed, not just survival as in this case. Where were you then instead out waving the American flag when that was all happening? DH

    • Dave says:

      Hate to break it to you, but your “made in the USA” HD is already full of foreign parts.

      As an aside, I am surprised you’re still allowed to post here after your rants on the last discussion.

  32. carl says:

    Well I can understand if they were moving to Europe to escape the tariffs, Europe has high wages but apparently the move is to Thailand so they can build bikes dirt cheap and sell them for $40,000. Seems like a good deal except as usual not for the working stiff.

    • Fastship says:

      Triumph market the Speedster and other bikes as “Icons of Britishness” – they too are made in Thailand.

    • DP says:

      They are not made “dirt cheap” believe me. Thailand standard of living is the best of south-east Asia, hands down. It is based on good wages and reasonable cost of living. Current government there knows how to manage the country.

      Btw, I ride Honda made there; it is of excellent quality. Same will probably apply for other brands too.