Harley-Davidson drew the ire of President Trump on Tuesday when the company announced they were moving some production out of the US to avoid paying higher prices on aluminum and steel and at the same time, avoiding EU tariffs on its heavyweight motorcycles.
“A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never!” President Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
In his tweet storm, Trump threatened the iconic motorcycle maker with a punitive tax if they brought back motorcycles to the US which were manufactured overseas.
“If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit!” Trump wrote. “The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”
Trump reminded followers that Harley-Davidson wanted to move their plant operations to Thailand long before the tariffs were announced. Harley says it decided to build its plant in Thailand after the Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would have lowered Asian tariffs on some of its motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson said recently enacted tariffs on steel and aluminum will cost the company up to $20 million this year, with European Union retaliation adding perhaps an additional $45 million.
The bulk of Harley-Davidsons sold in the EU are manufactured here in the US. Harley recently attributed much of it's international growth to increasing sales in the EU.
The Washington Post, which has long been critical of many of the President's past actions and policies wrote this in an opinion piece on Wednesday.
Trump feels betrayed by Harley’s decision, believing that the company leveraged his political brand to sell more bikes following a 2017 White House event that featured the president mixing it up with executives and workers, according to one person familiar with the president’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal private discussions.
While Fox Business and other conservative outlets downplayed the story, mainstream media, and liberal media outlets were gleefully reporting the tiff between the President and Harley-Davidson.
Harley’s net income has slid for three consecutive years; last year’s $594 million in profits were down nearly 30 percent from 2014.
Shares of Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson fell 46 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $41.11 on Tuesday. They had dropped 6 percent Monday on the company's disclosure of the manufacturing shift overseas in response to the EU tariffs.
President Trump said he believes Harley will face a backlash from its customers here in the US..
“Harley-Davidson is using that as an excuse,” Trump said of the European tariffs. “I don’t like that, because I’ve been very good to Harley-Davidson, and they used it as an excuse. And I think that the people that ride Harleys are not happy with Harley-Davidson, and I wouldn’t be, either.”