To spite Harley, Trump may have to turn to foreign bike foes

Inside a Harley-Davidson Inc. dealership. (Bloomberg pic)

SOUTHFIELD/CHICAGO: President Donald Trump added fuel to his feud with Harley-Davidson Inc. by claiming he’s working with other motorcycle makers to offset the production it’s shifting overseas.

He’d almost certainly have to work with Harley’s foreign foes to fill the void, and none has stepped forward to announce any such negotiations.

“Now that Harley-Davidson is moving part of its operation out of the US, my Administration is working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the US” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Harley customers are not happy with their move — sales are down 7% in 2017. The US is where the Action is!”

Harley’s rivals in its domestic market include Japan’s Honda Motor Co., Yamaha Motor Co., Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp. The only major US motorcycle manufacturer other than Harley is Polaris Industries Inc., and a spokeswoman for the company told the Associated Press last week that it might move some Indian-brand motorcycle output to Poland from Iowa in order to avoid European Union tariffs.

Honda has had no conversation with the Trump administration about motorcycle production, spokesman Lee Edmunds said. Germany’s BMW AG, which makes the majority of its bikes at a factory in Berlin, hasn’t been approached either, spokesman Kenn Sparks said. Kawasaki declined to comment, and representatives for the other companies didn’t respond to inquiries.

Trump has sent half a dozen tweets attacking Harley since the company said last week that taxes the EU has slapped on its bikes in reaction to US steel and aluminium levies will cost as much as US$100 million a year. The Milwaukee-based manufacturer that Trump praised last year as “a true American icon” plans to shift some production out of the US to unspecified overseas plants over a nine- to 18-month period.