To help avoid European Union tariffs, Harley-Davidson has said that it would take some of its production out of the U.S. The move has divided America’s bikers — and supporters of President Donald Trump — even as the president has blasted the company’s decision, The New York Times reported.
Gary Rathbun, a loyal Harley customer, told The Times, “I’m riding my last Harley … it was American-made, and that’s why we stood behind them.” But Leslye Beaver, owner of several biker bars, told the paper, “I think they’re doing what they have to do to stay in the game … it’s human for people to be mad because Harley is so American, but I think they want to be here.” The reaction comes after Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich said in July that the company seeks to make decisions based on business necessity, not politics.
“We’ve worked very hard to be apolitical in how we approach our business and our consumers everywhere in the world,” Levatich said. “We have to do what we have to do based on the facts and circumstances before us, and we’re doing that.”
The company has said that it would only move production for motorcycles sold in Europe. Bikes sold for the American market, however, will still reportedly be manufactured in the United States. In June, the bike maker said it will be forced to shift some production out of the U.S. and into Thailand as a result of the steel and aluminum tariffs with which the EU has responded to U.S. tariffs.
Harley is not new to troubles — the brand has seen sales slipping for the last several years. But pressure on raw materials has come at precisely the wrong time for the brand, as the spike in material costs will have very notable effects on their product. The European Union’s tariffs on American motorcycles, raised in retaliation to 31 percent from 6 percent, added $2,200 on average to the cost of a Harley.