Across the nation, there is much political uprise and controversy resulting from Donald Trump’s decision to start a trade war with most of the world, while of course still getting his products made in China. Often, the controversy is spurred by random, often misspelled, tweets from Trump’s personal Twitter account. Today, Trump brought another issue to the forefront in one of his tweets and has received some backlash from the company it called out.
Early on August 12th, President Trump tweeted, “Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.”
In large part, the tweet from Trump, a guy who has bankrupted multiple companies and was sued for defrauding Americans with a fake university, was initiated by announcement in June in which Harley Davidson, an American icon for 115 years and employs over 6,400 American workers, explained that they would be moving European production outside of the United States as a result of impending tariffs.
In response to the tweet, the CEO of Harley Davidson, Matt Levatich, countered back in a memo to employees. In the memo, he explained the company’s strong preference to manufacture bikes in the United States. The memo went on to say that high tariffs in some countries make it unaffordable to produce motorcycles in the United States and that it is why other markets are being considered. Perhaps the most interesting part of the memo is that Levatich seems to be directly combatting Trump’s tweet but does not specifically mention his name or the current administration.
The new tariffs which have come at a significant cost to Harley Davidson. With the 25% tax on steel and aluminum imports, Harley Davidson was already under pressure to reduce costs. With the newest round of tariffs, the taxes are set to go even higher. At one point, bikes were taxed at just a 6% rate, but could go as high as 31% with the increasing effects of the so-called trade war. The company estimated that these tariffs could cost them almost $100 million every year, a cost that the company simply cannot accept indefinitely without considering options abroad. Additionally, the abroad manufacturing would provide customers outside the United States with better access to the Harley Davidson brand.
In the memo, Levatich also said, “We are a brand that is about big ideas that unite people, and we don’t take sides in politics. Today, however, we unfortunately find ourselves in the center of a heated political conversation about fair trade. It is not our intention or our desire to be in this political spotlight, and the entirety of our effort and focus is to minimize any impact on this great brand, company, the business of our dealers and, critically, the passion and loyalty of our riders who we do everything for. Our goal is the same as the U.S. Administration: we want a level-playing field when it comes to trade, and we are working with government officials to find the best solution for our company and our brand.”