Trump threatens Harley-Davidson with 'big tax' for moving production overseas to offset tariffs

Trump threatens Harley-Davidson with 'big tax' for moving production overseas to offset tariffs
By Dartunorro Clark and Corky Siemaszko with NBC News Politics
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The American company said Monday that motorcycle production would move abroad as a result of Trump's escalating trade war.


President Donald Trump blasted Harley-Davidson on Tuesday in a series of tweets for its decision to shift some production of its bikes overseas, warning that it would be the "beginning of the end" for the venerable American motorcycle maker.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them," Trump claimed in one tweet, citing no evidence of internal complaints. "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!"

The Wisconsin-based company, which already has several factories overseas, said Monday it would begin to shift the production of motorcycles abroad to avoid the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union last week in response to the tariffs Trump placed on European steel and aluminum.

Harley-Davidson explained that the E.U. tariffs would result in an incremental cost of about $2,200 per average motorcycle exported from the U.S. to the E.U.

Trump, however, excoriated the company in follow-up tweets on Tuesday, saying that is using the tariffs as an "excuse" to move its production to overseas facilities and that eventually "it will all even out."

"Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced," Trump said. "Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse. Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it."

He added, "We are finishing our study of Tariffs on cars from the E.U. in that they have long taken advantage of the U.S. in the form of Trade Barriers and Tariffs. In the end it will all even out - and it won't take very long!"

Earlier this year, the company announced that it was closing its Kansas City plant and shifting production to its facility in York, Pennsylvania. It announced last year it was planning to build a plant in Thailand, but a spokesman previously told NBC News that the plant is "separate and unrelated" to the closing of the Kansas City factory.

Joe Capra of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 176, the union that represents Harley-Davidson workers at the Kansas City plant, said Trump's tweet accusing the company of using the tariffs as an excuse to move production overseas was spot on.

"They're always looking for cheaper labor," Capra told NBC News on Tuesday. "Harley-Davidson already has plants in Thailand, in Brazil, in India. So the president is right that the tariffs are just an excuse to start making an American icon in a foreign country."

"How many jobs are likely to be lost? That's a good question for Harley," Capra added. "This is a shock to us."

Trump also said in his Tuesday tweets that he had "chided" the company when executives visited the White House early last year about tariffs in other countries and threatened they "won't be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!"

Harley-Davidson sold almost 40,000 motorcycles in the E.U. last year, generating profits second only to the U.S., the company previously said. The company also said that shifting production from the U.S. to international facilities could be completed in nine to 18 months.

Harley-Davidson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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