Harley-Davidson Does Damage Control Following Tariff Dispute with Trump

Mett Levatich, Trump, Harley
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Harley-Davidson’s CEO Matthew Levatich is doing damage control in an internal company memo following a public dispute with President Trump over imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

In a memo released by CNBC, Levatich says Harley-Davidson does not have any “intention” or “desire” to be in a political fight with Trump.

Levatich wrote in the internal memo, without mentioning the president:

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. [Emphasis added]

As we said in our 8K filing in June when the EU enacted retaliatory tariffs on our motorcycles, Harley-Davidson would cover the cost of these tariffs; a cost we estimated to be $90-100M on an annualized basis. We made this decision to preserve rider access to our products, protect the viability of our dealers and maintain our market position in this very important market. We also laid out a 9-18 month plan to mitigate the cost to the company because with the ambitious plan we have for our future, we cannot carry these costs indefinitely.

There continues to be misinformation circulated in conjunction with this issue, and I want to reiterate and share facts about Harley-Davidson that you can both be proud of and share with interested customers. [Emphasis added]

Harley-Davidson executives have blamed Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as the reason for their outsourcing of American jobs, but as Breitbart News reported, the company has been offshoring U.S. jobs for at least a year.

In a rebuke of Harley-Davidson’s announcement that they would be sending American jobs overseas — with some jobs going to Europe after retaliatory tariffs by the European Union (EU) were implemented on American motorcycles — Trump blasted the company, writing online that his administration was working with other American automobile and motorcycle companies on bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Harley-Davidson workers, as Breitbart News noted, have praised Trump for his tariffs and said they did not blame his fair trade agenda for their jobs likely moving overseas, but instead blamed the company’s executives.

Levatich has reportedly told lawmakers in Washington, D.C. that the only way the company would stop outsourcing American jobs would be if Trump dropped his tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Since then, Trump has said a consumer boycott of Harley-Davidson would be “great.”

“Many [Harley] owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great!” Trump tweeted. “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 March, Harley-Davidson — which was saved by tariffs on imported motorcycles back in 1983 — slammed Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum just as they were laying off hundreds of American workers and moving their jobs to Thailand, as Breitbart News reported.

In January, Harley-Davidson announced that it would be closing its plant in Kansas City and moving leftover production to York, Pennsylvania. The decision to close the Kansas City plant will result in about 260 American manufacturing workers losing their jobs.

Last year, as Breitbart News reported, about 183 American workers were laid off by the motorcycle company in Kansas City and Menomonee Falls.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder. 

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