(Getty Images)

  • President Donald Trump took aim at motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson in a series of tweets, threatening a new tax on the firm.
  • The attacks came after Harley-Davidson announced that it would shift some production out of the US due to Trump's trade battles.
  • The fight is a stunning reversal for a company that Trump once called "a true American icon."


President Donald Trump's tirade against motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson represents a rather stunning reversal of his previous praise for the company.

Trump's current attacks came after Harley announced on Monday that the company would shift some of its production outside of the US due to Trump's trade battles and the European Union's retaliatory tariffs against the US.

To avoid paying a 31% tariff to ship motorcycles from the US to the EU, Harley decided to move more production to its plants in places like Thailand and Brazil. The EU's tariffs on motorcycles were put in place as a response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs.

Soon after the company's announcement, Trump weighed in with typical bombast. On Monday, Trump said Harley waves "the White Flag" in the tariff fight — then continued to blast the firm on Tuesday.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never!" Trump said on Twitter. "Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. 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!"

It was a stark contrast from February 2017, when Harley-Davidson executives visited Trump at the White House, even participating in a photo-op with Trump.

At the event, Trump heaped praise on the company for manufacturing its motorcycles in the US and being an iconic American brand.

"Harley-Davidson is a true American icon, one of the greats.  Your motorcycles have carried American servicemembers in the war — in the wars," Trump said during a roundtable with the executives. "They take care of our police officers. And I see it so often — whenever I go — whenever there’s a motorcycle group, oftentimes it’s a Harley. And the sound of that Harley is a little different, I have to tell you. It's really good."

Trump even made passing reference to tariffs during the meeting, saying they were a way to help the firm.

"In this administration, our allegiance will be to the American workers and to American businesses, like Harley-Davidson, that were very strong in the 1980s and I remember this — you were victims of trading abuse — big trading abuse, where they were dumping all sorts of competitors all over the place," Trump said.

"And Ronald Reagan stepped in and he put on large tariffs and you wouldn’t be talking about Harley-Davidson probably right now if he didn’t do that."

Trump has also used Harley-Davidson as an example of a company that would benefit from his policies.

Earlier in the trade battle, Trump cited India's high tariffs on imported motorcycles as an example of why tougher trade policy was necessary. But many of Harley's motorcycles sold in India are assembled in the country, so they may not be subject to the tariffs anyway.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose district is home to some of Harley-Davidson's facilities, also pointed to the company as an American firm that would be a winner from tax reform.


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