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Jul 10, 201812:23 PMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

What President Trump is missing in his odd feud with Harley-Davidson

(page 1 of 2)

If ever there was an unlikely target for President Trump’s ire, it should be Wisconsin icon Harley-Davidson Inc.

Founded in a 10-foot by 14-foot shed in Milwaukee 115 years ago, the company is a muscular symbol of American manufacturing and the nation’s love for the open road. Harley may have a “bad-boy” image in some quarters, but that’s paired with a free-spirited reputation that should appeal to a president who likely views himself as a bit of both.

And yet, Trump has repeatedly tweaked Harley over its decision to move production of motorcycles destined for the European Union to its international factories. The president scolded the company June 29 when he spoke at the Foxconn Technology Group groundbreaking in Racine County, and most recently July 3 when he tweeted he will be “working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the U.S.”

Trump’s passion for returning manufacturing jobs to America is understandable, but three facts appear to be missing in his unprecedented singling out of one company.

First, Harley-Davidson became an international firm not long after it moved out of the shed. It has been selling motorcycles overseas for about a century.

In addition to U.S. assembly plants in Wisconsin, York, Pa., and Kansas City, Mo. (slated to be closed), it has plants in Brazil and India, with another plant opening soon in Thailand. Some parts come from nations such as Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico. It has been making motorcycles overseas for 20 years.

Harley’s second-largest market is Europe, where about 16% of its new motorcycles are sold. Last year, Harley sold about 40,000 bikes there.

It is a player in Europe despite the presence of other well-known manufacturers such as Triumph, BMW, and Ducati, not to mention Japanese brands. In fact, the world’s oldest Harley-Davidson riders’ club was founded 90 years ago in Prague, the picturesque capital of the Czech Republic. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that tens of thousands of riders from 70 countries showed up for a July 5–8 anniversary celebration.


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About This Blog

Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.



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