Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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harley birthday bash provides light relief

Harley-Davidson and its followers will try to pack up their troubles in their old kit bags and hit the road for the American manufacturer’s 115th anniversary party in Prague between 5 and 8 July.

The company has been encouraging fans to participate in “an epic ride and meet old and new friends on the way”.

Owners can download the Rides In app, designed to scan QR codes at Harley-Davidson dealers en route and the riders with the most scanned locations will receive prizes from Dunlop, Rides In and from other 115th H-D anniversary partners.

News of the party will be welcome after the manufacturer became embroiled in days of political turmoil.

American president Donald Trump has said Harley-Davidsons should “never” be built abroad, as he attacked the firm’s plans to move some production overseas to avoid European tariffs.

Trump said the iconic bike brand’s new Thailand plant marked a “surrender” and “the beginning of the end”.

Last week, the EU imposed tariffs on US goods, including bourbon, orange juice and motorcycles, in retaliation for US duties on steel and aluminium.

Harley-Davidson says the increased costs are a “substantial” burden. The company says it will raise investment in its international plants, though it did not say which ones, adding that it expected the increase in production to take nine to 18 months.

It said the tariffs would add, on average, $2200 (£1660) to each bike exported to Europe from the US as the import tax increases from 6% to 31%.

The company, which sold nearly 40,000 motorcycles in Europe last year, said it planned to absorb those costs rather than pass them on to customers and risk damaging sales.

Trump also accused Harley-Davidson of making the decision to move some production to Thailand before the current trade dispute erupted, and of using the tariffs as an “excuse”.

But the firm – which also has plants in Australia, Brazil and India – said it planned the new plant after Mr Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which would have lowered tariffs in Asia.

Taking to Twitter, the president said the company’s employees and customers were “already very angry at them” because “they surrendered, they quit!”

Mr Trump also said if they continued with their plan to move production to Thailand, “the Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”

In a series of posts, the president suggested Harley-Davidson would not be able to sell bikes back into the US from Thailand “without paying a big tax”.

However Harley-Davidson says it operates four factories in the US.

Mr Trump’s row with the bike brand began on Monday after Harley-Davidson said manufacturing for the European market would be transferred from the US to other countries.

He expressed surprise that the company had become “the first to wave the white flag”, adding: “I fought hard for them.”

He also said the US was “opening up closed markets” with its new tariff system, and said the country would soon finish its study into tariffs on car imports from the European Union.

Mr Trump previously threatened to impose a 20% tariffs on EU cars after the bloc imposed its retaliatory tariffs.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at a briefing on Monday that the EU was “attempting to punish US workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies”.

“President Trump will continue to push for free, fair and reciprocal trade, in hopes that the EU will join us,” Sanders said.

Some US unions are reported to be not supportive of the motorbike maker’s decision to move production abroad.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents some Harley employees and has supported some of the president’s tariff announcements, said the decision was “in keeping with Harley’s past decisions to open plants outside of North America.”

“Will Harley use any excuse to ship jobs overseas?” said Robert Martinez Jr, the union’s international president. “Does Harley even understand what ‘Made in America’ means?”

United Steelworkers, which also represents Harley workers and has backed tariffs, said it does not know yet how the company’s decision will affect employment.

“Domestic sales are what drive production and employment at Harley’s US facilities,” said Michael Bolton, a district director for United Steelworkers, who added that the company should focus on US production if it wants “to continue to market itself as an iconic American brand”.


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