By: Brian Evans
Earlier this month, it was reported that Harley-Davidson’s CEO Matthew Levatich told lawmakers on Capitol Hill the only way the iconic American motorcycle company will stop outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, only if President Trump drops his fair trade agenda, and his tariffs. In fact, Senator Ron Johnson (WI-R) told Politico in an interview that
Levatich said that Harley Davidson would be continuing to outsource their American manufacturing base to foreign countries.
Senator Ron Johnson (WI-R)
Interestingly, last year, around 183 Kansas City, Missouri and Menomonee Falls workers were laid off. Furthermore, before President Trump took office, massive tariffs leveled against American workers took a huge toll on American manufacturing and businesses, resulting in the Rust Belt and other regions suffering, and hundreds of thousands of jobs displaced by Harley Davidson alone in Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.
In addition, NAFTA, and other unfair trade policies, combined with massive tariffs placed against the United States by European countries, Canada, Mexico, China, and other countries around the globe, resulted in a loss of 94% of West Virginia steel jobs alone. China has cost Americans more than 3.2 million jobs, after they joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In an effort to sideline blame for the job losses, Harley-Davidson executives blamed President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as the reason for their outsourcing of American jobs. However, the company has been offshoring jobs for more than a year, well before President Trump’s tariffs went into effect. Therefore, not long after Harley Davidson tried to pin their outsourcing of jobs on President Trump’s tariff policy, Trump responded and said that his administration was working with other American auto and motorcycle companies who are interested in bringing jobs back to the U.S., and keeping them here!
Some expected Harley Davidson workers to be opposed to the Presidents tariffs, and his criticism of Harley Davidson executives after their outsourcing announcement, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. In fact, Harley workers have praised President Trump‘s tariffs and said that they blamed Harley Davidson executives for their company jobs moving overseas.
Ironically, in 1983 President Reagan had imposed tariffs on imported motorcycles. and it was an action that single-handedly saved Harley Davidson from Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, which had all but dominated the motorcycle market, prior to Reagan’s tariffs. The New York Times reported that
In an unusually strong protectionist action, President Reagan today ordered a tenfold increase in tariffs for imported heavyweight motorcycles. The action was exceptional for protecting a single American company, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company of Milwaukee, the sole surviving American maker of motorcycles.
Page 001001The New York Times Archives
Harley Davidson’s chairman, Vaughn L. Beals said…
”We’re delighted, it will give us time that we might otherwise not have had to make manufacturing improvements and bring out new products.”
Vaughn L. Beals, Harley Davidson Chairman
It was of no surprise that Harley applauded the tariffs, as it was those tariffs which saved their company from being crowded out of the market during those tumultuous years in the 80’s.
Now, just over 35 years later, Harley Davidson is using the President’s tariffs, as a scape-goat for their outsourcing of jobs to Thailand and Europe. In fact, as noted earlier, it was in January that Harley-Davidson announced that it would be closing its plant in Kansas City, nearly two-months before the tariffs went into affect.
Today, Harley-Davidson is beginning to feel the backlash, as American’s express their anger with the company, by hitting them where it hurts the most…IN THE POCKETBOOK! In fact, Tuesday, Harley Davidson revealed that their international sales of Harley cycles grew, while American sales dropped for the second quarter. They said…
The Milwaukee-based company reported that motorcycle sales in the U.S. dropped 6.4 percent to 46,490 for the quarter that ended on June 30, while international sales rose 0.7 percent to nearly 31,938. European sales grew 3.6 percent and Latin American sales grew 9.1 percent, while sales in Asia dropped 7.1 percent. Total revenue dropped slightly to $1.53 billion for the quarter, as overall motorcycle sales dropped 4 percent. Net income dropped 6.3 percent to $242 million.
Therefore, what does all this mean? Actually, it shows not only Harley Davidson, but other manufacturers and retailers that if you openly stab ‘America’ or the American people, it comes at a price. Furthermore, it will result in President Trump calling out the hypocracy, the disdain for America and Americans, and ultimately show those companies and manufacturers who refuse to put ‘America First’, it comes at a price, and it could be costly.
Ultimately, companies can no longer hide, when they choose to invest their resources outside of America, or choose to outsource workers, by putting other nations workers over our own. In addition, if Harley Davidson believes that standing against the American consumer is a good idea, they need not look any further than the National Football League, as they are now struggling to fill seats.