- President Donald Trump attacked Harley-Davidson once again on Tuesday.
- Trump cited Harley’s declining sales as evidence of backlash to the company’s decision to move some production out of the US in response to Trump’s trade fight with the European Union.
- But as trade experts pointed out, Trump cited 2017 sales – well before his tariff moves.
“Now that Harley-Davidson is moving part of its operation out of the US, my Administration is working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the US Harley customers are not happy with their move – sales are down 7% in 2017,” Trump tweeted. “The US is where the Action is!”
But there’s a glaring problem with Trump’s attack: The president cited 2017 sales data, but Harley made its announcement only last week.
Harley’s sales have been declining for four years in a row – the slide started before Trump even announced his run for president. Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s automotive analyst, said the long-term demographic trends in the US and other structural issues were much bigger problems for Harley.
“Even before the tariff developments, estimates are depressed for company-specific reasons that are very well known,” Jonas said. “We believe that these serious issues (e.g., negative demographic trends) are rather long-lived and overshadowing powerful economic forces” that he said should work in Harley’s favour.
The company is undergoing a multiyear shift in its business as Harley tries to win over younger riders and expand its operation outside the US.
Trade experts were quick to pick up on the discrepancy following Trump’s tweet. Scott Lincicome, a trade lawyer who is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank, said Harley’s sales decline had more to do with the ageing population of the US and internal trends than it did the company’s trade decision.
“It’s not just Harleys,” he said. “US motorcycle sales are down generally, in large part due to demographics (i.e., more old people).”
Benn Steil, the director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, joked that the Harley customers must be psychic.
“To punish Harley-Davidson for shifting production out of the US in response to Trump’s trade war, Americans went back in time to reduce the company’s sales in 2017 – the year Trump thanked them for building in America,” Steil tweeted. “Astounding!”
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