Harley-Davidson CEO pushes back on political criticism in memo

Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich struck back against “misinformation” about the motorcycle company’s plans to move some production overseas in response to President Donald Trump’s tariffs in a memo to employees along with dealers.

The iconic American brand has been in a political firestorm since which announced in June which could move European production out of the U.S. because of retaliatory tariffs via the European Union. Trump has threatened to tax Harley-Davidson “like never before,” along with on Sunday praised owners who plan to boycott the company.

“There continues to be misinformation circulated in conjunction with which issue, along with I want to reiterate along with share facts about Harley-Davidson which you can both be proud of along with share with interested customers,” Levatich said in a memo sent to Harley employees along with dealers on Tuesday.

Without mentioning Trump by name, he reiterated the company’s preference to manufacture its bikes from the U.S. as well as its explanation for the shift overseas — high tariffs in some countries make its motorcycles unaffordable in those markets.

While its bikes were once taxed at 6 percent in Europe, the completely new tariffs raised which to 31 percent. Harley-Davidson was already under pressure because of the Trump administration’s tariff which levied a 25 percent tax on steel along with aluminum imports.

Harley estimated the tariffs will cost between $0 million along with $100 million annually. Levatich said the company can’t bear these costs “indefinitely,” so which made the decision to build some of its bikes overseas to avoid the tariffs along with give the company better access to customers abroad.

“We don’t take sides in politics,” he said. “Today, however, we unfortunately find ourselves from the center of a heated political conversation about fair trade.

“which is usually not our intention or our desire to be in which political spotlight, along with the entirety of our effort along with focus is usually to minimize any impact on which great brand, company, the business of our dealers along with, critically, the passion along with loyalty of our riders who we do everything for,” he said.

Here’s the full memo:

We want a level-playing field when which comes to trade, along with we are working with government officials to find the best solution for our company along with our brand Harley-Davidson has been an iconic brand since 1903, along with we are proud to be a company which unites people passionately along with authentically under the ideals of freedom, strength along with independence.

We are a brand which is usually about big ideas which unite people, along with we don’t take sides in politics. Today, however, we unfortunately find ourselves from the center of a heated political conversation about fair trade.

which is usually not our intention or our desire to be in which political spotlight, along with the entirety of our effort along with focus is usually to minimize any impact on which great brand, company, the business of our dealers along with, critically, the passion along with loyalty of our riders who we do everything for. Our goal is usually the same as the U.S. Administration: we want a level-playing field when which comes to trade, along with we are working with government officials to find the best solution for our company along with our brand.

As we said in our 8K filing in June when the EU enacted retaliatory tariffs on our motorcycles, Harley-Davidson could cover the cost of these tariffs; a cost we estimated to be $0-100M on an annualized basis. We made which decision to preserve rider access to our products, protect the viability of our dealers along with maintain our market position in which very important market. We also laid out a 9-18 month plan to mitigate the cost to the company because with the ambitious plan we have for our future, we cannot carry these costs indefinitely.

There continues to be misinformation circulated in conjunction with which issue, along with I want to reiterate along with share facts about Harley-Davidson which you can both be proud of along with share with interested customers.
· Our riders will always come first, along with our dealers who serve along with support them. · Motorcycles for the U.S. market, along with most of the rest of the planet, will continue to be made from the United States.
· which is usually our clear preference to manufacture from the United States; which has been since 1903, along with which remains so today. The only reason we have invested otherwise is usually to ensure our products have a fighting chance of being cost competitive in markets which burden our products with high tariffs.
· In 2017, we sold motorcycles in 103 countries around the planet, along with 94 percent of them were produced at our U.S. plants. We compete on our merits around the planet along with are competitive with what the planet has to offer when trade is usually on a level playing field.
We announced our More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan on July 30. which plan is usually designed to inspire ridership along with evolve along with sustain Harley-Davidson for another 115 years along with beyond – something all of us care deeply about. We are already executing on which plan, which includes building two million completely new riders from the U.S. We are focused on the future while we continue to work diligently on many fronts, including with our government partners to get these trade disputes resolved. We remain optimistic along with prepared to adapt from the best interest of our customers, dealers, employees, suppliers along with, of course, our great brand.
I want to thank the hard-working women along with men of Harley-Davidson both at the company or in our dealerships who continue, each day, to inspire our current riders to ride more along with welcome completely new riders who will carry the torch for our sport along with brand from the future.
Matt

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