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Long IslandPolitics

Trump's Harley hostility might just be wheel-spinning

The president doesn't venture to say or share how he knows about a planned boycott he mentioned in a Sunday tweet, or hint at who, if anyone, may be organizing it.

Harley-Davidson said last June it would shift production

Harley-Davidson said last June it would shift production of the motorcycles it exports to Europe to factories closer to the buyers. Photo Credit: EPA / REX / Shutterstock/Martin Divisek

Several basic real-world questions surround President Donald Trump's Twitter-trolling of the Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson company.

For background: Last June, the company said it would shift production of the motorcycles it exports to Europe to factories closer to the buyers. The European Union had boosted tariffs on the vehicles from 6 percent to 31 percent — in retaliation for Trump's tariffs on European steel and aluminum.

The company said in official filings that these extra taxes are adding about $2,200 to the cost of every motorcycle exported to EU countries from America.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted: "Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better."

How many is "many"? The president doesn't venture to say or share how he knows this, or hint at who, if anyone, may be organizing such a boycott.

The president doesn't say if this means they will replace the Harleys they now own with other brands. Or will they just boycott parts purchases? How would this work?

Trump also doesn't say which "other companies are coming in our direction," though he talked a bit last spring about wooing them here. Harley's main rivals are overseas companies such as Honda and Yamaha in Japan, BMW and Ducati in Europe and Bajaj and Hero in India.

Another American motorcycle maker, Iowa-based Polaris, shuttered one factory three months into Trump's term. That company said on the heels of Harley's move that it too would consider shifting some production overseas, from a second site, due to tariffs. Polaris has announced nothing definitive, according to USA Today.

Trump doesn't say just when he believes the United States will "have a level playing field, or better."

The impact of past boycott talk from Trump has been hazy at best.

Reacting to players who kneel in political protest during the national anthem, Trump backed an NFL boycott. Viewership for NFL games reportedly dropped in 2017. But it also fell in 2016. In fact, TV network viewership was reported down overall.

One punchline from the weekend was that the founder of “Bikers for Trump” said he sells pro-Trump T-shirts made in Haiti because American-made products are too expensive.

“If I get a T-shirt made in the USA, it’s going to cost about $8 more,” Chris Cox told The New York Times. “I looked far and wide to try to get a shirt made in America, it’s just they get you, they gouge you.”

Not that Trump fans are about to scorn his T-shirts en masse based on where they're made.

But as with motorcycles, it shows how complicated enforcing an "America first" labor agenda can get.

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