WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has upped the ante in his feud with Harley-Davidson, saying it is "great" that many owners of the motorcycle in the US plan to boycott the iconic American firm as a row over tariffs on steel and aluminium escalates.
The company said in June it would shift some motorcycle production away from the US to avoid the "substantial" burden of European Union tariffs.
Harley-Davidson has assembly plants in Australia, Brazil, India and Thailand as well as in the US, but it has not said which plant would take up the extra production.
Trump's latest salvo against Harley-Davidson came yesterday after the President hosted "Bikers for Trump" supporters at his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, over the weekend.
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2018
"Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas.
Great!" Trump wrote.
The US president said "most other firms including Harley competitors" agreed with his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
"A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better," he said.
Tensions between the Trump administration and Harley-Davidson have brewed for months.
It started when Trump imposed hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports earlier this year in an effort to bolster domestic manufacturing.
The European Union responded by pledging to raise tariffs on a list of goods that are imported from the US, including Harley motorcycles.
American demand for motorcycles has waned while foreign interest has grown.
So, that was not good news for the Wisconsin-based bike manufacturer.
Harley said it stands to lose as much as USD 100 million a year, and the company pledged to shift some of its production abroad so that it could avoid the added tariffs on motorcycles sold in the EU.
Trump accused Harley of using the European retaliatory tariffs as "an excuse" for moving manufacturing abroad.
Trump, echoing a top union for Harley workers, claimed the company planned to shift some operations to Thailand before the tariffs were announced.
Harley acknowledged it already had been moving some production abroad, but said moving more production overseas was the "only sustainable option" in the face of a trade war.
The President also said last month his administration was "working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the US.
" Trump has repeatedly raised the issue of high tariffs by India on high-end Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Trump has said that the Indian government's decision to reduce the tariff on Harley-Davidson motorbikes from 75 per cent to 50 per cent was not enough and demanded that it should be reciprocal, as the US imposes "zero tax" on the import of motorcycles.
Trump has said tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, which came into force this spring, are necessary to protect the US steel and aluminium industries - he maintains these are vital for national security.
The tariffs have drawn retaliation from the EU, Canada, Mexico, India and others while driving up the cost of metals for manufacturers in the US.