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Trump’s Trade War Reportedly Hits Harley-Davidson Hard

The motorcycle company saw retail sales drop 10 percent in final months of 2018

Donald Trump, Mike Pence President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stop to admire a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, as he welcomed Harley Davidson executives and union representativesTrump, Washington, USA - 02 Feb 2017

Motorcycle giant Harley-Davidson struggled to turn a profit in 2018 due in part to the trade war instigated by President Donald Trump.

AP/REX/Shutterstock

Harley-Davidson is struggling to roll with President Trump’s trade war. Bloomberg reports that the motorcycle giant’s retail sales figures dropped 10 percent in the final three months of 2018, marking their eighth straight quarterly decline. Harley shares fell 9.5 percent.

In recent years, Harley-Davidson has been in a precarious state. Its once-robust customer base is growing older and it’s not being replaced by younger consumers, who aren’t as loyal to the brand. Trump’s trade war, which began last summer, has indirectly hurt the company due to new tariffs levied by the European Union on imported motorcycles in response. Per a filing to the SEC, Harley said the EU tariffs amounted to additional cost of $2,200 per bike.

When the EU tariffs took effect, the Wisconsin-based manufacturer announced that it would be moving some of its production overseas to cope with the added costs. Harley’s decision unnerved Trump, who tweeted his disappointment that the company was “the first to wave the White Flag.” He later threatened to tax the iconic American company “like never before” if it moved production outside the United States.

While Harley-Davidson is scrambling to repair its bottom line in more progressive ways — it recently announced its first electric motorcycle — the company’s chief executive Matt Levatitch said he expected 2019 to be “another difficult year.” The company plans to ship between 217,000 and 220,000 motorcycles in 2019, and the midpoint of that estimate would mark company’s lowest shipment rate since 2010.

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