U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc with higher taxes and said their business would suffer in a public backlash over its decision to move production for European customers overseas.
The US President launched a Twitter tirade against Harley-Davidson in which he also suggested that tariffs on the EU's vehicle exports are imminent, raising fears of a further tariff escalation.
Trump warned the iconic American brand that any shift in production "will be the beginning of the end". "The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!"
Harley-Davidson said that shifting targeted production from the U.S.to global facilities could take at least nine to 18 months to be completed.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration plans to impose curbs on Chinese investment in American technology companies and high-tech exports to China.
Trump offered no clarity later in the day when he was asked about tariffs during a White House photo-op with Congress members.
"Harley-Davidson is using that as an excuse and I don't like that because I've been very good to Harley-Davidson and they used it as an excuse", he said in response. "And I think the people who ride Harleys aren't happy with Harley-Davidson and I wouldn't be either".
"To address the substantial cost of this tariff burden long-term, Harley-Davidson will be implementing a plan to shift production of motorcycles for European Union destinations from the USA to its worldwide facilities to avoid the tariff burden", the company said in an official filing to the United States market regulator.
Trump first responded angrily to the Harley announcement on Monday, saying he has fought hard for the 115-year-old company and was surprised by its plans, which he described as waving the "White Flag". The EU's trade chief said last week that it was "left with no other choice" after Mr. Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum from the EU on June 1.
The Milwaukee-based company made a decision to build the Thailand plant past year after Trump pulled out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have lowered import tariffs on its bikes in some of the fastest-growing motorcycle markets in Asia.
"Harley must know that they won't be able to sell back into US without paying a big tax!" In January, it said it would consolidate its Kansas City, Missouri, plant into its York, Pennsylvania, facility. "Taxes just a Harley excuse - be patient!" "Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it...."
He said: "We are finishing our study of Tariffs on cars from the European Union in that they have long taken advantage of the USA in the form of Trade Barriers and Tariffs". "Companies are now coming back to America".
More potential pitfalls for Harley-Davidson and other US manufacturers could be on the way. "Europe is a critical market for Harley-Davidson".
"It's unfortunate that such a strong Wisconsin company like Harley-Davidson has to bear the brunt of this trade dispute", Sensenbrenner said.