Harley-Davidson‘s spat with President Donald Trump seems to be having a significant impact on the iconic motorcycle manufacturer, according to an analyst report. Trump backed a possible boycott of the Wisconsin-based motorcycle manufacturer on social media.
Harley sales already had slipped 8.7 percent in the first half of 2018 while its main American competitor, Polaris and its Indian brand, saw a 4 percent gain, according to industry analyst Gerrick L. Johnson at BMO Capital Markets. While that didn’t cover the period from when the president’s dispute with the company began, Johnson said recent evidence suggests the fight is adding to Harley’s woes.
Harley riders have been trading in their “hogs” in increasing numbers as the company fights through a public relations nightmare created when it said it was shifting some production overseas, Johnson said. The Milwaukee-based manufacturer said it was doing so in response to retaliatory tariffs abroad due to Trump’s duties on steel and aluminum imports from other countries.
“While President Trump’s assessment of HOG’s actions in his tweets were often factually inaccurate, the damage has been done,” said the BMO report. “Dealers are feeling an impact, and we find that the impact has become more acute over time.”
While both companies have tried to tamp down the president’s influence on motorcycle sales, Johnson said the impact is unlikely to be a coincidence. Back in August, Trump used his Twitter account to lambaste the company for its production shift and seemed to back a boycott he said was already underway. It’s not clear whether a boycott ever began.
“While President Trump’s assessment of HOG’s actions in his tweets were often factually inaccurate, the damage has been done,” Johnson said in a research note. “Dealers are feeling an impact, and we find that the impact has become more acute over time.”