To me, the Harley Davidson episode unfolding right now is very interesting. I can see both sides of this thing.
Especially with all of this new tariff stuff happening, I can see how purely from an economic standpoint it makes a lot of sense for Harley to manufacture bikes sold to European countries in Europe. In fact, I have no doubt that Harley will be able to set up offshore manufacturing operations that turn out products just as good as the American facilities.
The problem as I see it is that they are now doing something that goes against their very brand. Harley is known as an American company – maybe THE American company. Now to me, as long as the Harleys sold to Americans are the genuine ones made in America…I don’t really care about the European thing.
But the problem is that Harley‘s brand and reputation is built on being one of America’s last great manufacturers. Harley is an American brand.
So the question is will the increased profits from the European operations more than offset any loss in sales from Americans. Or with there even be any decline in sales? Will people really care…as long as their Harley came from the American plant?
I think this is a big gamble by Harley Davidson, but I’m sure they have some very smart economists and analysts on their staff who have looked carefully into this decision. Because of that, I think Harley will be fine.
But for most companies, who do not have the kind of loyalty that Harley has, I think it would not be the best decision to go against their brand like that.
Ultimately, the numbers will tell the story. I think Harley may be one of those rare brands that still commands such loyalty that they can make this kind of move and get away with it.