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Steelworkers, machinists upset with Harley-Davidson about plans for Thailand plant

Harley says the plant won’t result in any U.S. job losses. The Thailand plant is scheduled to open in late 2018, Harley said Tuesday, and it will assemble bikes from components produced at the company’s U.S. facilities.

May 30, 2017

Harley-Davidson Inc.’s plans to operate a motorcycle assembly plant in Thailand are drawing strong criticism from labor unions, although Harley says the plant won’t result in any U.S. job losses.

The Thailand plant is scheduled to open in late 2018, Harley said Tuesday, and it will assemble bikes from components produced at the company’s U.S. facilities.

Milwaukee-based Harley has similar operations in India and Brazil, where complete motorcycles are assembled from kits.

In India, where big touring motorcycles and cars are saddled with a 100% import tariff, Harley's sales have grown by a brisk 30% in the past two years.

That's largely because the company has been able to get around the tariff by assembling bikes there, something it's done in that country since 2011.

The Thailand tariff on motorcycles assembled in the United States is about 60%, according to Harley.

“By opening this plant, we expect our regional (Asian) operations to help reduce those costs,” said Harley spokeswoman Katie Whitmore.

“There is no intent to reduce Harley-Davidson U.S. manufacturing due to this expansion,” Whitmore said.

“We anticipate an increase in the number of additional U.S.-manufactured components that will be shipped to the Thailand facility,” she added.

Asia is one of Harley’s fastest-growing markets.

But the Thailand plant, and others like it, worry the United Steelworkers.

“Harley-Davidson has been the crown jewel of American manufacturing. Management’s decision to offshore production is a slap in the face to the American worker and to hundreds of thousands of Harley riders across the country,” Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said in a statement.

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Harley Davidson Thailand Plant
Harley Davidson Thailand Plant