Harley-Davidson: Thailand Factory Will Help Market in Southeast Asia

Harley-Davidson the motorcycle maker announced on Thursday that it will build a new plant in Thailand, which is a major automotive hub for Asia, to serve the growing market across Southeast Asia, a move a labor union in the U.S. had criticized.

The motorcycle maker did not release any figures related to the overall investment for the factory in the Rayong province of Thailand. The province is southeast of Bangkok.

Public relations manager Katie Whitmore said the maker of motorcycles had its best financial results during 2016 across the Asia-Pacific region though no numbers were released by Whitmore.

The facility in Thailand will give the company the ability to be more responsive as well as competitive in the Asean region as well as in China, said Whitmore.

Increased affordability and access for clients in the important growing region are key to company growth overall added Whitmore. There is no intent on the company’s part to lower its manufacturing in the U.S. because of this expansion, she added.

The new plant will allow Harley-Davidson, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to avoid as high as a 60% tariff in Thailand on motorcycles that are imported and help it receive tax breaks when it is exporting to neighbors of Thailand thanks to the trade agreement amongst members of ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Harley Davidson opened a factory in 2011 in India and also has an assembly plant for motorcycles in Brazil.

After the initial report by the New York Times of the planned investment by Harley Davidson in Thailand, the USW or United Steelworkers International president said that the decision by the motorcycle maker amounted to a slap in the face to American workers and to hundreds of thousands of riders of Harley Davidsons across the U.S.

USW represents workers in Harley factories in two states in the U.S. and more than 850,000 workers across North America.

The union said that production that is outside the U.S. also put in jeopardy the success that propelled Harley for so many years.

Harley Davidson’s Whitmore said that motorcycles that will be assembled in Thailand will have the same authentic feel, sound and look as those that are made in the United States.

Demand for motorcycles made by Harley within the U.S., the biggest market for the company, continues to slow down as its loyal followers amongst the baby boomers get older.

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