Harley-Davidson plans Thailand manufacturing

Harley-Davidson FLHRS Road King Special thailand

Harley-Davidson has announced it will assemble motorcycles in Thailand from 2018 for the Chinese and South-East Asian markets.

Back in February, we pointed out that HD had bought a large parcel of land in Thailand where it was rumoured they would build an assembly plant. 

That’s no longer a rumour.

It is not known whether Australia will receive bikes assembled in Thailand, but we do get the Street models assembled in India, not the bikes made in Kansas.

Steel protests

Already the Thai announcement has attracted protests from American steel workers.

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard said: “Harley owners and prospective buyers across the globe want to continue to enjoy machines made in America that provide quality rides and unique experiences. Harley’s potential outsourcing of production puts all of this at risk.”

No doubt it will also rile President Donald Trump who controversially met with HD executives on the White House lawn in February.

Harley-Davidson execs meet President Trump copycat cow debate thailand
Trump meets with Harley execs

Trump made special mention in a speech to Congress of the difficulties Harley faced in selling bikes in India where they faced 100% import duties.

He didn’t mention that since 2011, Harley has been building Street 500 and 750 models in India.

Assembly, not manufacture

However, the Thai facility will not be a manufacturing facility, but an assembly plant like its factories in India and Brazil.

It will build bikes from mainly American-made parts because “complete knock-down” imports attract a lower duty than complete bikes.

A Harley-Davidson spokesman said the Thai move would “not impact its US factories”.

HD international sales vice-president Marc McAllister says the Asian motorcycle market is the fastest growing in the world and is vital for the company’s future.

“The new facility will provide greater access to our products for customers in the ASEAN region and China,” he says.

Marc McAllister Harley-Davidson international sales VP thailand
Marc McAllister Harley-Davidson international sales VP

Marc says Harley is now the market leader in the 601cc-and-above sector in India, the world’s biggest motorcycle market.

“We assemble in India for the market and have been every successful. so it’s a big focus and we are being tremendously successful,” he told us.

China is also a focus for Harley, but it is a difficult market because most cities have bans on internal combustion engines.

“China sales are relatively not as big as India but we are happy. We have just about the same number of dealers in China,” he says.

Working with Trump

Marc said the company had to “navigate” import duties around the world.

“The Trump administration has certainly taken a stand in where they want to see the US in international trade and we as a company are committed to international business and want to drive our growth around the world,” he said.

While in Australia recently for the 100th anniversary celebrations of the American brand Down Under, Bill Davidson, grandson of founder William A. Davidson, told us he believed the company had to work with the incumbent US administration.

Bill Davidson Harley-Davidson 100 years thailand
Bill Davidson

My belief is no matter who is in that Oval Office, no matter who the president is, you respect them if you’re invited and that’s what we did,” he says of the White House visit in February.

“We had an open invitation and our executive team went and it was a wonderful sharing of information. I think it was great.”

Deadly Thailand

As an interesting sidebar to this announcement, a recent survey from the World Health Organisation found that Thailand was the most deadly country in the world for motorcycle riders.

It claims 5500 motorcycle riders die each year in the country which is about 15 deaths daily and the number is getting higher, not lower.

8 Comments

  1. I wonder if this will go any better than when they were made in Taiwan. I would guess not. Still, it can’t affect reliability. HD are only just a little more reliable than BMW.

  2. Many Japanese bike parts as well as complete engines are made in other Asian countries incl Thailand, Taiwan and Korea and assembled outside Japan but are still considered Japanese bikes. The iconic Triumph is “made” in Thailand but still considered British, old chum. The Gen I Vmax is “made” in California, sent all over the planet from parts sourced in Asia but it’s still a Japanese Yamaha. Australia, surprisingly, doesn’t make or assemble anything to do with motor bikes. OH well.

  3. Harleys will be assembled in Thailand using parts sent from the United States as Completely Knocked Down kits. They will still be Harleys. Mercedes Sprinter vans are assembled in South Carolina using CKD kits from Germany to circumvent the 25% tariff on imported light trucks. That doesn’t make them less of a Mercedes.

  4. I’m in full support of the American Steelworkers! If I want to buy an American brand, I expect it to be made in America by Americans. Harley Davidson motorcycles have achieved legendary status on the basis of the company’s American heritage, not its Thai heritage. Nothing wrong with buying a Thai branded bike, so long as you know what you are getting, but don’t shift your production there and then trade upon your reputation as an iconic American brand.

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