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Trump vows to 'reciprocate' against the EU after Harley-Davidson reports 26.7 percent profit drop

“So unfair to U.S. We will Reciprocate!” tweeted President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning.
Image: A customer looks at a 2017 Harley-Davidson
A customer looks at a 2017 Harley-Davidson at a dealership in Miami on April 25, 2017.Alan Diaz / AP file

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/ Source: CNBC.com
By Emma Newburger, CNBC

President Donald Trump appeared to reverse course on Harley-Davidson on Tuesday, pledging to reciprocate against “unfair” European Union tariffs that the company partially blamed for its 26.7 percent drop in first-quarter profit.

Trump, who called for a boycott against the motorcycle company last year amid a spat over steel, said in a tweet that the EU tariffs have forced the company to move U.S. jobs overseas. “So unfair to U.S. We will Reciprocate!” he said in a tweet, citing comments by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.

Harley announced last year that it would move production of its motorcycles destined for the EU to overseas facilities from the U.S. to avoid EU tariffs imposed in retaliation against Trump’s duties on aluminum and steel imports. In response, Trump called for a boycott of the company, and threatened higher taxes as retaliation.

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The White House and Harley didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The company is holding a conference call with analysts and the press at 9 a.m. ET.

Harley said falling demand, higher costs from U.S. tariffs on raw materials and European taxes on imports of its motorcycles hurt its earnings, which released before the markets opened Tuesday.

The company posted adjusted earnings of 98 cents per share, higher than the 65 cents per share forecast by Refinitiv. Its revenue from motorcycles and related products fell 12.3 percent to $1.19 billion.

Excluding the impact of tariffs and restructuring costs, the company said its net income fell to $127.9 million, or 80 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31 from $174.76 million, or $1.03 per share, a year earlier.

Its shares jumped by about 3 percent on the better-than-expected earnings.

Harley has struggled with a drop in sales in the U.S. amid fears that younger buyers are less interested in motorcycles than previous generations. Last quarter, the company’s shares tanked after it released earnings that missed analysts’ expectations.

The company has been trying to get more people excited about riding motorcycles again. In November, it started to preview its LiveWire electric motorcycle in the U.S. and Europe in an attempt to attract more riders overall, including younger ones.

Harley also unveiled a 10-year plan in 2017 to attract 2 million new riders by 2027. In addition to investing in electric bikes, it has set up schools across the country to teach people how to ride.