Trump revs up attacks on Harley-Davidson

Doina Chiacu and Rajesh Kumar Singh
US President Donald Trump is attacking Harley-Davidson for moving some production to Europe

US President Donald Trump has threatened Harley-Davidson with higher taxes and says the iconic motorcycle-maker would suffer from a public backlash if it goes ahead with a plan to move production for European customers overseas.

Trump's latest attack on a US corporation is a sharp reverse for the president, who early in his administration hailed the company as a model of American manufacturing and posed with some of its bikes in front of the White House.

"A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them," Trump said on Twitter early on Tuesday. "If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end - they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!" Trump said.

It was unclear what taxes Trump was referring to and why the company might have to pay them since it intends to maintain production in the US for American customers. The White House did not return a request for comment on Trump's tweet.

The Milwaukee-based company said on Monday it will move production of motorcycles shipped to the European Union from the US to its international facilities and forecast that the trading bloc's tariffs - introduced as a counter to Trump's tariffs on some EU-produced metals - would cost the company $US90 million ($A122 million) to $US100 million a year.

In a series of angry Twitter posts on Tuesday, Trump suggested the famous American brand was using trade tensions over tariffs as an excuse to move production.

"Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand. That was long before Tariffs were announced. Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse," Trump said on Twitter.

In January, Harley-Davidson said it would close a plant in Kansas City, Missouri, over a sharp drop in US demand for its motorcycles, but said it would consolidate work done there into its plant in York, Pennsylvania.

The company is setting up an assembly plant in Thailand, a move it announced in May 2017, but that would put together bikes only for the growing Southeast Asian market.

The Thailand plant had no connection with the closure of the Kansas City facility, Harley-Davidson chief executive Matt Levatich told Reuters in an interview in February.