They may be outlining a bargaining position for upcoming negotiations, but Harley Davidson suggested moving the company’s manufacturing operations from Wisconsin as a way to slash millions of dollars in costs. Labor costs and scheduling flexibility were cited as the two major issues.
The Wisconsin plants at risk include its powertrain operations in Milwaukee. Those operations, with about 1,320 employees, are already being consolidated, and company officials have said the move would result in an unspecified number of job cuts.
The other Wisconsin plant, in Tomahawk, makes components including motorcycle windshields. It has about 375 workers, Klein said.
Harley already agreed with its union to major changes in York, Pennsylvania where one of two factories is being shut down and half of the employees laid off to help reduce overhead.
Whether or not a move from Milwaukee is really in serious contention as a way to return to profitability, it is an indication of how times have changed for the Motor Company. While a number of recent news stories have shown growing markets for motorcycles in China and India, the domestic U.S. market for Harley Davidson is still sluggish. Harley has just begun taking orders for motorcycles in India, where even a Nightster, due to tariffs, goes for over $22,000 compared to under $10,000 in the U.S. It makes you wonder, what a Sportster produced over there would cost. No one has openly suggested that option, at least no one I’m aware of, but it’s probably in the minds of more than a few.