President Donald Trump may be calling for Americans to boycott Harley-Davidson Inc., but U.S. Secret Service agents who protect him will continue to ride Harley’s motorcycles.
This week, the Federal Business Opportunities website posted the Secret Service’s plans to purchase a new Harley that could be paired with a sidecar. The website is a place where federal agencies publish solicitations and requests for proposals from government contractors and private businesses.
In its pitch for buying a Harley-Davidson, rather than another brand of motorcycle, the Secret Service said it already had mechanics familiar with Harley, spare parts and sidecars that fit the bikes.
“Any other motorcycles would require additional training of staff,” the agency said.
Trump’s feud with Harley-Davidson was triggered this summer when the company announced it was moving production of motorcycles destined for the European Union to an international factory. Harley said it was in response to the EU slapping a 31 percent tariff on motorcycles made in the U.S., which in turn was a response to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Trump said Harley was using the tariffs as an excuse for moving production abroad. “Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great!” the president tweeted in August.
Harley-Davidsons are already built in other countries. The company has plants in India and Brazil where bikes are assembled for foreign markets. It also is opening a plant in Thailand, closing one in Kansas City, Mo., and expanding its plant in York, Pa.
But Harley says its motorcycles sold in the U.S. will continue to be made here.
And that’s a sticking point for the Secret Service and other federal agencies often bound by made-in-America buying requirements.
The U.S. Parks Service, for example, also uses Harleys.
“It would be a little unseemly,” for the Secret Service to buy a foreign-made motorcycle, said Victor Beecher, a former Milwaukee police officer and now associate director of police training at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer that they’re buying a Harley,” Beecher said.
Harley has competitors for police motorcycle sales, including Honda, BMW and Kawasaki. The New York City Police Department uses BMWs, and Japanese motorcycle maker Yamaha recently entered the field.
Yet BMW is still a “distant second” to Harley when it comes to police patrol bikes, Beecher said, even if Harleys are more expensive to maintain and don’t run as well in hot weather.
Harley-Davidson builds specially made police bikes in its factory, while other brands are modified for police use. Thousands of law enforcement agencies have Harleys, and the company has been selling bikes to police departments since 1908.
“The reason Harley is so dominant (in police bikes) is because of the length of time they’ve been in that market,” said Robert Pandya, a veteran of the motorcycle industry who has worked for Polaris Industries, the maker of Indian Motorcycles.
“As a taxpayer, I am happy to hear the Secret Service doesn’t want to revamp everything just for some bitter feud the president is having with Harley-Davison,” Pandya said.
Indian was founded in 1901, two years before Harley. For the next 50 years, the brands fought to capture the hearts of American motorcyclists — until 1954 when Indian folded.
Numerous attempts to revive Indian failed, but the brand has made a comeback under Polaris Industries, a $5.4 billion Medina, Minn.-based manufacturer of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.
Still, Indian hasn’t shown interest in making a police bike, according to Pandya, and that could be because Indian has far fewer dealerships than Harley.
“A medium-size municipality would have a hard time justifying buying an Indian motorcycle if there’s not a dealer in town to service it,” he said.
You can’t use just any motorcycle for police work, as the bikes have to meet special requirements.
“If a police bike gets in a crash, you don’t want a gun flying out of the saddlebag,” Pandya said.
This isn’t the first time Harley-Davidson has been caught up in politics.
In 2008, then presidential candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, launched a radio ad in Milwaukee, accusing his opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, of turning his back on Harley by opposing “Buy American” rules for government purchases.
Obama’s ad said “when it comes to his record, American-made motorcycles like Harleys don’t matter to John McCain.”
McCain was a critic of provisions that require the U.S. government to buy American products, saying it was sometimes costly to taxpayers and antithetical to open trade.
“I firmly object to all ‘Buy American’ restrictions, as they represent gross examples of protectionist trade policy,” McCain said on the Senate Floor.
In its justification to buy a Harley, the Secret Service said its goal was to replace older bikes “of the same make and model that have excessive mileage and are outside a standard replacement cycle.”
Robert Patrick, best known as “Terminator 2” antagonist T-1000, doesn’t just ride motorcycles on movies and television shows, like “Scorpion.” He rides his Harley-Davidson Low Rider S every chance he gets, with a favorite route — down Bouquet Canyon Road.
Now with a new job title, besides an actor, Patrick will have a chance to ride in the Santa Clarita Valley more often and bring others onboard to what he calls “a motorcycle family.”
That’s because he recently became co-owner of the Santa Clarita Harley-Davidson, located at 21130 Centre Pointe Parkway.
“My life has been hand-in-hand with Harley,” said Patrick. “At dealerships, I would say one day I would own one, and that’s kind of how this happened.”
After Oliver Shokouh, co-owner and owner of the longtime Glendale Harley-Davidson dealership, who sold Patrick his first motorcycle, heard about the actor’s interest, the deal was sealed.
“We got to know each other after he bought a bike and later became a member of the board of directors of the (motorcycle charity club) Love Ride Foundation,” said Shokouh. “I knew about his dream and love of wanting to be more involved in the business.”
“Those that ride know that the canyons and open spaces in the Santa Clarita Valley are the best,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this community. There’s an attitude up here, and I think that’s why I’m drawn to the area.”
Though an experienced rider who started at age 19, he said he was looking forward to diving into the business end of things, flying to Milwaukee next year to take a new-dealer course.
Until then, however, the Santa Clarita team has implemented some upgrades at the Santa Clarita dealership, including a front desk facelift with a more open concept in mind, a large clothing and gear selection for all ages and even a “Terminator 2” arcade entertainment.
Shokouh revealed that the dealer might offer the Pan America, Harley’s first adventure touring motorcycle, in 2020.
Harley will also release an electric motorcycle model, called the LiveWire.One of 150 dealers selected to offer the product, the Santa Clarita location is scheduled to provide the bike next year. The following year, he said, riders can expect to see a charging station on the dealership’s parking lot for motorists to stop by at any time.
“We want this to be a destination spot,” said Shokouh.
“There’s a whole network of dealers across the country,” Patrick agreed, adding, “We want to be part of that for people on the nearby highways to get emergency road service, have a cup of coffee and get back on the road as fast as they can.”
“We are definitely going to be a positive part of the community,” he said. “We want to be a reflection of the ideals and values that the community of the Santa Clarita Valley has.”
The co-owners are planning a grand opening for Santa Clarita Harley by the end of the year or early 2019.