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Not so easy rider

February 6, 2018

Harley-Davidson is closing its Kansas City assembly plant. Its CEO lays some of the blame on Trump, for withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have made overseas markets more accessible. And maybe there’s something to that. Trump’s protectionist policies are economically short-sighted.

I’m skeptical, though, that the TPP was the lifeline Harley needs. Its brand icon is the rough-and-tumble man whose singular toughness defeats the bad guys, whose heart wins the damsel in distress, and whose right-headedness saves the town or nation, despite tactics just a bit on the wrong side of the law. Think John Wayne and Johnny Cash. It is a fantasy with peculiar appeal to white, American males of a certain age. They were young when Johnny Cash was young. When Bikefest comes to Corpus Christi — it skipped last year — the bars are full of such guys. Decked out in leathers and tattoos, they make themselves what they wish they had been decades earlier.

The problem is that the 70s are four decades past, and time takes its toll. More, that slice of the baby boom is not the healthiest. Harley-Davidson is working hard to attract a younger market. The question is whether it can create new customers faster than the old ones swallow the anchor. Photo shows Gable on a Harley.

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