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Cramer: How government protection could hinder, not help, Harley-Davidson

President Donald Trumpmet with the executives of motorcycle titans Harley-Davidson last week, but Jim Cramer warned that this might be the one industry where government protection could be more of a hindrance than a help for the company.

"They need to keep taking share from the competition or they need to expand into other markets. In other words, they need trade," the "Mad Money" host said.

However, given that Trump seems to be more engaged with business leaders than any other president he can recall, he pondered if the motorcycle companies even need Trump's help and if the White House could even boost sales.

Harley Davidson bikers
Christophe Simon | AFP | Getty Images
Harley Davidson bikers

Harley gets approximately 70 percent of its sales from the U.S. and controls roughly half of the domestic motorcycle market. And while the White House said the meeting between Trump and Harley was merely a listening session, Trump has been vocal about protecting the motorcycle business.

However, both Harley and all-terrain vehicle maker Polaris have problems that Cramer doesn't think the president can do much about. Both companies are facing a tepid U.S. market that is still well off its highs since the great recession.

Additionally, fourth quarter results were pretty bad, with Harley noting an 8 percent decline in motorcycle revenue and Polaris with a 35 percent decline.

Both companies have acknowledged fierce competition and weak demand as the source of the problem. Yet despite the backdrop, both Harley and Polaris claim they are taking market share with investments and marketing efforts.

The weakness was also cited overseas, as Honda's motorcycle sales were down, and Kawasaki's motorcycle related orders were down 22 percent in the second half of 2016.

"The weakness in motorcycles seems to be an industry-wide phenomenon," Cramer said.

Trump could attempt to impose a tariff on Japanese imports, but Cramer doesn't think this will fix the fundamental problem of lowered demand for motorcycles.

So, while Trump has a lot of power, he can't force people to buy motorcycles.

"I suspect the real issue here is that millennials don't have much love for the motorcycle," Cramer said.

It was clear to Cramer that in order for motorcycle companies to grow, they need to be able to expand overseas. Unfortunately, if Trump puts a tariff on products from other countries, they could slap one right back, though Cramer doubted it would go in that direction.

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