Buell Motorcycle Company. Is It Really Over?

buellWhen officials thanked the company’s customers, employees and dealers for an unforgettable ride, it meant that it’s was over for the only American sport bikes brand. After Erik Buell made his emotional good-bye speech, President Jon Flickinger said a limited number of motorcycles were available for sale through authorized dealerships and that production will end definitively on October 30. But is it really over? Since the dramatic news of Thursday October 15, many things have happened.

Last Friday, the Walworth County Economic Development of Wisconsin where Buell’s plant s located, sent a letter to Erik Buell to see if the Association could help him put together a business plan for Buell to continue manufacturing motorcycles. Practically, the association is proposing to help find investors to rescue the manufacturer and save 180 jobs in the city of East Troy. Think about it. Buell, although geographically away from Harley-Davidson, is so integrated with the mother company for its components that Harley didn’t and can’t sell Buell. Harley is just discontinuing its assistance in parts & technology. Without it, Buell Motorcycle Company is dead. Except if Harley-Davidson would both let Erik Buell continue to exploit the Buell name and its goodwill value, let him use the designs, models and technology acquired during the last 26 years, and Erik Buell finding the adequate pool of investors. The only reason I see for Harley-davidson to refuse would be if the company intended to enter later the sport bikes segment. As the opposite, Harley stated that the company wants to re-focus on its big cruiser & trike models. So, why not? FYI, my sources also tell me that Wandell is submerged under letters of Buell supporters asking him to reconsider his decision. I don’t believe it will happen, but Buell restarting smaller and stronger without harley and new partners  is still a possibility. How many brands were born again & again & again…? What do you think?

21 Responses to “Buell Motorcycle Company. Is It Really Over?”

  1. 1 Oct 22nd, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I wish I thought it was a possibility.

    But I don’t.

  2. 2 BadMonkeyMW Oct 22nd, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    That would be awesome. Unfortunately, the ultimate decision will likely be made by bean counters who have no stake or interest in salvaging an iconic American motorcycle brand.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  3. 3 FUJI Oct 22nd, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    First off who would sell the bikes to begin with. Would you be a dealer ?

  4. 4 J Oct 22nd, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Very cool- I think Buell might prosper without the Company breathing down his neck.

    Tough time for VC financing tho; Also, I wonder if Buell might not have to encrouch upon Harley cruiser turf in order to sell some bikes- be interesting to see if a Buell bobber or something would spook Harley…

    If he wants to hassle with it, I hope Buell manages to put a package together.

  5. 5 FREDP Oct 22nd, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Erik will need time and money to re engineer the bikes to get back in the market as an American Bike. Frankly, I think Erik would do better with TP engines or S&S, or the new Viper-IImor engine in those bikes, anyway.
    I don’t understand why other vendors don’t come to an agreement with Buell to save it. We might see a much superior product build away from H-D control.

  6. 6 Oct 22nd, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    The MoCo has a ferociously efficient legal department. I would be flabbergasted if the future of Buell – both the motorcycle and the man – was not already tied up in longterm contractual and legal obligations way before the announcement was made last week.

    With all the experience and information learned and taken from Buell and of MV Agusta, the smart money would indeed be on Harley producing a sports bike two or three years down the line.

    Unfortunately, as an industry heavyweight and very dear friend succinctly put it, “…and Harley will f**k it up.”

  7. 7 Oct 22nd, 2009 at 4:49 pm


    I guess I don’t understand why other vendors would have any incentive to help save Buell????? It isn’t like the Buell bikes were flying off the shelves at dealerships ….. if that were the case they would still be part of Harley. Vendors have been tagged so many times by all the other companies that have gone the way of the Dinosaurs. I just don’t see anyone willing to stick what little neck they have remaining out for anyone right now.

    Erik has had to have made millions of dollars during his relationship with HD …. if he believes so strongly in his product I am sure he will invest his own money …. I would! Whatever the case I wish him well.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  8. 8 Oct 22nd, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    To quote Blue – “Unfortunately, as an industry heavyweight and very dear friend succinctly put it, “…and Harley will f**k it up.”

    I think they already.

  9. 9 Roadside Marty Oct 22nd, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve got to agree with BadMonkeyMW..Buell’s ultimate fate will be placed in the hands of some pencil pusher who probably doesn’t even ride and who could care less about what happens to the brand or it’s employees! Jeff made a good point as well, if Erik Buell throws some of his personal assets into the ring I’m sure more investors might join in but what do I know about these things other than an opinion! Roadside

  10. 10 nicker Oct 22nd, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    “…if Erik Buell throws some of his personal assets into the ring I’m sure more investors might …”

    Well, dont’ know about their water cooled sports bike, but as much as i like air cooled twin sports bikes, that market for Buell is a niche market at best and will never scale to that of the Big Twins unless they can pull of a “Ducatti miracle.” Buell simply doesn’t have the following of BMW-boxers.

    Sorry, as i see it, this sounds about as doable as Obama’s new small business initiative.
    Giving money to any business where the economy has killed off it’s customer base is like subsidizing a commodity which has no market.


  11. 11 Fluke Oct 22nd, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    My take on this is HD will soon be up for sale. From what I see it looks like HD is selling assets and limiting liabilities in readiness to make it appealing short term to an investor. There seems to be no cohesive long term strategy as the people running it have no need to, It will be someone else’s problem.

    I have really no idea what kind of agreement HD have with Buell, but by just shutting down Buell, HD can just walk away from it’s contracts and commitments to Buell. Hence cut down immediate financial responsibilities and limit short term losses.

    As to HD supplying parts to Buell so therefore it can’t separate the two? Rubbish, All they need to do is put a ticket price on all the HD parts Buell currently uses and Buell would be quite easy to run as an independent company. For example many auto companies have joint development agreements for engines and chassis’, also many just buy engines from competitors when they don’t have a suitable in house engine and projected sales numbers would financially prohibit development of such. There is no reason Buell and HD cannot do the same. HD would make additional money from the sale of those parts to Buell.

    If they had the same factory and staff, I could understand that it would be hard to separate the two, but they don’t.

  12. 12 1550tc Oct 23rd, 2009 at 8:03 am

    I think most of the dealers right now just want to see what hd is going to do for them with their remaining ineventory.

    In some regions i read where their selling them at 50% off, some dealers have 30 buels sitting in their inventory.

    They should hire the MAD MAN as i’d love to see some Buel Lazarus & Lazarus ST3 Models outthere in the near future.

  13. 13 J Oct 23rd, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Fluke- yep, would be my guess, too- Buffet, et al, buying their debt and staying away from the equity because they know they’ll be made whole on the bonds in a sale- the stock is anyones’ guess.

    When you’re shopping yourself, you pretty up your showroom window as much as possible- smaller labor force, chop off some sort-term warts…..

    I would think Harley explored the idea of selling Buell outright, and found it wasn’t feasable- so why should anyone else stick any money into it?

  14. 14 yessir Oct 23rd, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    i call rubbish!

    buells are cult bikes and most appealing to guys who already love black and orange.

    i own one and frankly it’s a POS. crappy electrical systems, twitchy suspension, and the hottest motor on the market- the XL based ones.

    sure it might not be great for the industry right now, but this should have happened long ago to Buell. there was an arrogance from the Buell camp that is undeserved for a third rate ‘sportbike’.

  15. 15 BikerMarc Oct 24th, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Hey, Erik.

    Suggest your meeting with the “Indian” Motorcycle Corporation folks and their capital provider, Stellican Limited out of London.(If you haven’t already.)

    If there’s a way to bring Buell back, (and improve it) these guys will know how to do it.

    Very sharp private equity pros from all I’ve seen and heard.

    Contact Stephen Julius, the key founding partner of Stellican.You can also connect with David Wright, one of the other partners.

    Lots of private equity here and real brand management know-how.

    Good luck.


  16. 16 Bigalyts Oct 24th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I loved my ST3 with the Bags and a Daytiona Exhaust and Stage 1 Force Air K&N. It was a Wheelie King and it would stop great. 2000 Model paid $9,000 for it some Deal from Harley Rebate and kept it and Sold it for $8,000 2 Years Later. Pretty Good Memories!

  17. 17 Oct 24th, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Blue hit the nail on the head! Harley owns Buell both the man and the name. He would have tanked long ago if it wasn’t for Harley’s money, influence and prestige. They secured him mfg. dollars, development dollars and most of all dealers! Buell’s loss is meaningless in the overall scheme of things. R.I.P. along with the more then 2 dozen “brands” that have tanked since the beginning of the motorcycle recession which really started in 2006!

  18. 18 Newtonian Oct 25th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    “Lots of private equity here and real brand management know-how.”

    Well thanks, Bikermarc, for your invaluable 2-cents worth !

    Yet another example of how the web allows jerks to become genuine wankers when they get behind a keyboard.

    When Julius has sold some bikes you can start making suggestions like these, instead of believing and regurgitating all the crap and spin that we see being manipulated on the web.

    Nobody wanted to buy Buells and they were only ever crow-barred into show rooms under irresistible pressure from HD, who were too embarassed to admit that they were barking up the wrong tree.

    Julius will never put a cent into such awful motorcycles, you read it here first.

  19. 19 Oct 27th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Spokeswoman for tHarley-Davidson, Pat McSweeney:

    “We chose not to sell Buell, and [to] simply end production, simply because of the interdependencies that exist between Buell and Harley-Davidson.

    That is the decision we made, and that is not a reversible decision.”

    Guess that means it’s over.

  20. 20 Drogen Nov 19th, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    hahaha its funny when i see people bagging Buells…

    people that dont like buells are just plain idiots.

    Newtonian and yessir you 2 are perfect examples if the idiots out there… f*ck off and go get a jap bike or one of those shit ass Hyosungs.. they might be more suited to your riding style… hahahah

    truth is you can buy a tractor that out performs every HD in handling, speed, reliability, etc…. i could go on for pages.

    i own 4 Buells now and will never go back to any Jap crap ever again… there is nothing else on the market that can handle corners as well as a buell. even a KTM duke 690 is no match for a Buell XB12S or XB12STT…

    i really do hope Buell finds its feet and manages to start up production again.

    Harley Davidson are even bigger idiots for selling off MV Agusta another world class bike.

    HD can kiss my ass.

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