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Bye-bye Buell

This topic has 19 replies, 11 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 7 months ago by AvatarJackTrade.
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  • #3511
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    briderdt
    Participant

    Harley-Davidson has pulled the rug out from under Erik Buell.

    http://www.buell.com/en_us/

    Now this isn’t much concern, maybe, for the beginner market, as the Blast was already discontinued, but it’s a blow to the industry as a whole, and the American manufacturers in particular. Buell was the only real player for a US-built sport bike.

    And I’m more than a little bummed, as I was probably a year away from buying a new 1125r… That’s the only bike that I look at and really can say “that’s a great bike” — I like everything about the styling and works of that bike. Alas…

    #22874
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    JackTrade
    Participant

    Damnit. This really sucks. As someone who owns a Blast, and really digs the Buell mojo, it’s really upsetting. I had planned on getting a bigger Buell in a few years, probably an 1125 as well, but the cr (cafe racer) version.

    Buells are so wonderfully unique…there’s nothing else out there like ’em. The handling is at near telepathic levels.

    It’s doubly upsetting as Buell was finally breaking the last of the Harley technology bonds that were keeping it from competing heads-up with the imports. The new 1125 engine is a great example of that, and it’s always amazed me how much Erik and co were able to do with what they did have to source from HD.

    Erik looks like he’s about to cry in the video. I don’t blame him.

    RIP Buell. :-(

    (But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not back in a few years…)

    #22877
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    WeaponZero
    Participant

    this is sad. very very sad. ive always loved and wanted a buell sportster-based sportbike because of how unique they were and how well they handled apparently. this is the ONLY american motorcycle company that produced anything other than cruisers and it is a huge blow to the market as a whole. buells were bikes that were obviously designed and built by someone who was passionate about motorcycles.

    you can just hear the sadness in his voice =(

    the only mild consolation here is that you now have a valid argument to spit back at the harley-fanatics who come down on you for “not buying american.” “well, what if i want something that isnt a retro cruiser?”

    in all seriousness though, buell will be missed, and as someone who was working toward one day trading in his SV650 on a new buell, it’s a big blow to me personally.

    #22878
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    A
    Participant

    I wonder how much of Buell’s failure has to do with HD lack of support since their ownership?

    Buell certainly serves a very different market than the majority of HD customers… and I don’t recall HD ever take advantage of Buell’s moto related innovations on HD models.

    He says “A small motorcycle company proved that it can compete with the world.”

    Call me a cynic but… if it could compete…. would it be being shut down?

    http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/ceou/database.cfm?tkr=HOG&pg=9

    Somebody is making a pretty sum:

    Keith E. Wandell

    Chief Executive Officer

    Harley-Davidson Inc.

    Automobiles & Trucks

    Compensation Year- to -Year

    Salary: 2007 $875,534 vs 2008 $980,704

    Grant Date Fair Value of Stock and Option Awards 2007: $3,135,105

    2008: $4,499,990

    Total has increased by 29% from 2007: $5,560,650

    to 2008: $7,182,027

    Anyone buying a MV Agusta?

    #22886
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    JtownJJA
    Participant

    I wasn’t expecting that. Buell certainly is full of surprises this year, including some outstanding accomplishments, and then there was that cubed Blast. Although Buell hasn’t had any of my personal favorite models, they were a unique and fresh brand to keep an eye on. A lot of the guys on the ohio-riders site lay the blame on Harley Davidson.

    #22889
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    owlie
    Participant

    Wow. I didn’t see that coming. I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. You would have thought they wouldn’t have done what the did to the Blast if they were considering this…

    #22892
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    WeaponZero
    Participant

    It was probably a last minute decision by H-D. For some reason H-D doesn’t believe that Americans want sportbikes. They seem to be under the impression that every American wants a retro styled cruiser. Maybe if they would have actually given the brand some damn publicity, things would be different.

    #22893
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    JackTrade
    Participant

    Rumor has it that HD is in big trouble, bigger than it’s letting on…not least of which is exposure to the subprime mess. Like gigantic houses, a lot of those shiny new Harleys we saw on the streets in the 1990s/2000s were purchased by those who couldn’t really afford them.

    Combine that bikes being for most people a discretionary purchase and the lack of availability of credit now and a picture emerges.

    Harley ownership was always a double-edged sword for Buell. The big benefits of it were supposedly access to engines, and a dealership network in which it could sell. Ironically, these “benefits” became Buell’s biggest liabilities…for the racer sportbikes Erik wanted to make, HD engines simply weren’t cutting it vis a vis its competitors, and the HD dealershipship experience is terrible. Most Buell dealers were so in name only…my personal experiences trying to get parts back that up.

    In my mind, 2 things could happen:

    Buell rises again, in some way…I don’t see Erik letting his dream die w/o a major fight. It’s his name on the company, and it’s not really not about the money for him…it’s about spending his life doing what he loves.

    OR

    Harley actually gets serious about being more than a retro-cruiser company and Erik leads the way for them. The V-rod shows HD might actually understand that the baby boomers aren’t going to be buying many more bikes, and that the people who *are* buying come from a generation raised on imports, with no particular nostalgia for 1950s era American iron.

    In the car world, Ford gets this…watch how the Mustang is morphing slowly from retro 60s to futuristic modern, b/c Ford knows its new buyers weren’t around in the 60s, and to them, Mustangs are European-styled hatchbacks like the ones *they* grew up with.

    I could see the same thing with HD…some real sportbike-quality Harleys with “engineering by Buell”. Maybe the sportster becomes an actual sportbike. The new Sportster XR1200 is already a step in that direction. It actually has a digital speedo even!

    I don’t think ANY of Erik’s innovations are used on Harleys right now, though they are appearing on competitor’s bikes.

    #22895
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    wbsprudels
    Participant

    My feelings today upon hearing this news are of loss. I took the Riders Edge course back in September of 2008 and earning my endorsement on a Buell Blast. I then proceeded to buy a Buell Blast to continue my motorcycling education. Though I no longer own a Buell, the Buell Blast was “the girl that brought me to the dance.” Just the other day I was daydreaming of owning a touring XB12XT.

    A sad day, indeed.

    #22896
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    eon
    Participant

    Well, here is my opinion based on few facts and lots of assumptions :)

    The Buell/HD partnership was always a strange marriage. If there is one thing HD does stunningly well it is selling a lifestyle. Unfortunately that lifestyle is at complete odds with sport bikes and that seemed to come through in peoples experiences at the dealerships. Folks who buy Harleys rave about their dealership experiences, folks who want Buell complain about it. Personally, I would rather have fewer outlets who are enthusiastic about their product than many who treat it with disdain.

    The Buell brand on the racetrack was a bit of a joke. I don’t follow motorcycling racing much but I have ready many posts by people who do who laugh at them. Not sure if this was justified or not but these are potential owners and their perception of the brand was anything but good. I cannot recall anyone ever defending the brand. If any of you watched the Twist the Throttle series on tv you will remember that EVERY company went racing to sell their bikes. If you go racing and are a laughing stock then you are not going to sell many bikes. Better to not race at all (maybe Spaz and Eternal can chip in here).

    Some of the people on here who expressed an interest in Buell did so because they wanted to buy American. While this is an admirable trait it is a shaky foundation to base a company on. To my mind Harley is the only company who have made that a successful strategy. Growing up in Britain in the 70’s I remember many “Buy British” campaigns. Today the entire British car and motorcycle industry is gone. All British car companies today are fronts for German or American corporations. The one exception to this rule is of course Triumph Motorcycles. It is worth noting that they too folded but were bought over by a local businessman who turned them around. He did this by copying Japanese manufacturing techniques and building quality, desirable bikes.

    Perhaps he could be a model for Buell. Give up the dream about winning races and concentrate on building a successful company.

    Oh and it’s worth noting that HD is selling MV Augusta. I’m thinking there has been an internal shakeup at HD and they are focusing on their core product. It’s also worth noting that HD’s shares have risen 47% this year so if the company is really in trouble then they must have been telling some large porkies.

    #22897
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    JackTrade
    Participant

    Eon, agree on the racing part. Buell either needed to get serious about racing (which you can’t do with antiquated aircooled engines), or they needed to forget it and concentrate on “real world” riding. They never seemed to be able to make up their mind, and they weren’t big enough to do both.

    When I first got into Buells a few years back, their whole thing was “we build bikes for the real world, for riders who value the immediacy of the motorcycle riding experience above all.” That philosophy was the big reason I fell in love with ’em.

    They weren’t repli-racers with capabilities that 95% of their riders will never tap, they weren’t chromed easy chairs for riding around the block making noise…they were visceral machines for people who liked the twisties, who wanted to be intimately connected to the experience of riding and who didn’t care about how fast they went, but rather how much they were involved in it.

    Their (now) shortlived “book of Buell” outlaw sportbiker thing was a step away from that, in the wrong direction.

    Re HD’s financials, it’s still unclear how much into the subprime mess they are…shares may be up now, but as more things come to light, that could change rapidly. Hopefully, their steps now are just in time to prevent some really bad outcomes.

    #22908
    Avatar
    eternal05
    Participant

    Buell was recently married to the AMA, as controlling body the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG) has been favoring the domestic manufacturer heavily. In a very controversial move, the Buell 1125R was allowed to race in the middleweight class…yes, that’s right. Not alongside 1000cc I-4s, but rather 600cc I-4s like my GSX-R600 and the CBR600RRs. DMG/AMA claimed that the super-literbike was at a disadvantage thanks to its V-Twin engine, yet Danny Eslick won the Daytona Superbike Championship, and in some races made it abundantly clear how superior the power delivery of his steed was. In several early season races, he’d pull way far away at the beginning of the race, comfortably cruising and burning his lead for the remainder for an easy victory.

    The whole thing is so messed up (i.e. the combination of Buell’s shutdown, the AMA/DMG non-sense, DMG perversion of AMA motorsports), I don’t really know what to say about it.

    #22909
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    megaspaz
    Participant

    The DMG did what no one thought was possible… bring the AMA lower than the previous governing body did. Rolling starts? Safety car? :-/

    But they did create a front runner out of a historically mid pack rider… There’s a reason why Mladin’s leaving and it isn’t because he’s old and washed up.

    #22910
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    briderdt
    Participant

    What Buell dealerships? Really.

    Sure, they’re marketed only in the H-D shops. There are, what, 5 within a half-hour drive of my house. And I went to EVERY ONE of them looking specifically for the Buells. And only ONE of them had more than maybe 3-4 bikes on the floor. DOZENS of Harleys. 3-4 Buells, and only the one (the one next to Renton Motorcycles) had the Blast and the 1125r.

    So the complaint that people wouldn’t go into the dealership to look for a sport bike is spot on — one because most people who weren’t savvy to the industry wouldn’t even look at a Buell to begin with, and second, because even the ones who did had a hard time finding them, even with FIVE H-D dealerships close by.

    #22911
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    eternal05
    Participant

    AMA is going to be the next NASCAR. *tear*

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