After 26 years spent building American sportbikes, Erik Buell's eponymous motorcycle company has reached the end of the road. Parent company Harley-Davidson announced today that it will "discontinue" the Buell product line, in the wake of the dismal third-quarter financial results. Compared to the third quarter 2008, Harley-Davidson's sales are down 21.3 percent (from $1.42 billion to $1.12 billion), and net income has plummeted 84.1 percent (from $166.5 million to $26.5 million) over the same period. In addition to discontinuing the Buell brand, Harley-Davidson also announced that it would divest the MV Agusta/Cagiva properties, acquired last year at a cost of $109 million.
"The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful long-term growth," Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell said in a press release.
Operations at Buell's main production facility in East Troy, Wisconsin, have been halted, and that plant will close for good on December 18th. Erik Buell is in on-going discussions about whether or not he will remain with Harley-Davidson in a product development capacity, but no decisions have been made. A Harley-Davidson spokesperson told us that selling Buell is not an option. The Buell product line is too closely integrated with Harley-Davidson's operations and dealership network to separate and sell to an outside interest.
Closing Buell will result in the loss of 80 manufacturing jobs and 100 salaried positions in East Troy. This is in addition to the 1000 jobs Harley-Davidson cut earlier this year, along with temporary production shutdowns and other recently implemented cost-saving measures. This news comes on the heels of Buell winning the 2009 AMA Daytona SportBike championship-the company's first-ever AMA pro championship, and the first for an American motorcycle manufacturer since 1986 (the last year that road racing and dirt track results were combined into a single grand national championship).
Below is a video send-off from Erik Buell, posted earlier this morning on Buell's Web site. The company's official press release below the video:
BUELL OFFICIALS THANK CUSTOMERS, DEALERS AND EMPLOYEES FOR UNFORGETTABLE RIDE
EAST TROY, Wis. (Oct. 15, 2009) - Buell Motorcycle Company officials thanked the company's customers, employees and dealers for an unforgettable ride, following today's announcement by Harley-Davidson, Inc. that it will discontinue the Buell(r) product line as part of Harley-Davidson's go-forward business strategy. The new long-term strategy aims to drive Company growth through a focus of efforts and resources on the Harley-Davidson(r) brand.
"I want to personally thank all our past and present Buell employees, dealers and suppliers for their efforts. I also want to thank Buell motorcycle owners for their support and passion for the brand," said Buell Motorcycle Company President Jon Flickinger.
Flickinger said a limited number of new Buell motorcycles remain available for sale through authorized dealerships and production will wind down by October 30. He also stressed that Harley-Davidson will provide replacement parts and service through dealerships and that warranty coverage will continue as normal for Buell motorcycles.
"I will always be proud of what we have accomplished. It is a testimony to what a small group of passionate and inspired people can do, and with brilliant innovations, we've produced some of the best-handling bikes of all time," said Buell Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Erik Buell. "I personally look forward to exploring how I can continue to work with Harley-Davidson to bring advanced product technology to riders."
"I have also had the great fortune to meet and get to know many Buell riders over the years, and they are an amazing and interesting group of free thinkers," Buell said. "May you ride with pride into the future. And may your roads ahead be as adventuresome and rewarding as mine have been for the last 26 years."
A wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, Inc. since 1998, Buell Motorcycle Company was founded in 1983 by Erik Buell and produced more than 135,000 motorcycles. Over the past 26 years, Buell motorcycles won numerous design accolades and awards, and countless races and championships around the world, including the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike championship in 2009.