Buell’s Blast discontinued in dramatic fashion

Blast Away

Our September 2009 issue included a short piece lamenting Buell's entry-level Blast, and its general failure to convert the non-riding public into Buell-blooded bikers.
It turns out we weren't the only ones questioning the littlest Buell's relevance. When Buell revealed its 2010 lineup just days later, it announced the beleaguered "Be Last" would be discontinued. Without putting too fine a point on it, Buell posted a tongue-in-cheek page on its Web site showing a two-by-two cube of scrap metal where the non-existent "2010 Blast" should have appeared. The same page included two videos showing none other than Erik Buell himself joyfully lowering a perfectly good Blast into the crusher.

“The Buell Blast was a cute little motorcycle,” the site reads, “It just never made much of a sportbike. There’s nothing cute about racing or riding a sportbike the way it was meant to be ridden.”

We get it. Buell is a serious sportbike manufacturer, and it will no longer be distracted building pedestrian people movers for noobs who don’t know their ass from an apex. It’s a bold statement on Erik Buell’s part, right in line with the company’s “Ruthless Engineering” rebranding strategy spearheaded by its new ad agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Messages like this, along with cubic dollars pumped into AMA Pro Racing and other high-profile performance-oriented endeavors, show that Buell is dead serious (or seriously desperate) about repositioning itself as a core performance brand.

It’s a risky strategy, however, and one that could easily backfire. Erik Buell’s act of filicide-by-crusher will likely only alienate or outrage current Blast owners. No matter how compromised the final product, the Blast still carried Buell’s name on the tank, and sold for real money to real customers—most of whom, regardless of experience or expectations, remain loyal and enthusiastic about their chosen machine. How will these owners respond to being publicly mocked by the bike’s creator via viral video? For a company like Buell that was carried through so many tough times (remember those endless product recalls?) largely on customer loyalty, turning its back on its own buyers could be a risky strategy indeed.