EBR TKO

January 30, 2017

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EBR TKO

The most recent incarnation of Erik Buell’s motorcycle company has been knocked down again. If this was boxing the referee would stop it.

But this is sport bikes, not a fight. All that is at stake is money, not blood and brain cells. And somebody out there who loves the idea of an American sport bike and who has a few million dollars burning a hole in his pocket might think Buell still has at least a puncher’s chance.

Erik Buell Racing, of East Troy, announced last Thursday that it was shutting down but it still hasn’t thrown in the towel.

Headwinds

“This difficult decision was based primarily on EBR facing significant headwinds with signing new dealers, which is key to sales and growth for a new company,” a press release said. “In addition, EBR has had limited production in 2016 and 2017 that was under goal. The combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

“EBR will continue to review strategic alternatives with interested investors regarding production operations.”

If the company is to be rescued, it better happen soon. “A sale of production equipment and excess parts will start in March,” the release said. In the meantime, EBR promises, the company will continue to honor warranties and provide support to its 17 dealers and their customers.

Long Prologue

Erik Buell has been the preeminent American sport bike designer for the last 35 years. He started his career at Harley-Davidson and founded Buell Motorcycle Company in 1983. A decade later, Harley bought just less than half of Buell. In 2003 Buell became a Harley subsidiary. The company dumped the sport bike line in October 2009. Buell built about 137,000 motorcycles – a little less than 5,300 bikes a year – during the 26 years of its existence.

Erik Buell started EBR a month after Harley discontinued the motorcycle that wore his name. EBR became the anti-Harley: Its motorcycles were technologically advanced rather than nostalgic. The machine was the show, not the image. But the new Buell’s were too expensive to get much of a foothold in the sport bike market.

Buell closed his factory in April 2015. A year ago a company called Liquid Asset Partners bought the manufacturing assets and restarted production with the idea of building motorcycles while the new owners tried to sell the company.

In September 2016, EBR announced “Our dealers have had nice success selling bikes this summer and we have many new ones coming on. Our quality is continuously improving, our supplier relationships established, and now we are looking towards the future. This fall, we have something ‘Quick, Dark, and Low’ in the works that should be exciting for urban street riders, and we are making real progress on expanding the range of models of the 1190 platform, as well as developing and delivering accessories that our EBR riders want. There is a bright future for EBR, and as part of that, work is proceeding on a sub-$10k platform for 2018.”

The company’s current model, the 190RX USA cost $14,000 in white and yellow or $15,000 in black red or silver.

Erik Buell Racing has already survived for about seven years longer than it should have. The dream of an American supersport bike that could compete with Suzuki, Kawasaki and Ducati probably just evaporated. But the dream won’t officially end until sometime in March.

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9 Responses to “EBR TKO”

  1. Mercyful Fate Says:

    I would like to see an American made sport bike, competitively priced, offering equal-or-better performance than the imports, with a dealer and service network spanning the continent.

    That is, however, a huge undertaking and not achievable in today’s current marketplace with only a few million dollars.

    Harley could have been a dominant player in that space but failed to read the tea leaves similar to how Microsoft lost out to Apple regarding cell phones.

  2. Wino Enzed Says:

    The Sports bike market is fickle and as we age as a group the market will decline.
    Ask Ducati whose best seller is the Scrambler.
    He should of adapted and gone Adventure bike and maybe a flat track styled MotorCycle.
    What do they say about flogging a dead horse ?
    He did design the FXR rubber mount frame which many of us will of owned and ridden.It still has a strong following and I sure as shit enjoyed mine

  3. Road Rage Says:

    I hope Buell can get his show back on the road. He builds great bikes. I have ridden quite a few of them.

  4. Paladin Says:

    The other problem facing Buell is and was a lack of a racing pedigree. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc. have all at one time or another dominated on the world’s race tracks. The Buell is really just a Sportster dressed up in sport bike livery.

    For the price of a Buell, one can get a flickable sport bike, pushing 200 BHP with a suspension that’s second to none. Unfortunately, Buell was never a contender in the pond they were trying to swim in.

    Paladin

  5. The Confederate Celt Says:

    At one time, I hoped and believed that Victory Motorcycles would move in the direction of sport bikes; or, at least, Cafe Racers. I was wrong, but it sure would have been great to have been right.

  6. Iron Rider Says:

    Whoops double post, sorry bout that folks!

  7. Iron Rider Says:

    Buell is trying to tap into the Sport Bike market, the problem is that market is already saturated by the likes of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, Ducati among a couple others and I wont even mention all the Chinese manufacturers like Hysoung etc.

    The Sport Bike market is very competitive from the netry bikes and on up there is a ton of competition. Buell’s problem is his starter bikes are 14k and up and the established sport bike makers already provide bikes with a good bit of power and functionality and can do that affordably and at a profit and have long established dealers, service, parts and a customer base that is wide spread all over.

    Buell has limited dealers in place, limited parts and the people who can service and repair these bikes along with manufacturing that is costly and seems to have a high cost to produce the product. That is a recipe for failure.

    Everyone know’s Buells reputation in the motorcycle world, the problem is that it was at HD and Buell has been trying to create a Sport Bike that will have the loyalty and name that HD once carried ( and still does to a degree ) Buell motorcycles that were in the sportbike genre were dismal at best and looked like shit in my opinion, and were problematic and didnt exactly win over sport Bike enthusiasts, and they went the way of the dodo…extinction.

    Buell is trying to compete in a saturated market with an already loyal following who are not about to buy a 14k or 15k “starter” bike that is unproven and has no support system in place from repairs and service to parts to dealers to take it to.

    You can not beat a dead horse which is what Buell is trying to do, I would have thought after Buell failed with Harley Davidson that it would have signaled to him that trying to compete in trying to compete in that segment of the market is a death knell unless you have proven product and the ability to make a profit while turning out a reliable bike.

    I expect Buell to fail again and somehow pop back into this market once again, but if Buell think’s he can charge 14k and 15k for his bike right out of the gate, I think he will be doomed to fail again unless he can wow the fuck out of those that ride sport bikes, and I dont see that happening

  8. IronRider Says:

    Buell is trying to tap into the Sport Bike market, the problem is that market is already saturated by the likes of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, Ducati among a couple others and I wont even mention all the Chinese manufacturers like Hysoung etc.

    The Sport Bike market is very competitive from the netry bikes and on up there is a ton of competition. Buell’s problem is his starter bikes are 14k and up and the established sport bike makers already provide bikes with a good bit of power and functionality and can do that affordably and at a profit and have long established dealers, service, parts and a customer base that is wide spread all over.

    Buell has limited dealers in place, limited parts and the people who can service and repair these bikes along with manufacturing that is costly and seems to have a high cost to produce the product. That is a recipe for failure.

    Everyone know’s Buells reputation in the motorcycle world, the problem is that it was at HD and Buell has been trying to create a Sport Bike that will have the loyalty and name that HD once carried ( and still does to a degree ) Buell motorcycles that were in the sportbike genre were dismal at best and looked like shit in my opinion, and were problematic and didnt exactly win over sport Bike enthusiasts, and they went the way of the dodo…extinction.

    Buell is trying to compete in a saturated market with an already loyal following who are not about to buy a 14k or 15k “starter” bike that is unproven and has no support system in place from repairs and service to parts to dealers to take it to.

    You can not beat a dead horse which is what Buell is trying to do, I would have thought after bUell failed

  9. Dasein Says:

    Talk to Trump, seriously. The guy’s busy, but he seems to work about 30 hrs. a day anyway, probably has a few minutes. Who knows what he would/could do? He made himself President just by wanting to. This bike company might appeal to him as a significant, practical and applicable symbol of what he’s trying to do, and I’d bet he has ideas nobody’s ever thought of. There would also be the added benefit of pissing off half the country, plus 3-5 million illegals, plus all the muslims. Win win.

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