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.
“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.
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.