Buell Motorcycles To Go Out of Business

10/15/2009 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

After releasing grim third-quarter financials today, Harley-Davidson has also announced that it is discontinuing Buell Motorcycles. In a somber video (posted after the jump), Erik Buell confirms the news, and praises the Buell team for taking on the industry giants with “this little American sportbike company.” Buell will continue to sell its motorcycle stock, and Harley-Davidson will continue to honor any warranties and part needs for Buell motorcycles.

With sales down 21.3% from last year, and net income down 84%, Harley-Davidson is feeling the full crunch of the economy now. Closing Buell may make sense in the short-term on the balance sheet, but also takes away any hope of the company moving beyond the dwindling baby-boomer cruiser market.

With this news, also comes the annoucnement that Harley-Davidson will be selling MV Agusta, making it clear which brand is the basket HD is putting all its eggs in. “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,” as Keith Wandell, the Harley-Davidson’s new CEO puts it.

The decision will result in a reduction over time of about 80 hourly production positions and about 100 salaried positions at Buell. Employment will end for a majority of Buell employees Dec. 18, 2009.

Harley-Davidson expects that with the closing of Buell, a one-time charge of $215 million to $245 million will occur in 2009 and 2010, which is an increase of $55 million from the estimate provided back July 16, 2009. However, Harley-Davidson also estimates an annual ongoing savings of approximately $140 million to $150 million from this restructuring.

Harley-Davidson also expects to incur approximately $125 million in one-time costs related to the discontinuation of the Buell product line. $115 million of that amount will be incurred this year.

Official Statement from Buell Motorcycles:

EAST TROY, Wis. — (Thursday, October 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® 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® 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.

  • Hayabrusa

    What a shocker – H-D making more nonsensical decisions! They must be hanging out too much with DMG! Seriously (all rants aside), I’m not sure how SHRINKING the brand appeal is supposed to provide long-term GROWTH? I’m thinking in terms of all riders who don’t ride H-D – the vast majority of bikers worldwide. 2/3 of their chance to recruit any non-cruiser riders just drove away (the final 1/3 being the XR1200). I guess the theory must be to build fewer, more expensive bikes?

  • I cannot say how bummed I am about this. I have always loved the Buell brand and what they stood for, and for me the fact that H-D owned Buell was a bright spot for me regarding the H-D brand. Now there’s really not much to pull me to Harley at all. I really wanted Bueel to succeed, and could definitely have seen myself purchasing a bike with their new liquid-cooled engine once the whole package was a little more refined.

    Buell, you will be missed.

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  • Cactus

    Can’t say I’m surprised really. The Buell brand has always been a niche, appealing to those who want a sportbike, but the ability to buy into the whole HD street cred thing. Think of going to Sturgis on a GSXR, or a Buell, which guy gets hassled the least? The sportster engined models at least looked good. That new thing they tried to market was just too darned ugly. However I do hate to see the company fold. Eric and the crew did an amazing job of taking on the big guys. Hey, I just thought of something, who’s going to provide the NASCAR superike series with a pace bike????

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  • cffhello

    Buell was destine to fail when they tried to sell them in HD dealers at first all the dealers carried them (either in a locked non lite room or a separate locked building, never main show room. You had to ask to see them and a sales person would take you to them). Yes Buell is a great motorcycle!

  • Patron

    I ride a Buell. But I didnt buy it for any HD street cred. I bought it because it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a street bike. It really is like no other bike I’ve owned or riden. cffhello was right tho. HD killed this bike way before this, by completely missing the mark trying to market the bike to HD consumers. They are night and day in terms of what they provide the rider. And the sales and service for these bikes is hands down the worst out there. I use a multi dealer shop that sells and services Buell 70 miles away from where I live. The only place I found that treats me like a real customer. The HD dealerships in my area had no interest in my business. Its sad they are shutting down, but not a shock

  • Bill Smith

    If you look exclusively at Buell numbers, their inability to innovate to or beyond the level of the Asian/Italian manufacturers, and Eric Buell’s stubborn insistence to cram bad V-twin engines in poorly designed sport bikes you cannot act surprised.

    Eric touts innovations that in fact were nothing more than over-priced poor concepts confirmed by leading competitors (there are no adaptations of Eric’s ideas overseas). Eric, there are very valid reasons why the REAL sport bike designers won’t support fuel in frame, calipers in swing arms, single rim-mounted brake rotors, large (ugly) under-frame muffles, and belt drive (which I happen to like). They were all bad Ideas formed in cheese chalets and back-yard beer festivals in Milwaukee Wisconsin!

    Placing Harley engines (excluding the V-Rod/Rotax engine) in sport bikes made Eric the laughing stock of the sport bike industry. Buell was never a threat to the Asian/Italian competitors and was always the bastard step-child of Harley Davidson. A combination destined for failure.

    I was always quite surprised the Harley Davidson (HD) corporate culture didn’t fix the obvious problems at Buell (in the design shop) and the lack of any real marketing to the proper target segment. But then again, HD knew Eric had been designing substandard product that just could not compete with power-house designers/manufactures like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Ducati.

    Good luck Eric,

    The sad owner of a Buell 1125r

  • I love my Buell S1 and I like the brand. Nevertheless I didn’t step into a Buell store for the last 8 years and I won’t miss the company at all. Why? Introducing the XB models, Buell became „different in any sense” to me. Eric wanted to build a new best street-surfing sportbike, all his innvotions were subsequent needs to achieve his aim. And he succeeds (more or less). All later innovations were ridiculous and complied only marketing and PR needs.

    Good luck, Eric. You better go back in your old garage and leave the marketing guys outside…


    I AM SHOCKED. I love my 1125r I bought it in 08 its by far a better bike than the other sport bikes. I was looking foward to my next buell purchase. H D i have never owned and now will never own. what a stupid decision to close tha best co. Buell is like David vs Goliath, taking on the sport bike giants. I hope this isnt the last we see of them. I think Eric would be better off with out the likes of H D. hanging over the buell name. I would love to see buell spred its wings and really take off. The best to you Eric, and H D you guys can stick it. you have helped me choose my next bike and it wont be a leaking slow over priced pile with H D on it.


    Check again Bill Smith, buell is 2009 ama champ. they wised up and got rid of slow H D engine, and put in a winner!!!!

  • Richard W.

    The Buell was always just a hopped up Sporty, yea, alot of inovation, but by 07-08-09 it had about wrung out any of the available horsepower they were ever going to get and still have a (Bike the public could ride) The addition of the Rotax motor, while it kicked butt, was more a fix than anything. The Buell lost it’s identity with the Rotax, it became something between a kit bike and a Harley chassis. That was what brought down the company I believe. Well the other thin was that to take a Buell to the HD shop for parts or work, it was like being a ‘Redheaded stepchild’, they most always had to special order a part or just said ‘we dont handle Buell’ With that kind of indifference, sure Beull people became dis-enchanted with the bike and Brand. I truely think that Harley Davidsons days are numbered. It’s persona grew out of the 50’s and 60’s along with the ‘Rebel without a cause’ lifestyle, simply because other than some British stuff here, they had an established pressence. Bikes-Herley’s-tough guys…… and then they tried to change the image, to be able to sell the ‘Good O’l American Bike’ to the mainstream, and loose the Hells Angle image, which only stirred bad publicity for them. The Japanese bikes are far and away, more reliable, quicker, faster, lighter, and less expensive. There’s just no way that non-Japanese can compete. European bikes being a novelty, or rather typically a ‘POSER’ bike. While the European bikes are better built and have the ‘EXOTIC’ pressence, they to can not compete with Japan. Buell was a fun bike, but above and beyond that, just a curiosity………………The King is Dead, Long Live The King………

  • Chaz A

    With all due respect….. The street cred thing? Wha???? Just go and ride a Buell… then you will know why we bought one. The things are just plain fun to ride. I’m not looking to go 180… I just want to ride, and have a damn good time doing it.

    I’m not sure what killed Buell, but they definitely were heading in the right direction. Most of the negative comments come from non-riders, or those who have never taken one out for a ride.

  • Now I'll never get a Buell; I'm SO sad. It was my dream bike.

  • randy

    i went and got a 07 xb12 s i fuckin love it it is like no other HD made a bad decision in the 70s remember AMF horse shit bike good bowling pins …. this is not the first time HARLE EXECTS have had there heads up there ass…. the guy who made this decision has never riden a BUELL why to keep your head up ERIC BUELL

  • Dave Harris

    I am a very satisfied owner of an ’07 XB12STT and agree with all of the ‘fun’ comments and most of the interesting reads on this site…at least from those who have given Buell an honest opinion through ownership or at least had some ride time on the seat of one anyways. That being said, I’ve ridden, raced and adventure toured motorcycles since the age of 12 and own and ride some very adrenaline filled machines such as an RD350, RZ350, ATC250R, ’09 V-Max, ’08 Hayabusa, Can-am Spyder, Can-am Qualifier IV175 endurocrosser, XS1100 Midnight Special, KLR650…anyways, the list goes on. Without a doubt, my ‘supermotard on steroids’ Buell definately fulfills everything that I ride motorcycles for…and if you haven’t figured out what that is yet, it’s not for the latest black dealership t-shirt, CVO paint scheme or wanna-be chromed out ornament. I fully agree that Buell did not stand a chance in H-D dealerships that in my opinion, market somewhat of a broken record puppet show…ya think?… and some actual knowledgeable motorcycle enthusiasts/employees that I have spoken to at select H-D/Buell dealerships specifically on the Buell marketing efforts…or lack there of, did concur. Aside from the marketing nightmare, it is amazing what Eric Buell actually accomplished during the H-D/Buell years; taking an otherwise inferior v-twin powerplant, juicing it up, putting it into chassis design(s) that actually did handle well and (given the motors origin) surprisingly did not exhaust the rider, thanks to good suspension and brakes packages, and ultimately resulting in very little vibration at speed coming from the powerplant…really quite impressive actually. So what now? There’s no doubt in my mind that Eric Buell and Rotax/BRP will join in the near future and pursue developing multiple genres of amazing bikes. And as great a bike to ride as my Buell truly is, it was definately time for Eric to take his rider and performance focused ideas and innovation and move on to a company that’s not all about fashion statements or custom color options for the same ‘ol same ‘ol. We will see you on the road soon Eric! Breathe in that fresh already! “More speed, vicar!!”

  • Donny

    If you buy one will Harley Davidson service it for real ?… What about parts ?…. My dream bike was they XB12SS kick ash translucent ,or black with a triple tail system. I think they anti Buell garbage out there was more then the pro Buell ads and Fellow Harley riders support . I think people do not realize how cool Buell motorcycles were . A belt drive you never have to touch ,ever! . It had 103 hp 84 ft/lbs of torque . Power band that pumped out 85% of the 1203cc engines power ,god what a machine . With the XB12SS i would have dune some touring with Halrey people . Another great thing the bike was built to last you did not need to trade it every few years . The bikes weight was around
    395lbs and with mass centralization it handled like air . The low unsprung weight is nice as well . (PS) DAMIT ! : (