Buell: Sadness, Anger and Rumors

For a motorcycle brand with such a relatively small group of owners, Buell Motorcycles evoke fierce loyalty.  So, H-D’s decision to kill the brand hasn’t been well received.

As an expression of that displeasure, Hell For Leather Magazine is offering special T-shirts, for both men and women.

"Free Eric Buell" T-Shirt
"Free Eric Buell" T-Shirt

That’s the anger.  Now comes the sadness.  Hell For Leather also has this picture, taken of a dumpster outside Buell’s East Troy factory.

Not all of the baby turtles make it to the ocean.
Not all of the baby turtles make it to the ocean.

And now, finally, we come to the rumors.

I got a call this evening from a fellow who related a rumor that, just prior to the decision to eliminate Buell Motorcycles, Harley-Davidson had gotten an offer–or, at least, the proposal to make an offer–from Bombardier (the parent company of Victory Motorcycles and Can-Am Spyders) to purchase the Buell Division from H-D.

Now, nobody else I know has mentioned this, but I did find a mention of this rumor, or, rather, a similar one, at Motorcycle Daily:

There are of course rumors about Erik Buell traveling to Canada to meet with Bombardier (makers of the Can-Am Spyder). The font of this rumor, a guy posting on a chopper forum, claims a reliable source, but his credibility is undermined, as he lists his hometown as “Bonertown” in his profile.

So, I can definitely confirm that there is a rumor about Buell and Bombardier, for all the good that does you.  Unfortunately, that’s all I can confirm about Bombardier.  Unless Chopper-Boy from Bonertown has really good sources, it’s probably just an internet rumor, so you shouldn’t get your hopes up about Erik Buell applying for Landed Immigrant status in Montreal.

I can say this, however:  I do know that there are a couple of people outside Milwaukee who are very interested in talking to Erik Buell about…ummm…pursuing new challenges.  As soon as his 15-month non-compete agreement with H-D expires, of course.

And, for right now, that’s all I have to say about that.

UPDATE: What was I thinking?  Victory’s parent company is Polaris, not Bombardier.


Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for TechCentralStation.com. Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.

7 thoughts on “Buell: Sadness, Anger and Rumors”

  1. Dale,
    First off, I want to thank you for your insightful and informed commentary.  Hopefully you’ll be able to make some sense out of the seemingly incomprehensible acts of the Harley board.
    If BRP hasn’t made an offer for Buell, they damn well should consider it.  Their Rotax division lost a big revenue stream when Harley chopped the legs out from under Buell.  I assume they expected to supply a growing Buell for years and years to come.
    And not only did they lose the business, but they lost the opportunity that they seemingly would have had with the leaked Buell Superbike to once again supply a Superbike engine.   They can’t feel great about Aprilia going off on their own and I would expect they’d love the opportunity to take it to them head-to-head.
    Then consider the Can-Am Spyder.  BRP showed an interest in on-road vehicles with the Spyder and it would be nice to have something like a Buell to sell with it.  Not only would it give dealers more to work with and help justify their sales and servicing of the Spyder, but it would probably also give a little more legitimacy to the Spyder which is probably viewed by many as a not particularly serious sports machine.  The Buell Superbike could spread its halo effect to the Spyder.
    And of course the Can-Am dealers should be experienced with servicing Rotax engines and since Can-Am is involved in racing and they sell themselves as a performance brand, Buell and their race program and future Superbike program would be a perfect fit.
    I would also assume that BRP would be interested in the Rotax Buells and not have much need for the Harley variations.  That would take away part of the “integration” argument and BRP’s distribution, marketing etc. could handle the other “integration” issues.
    The new Superbike and Rotax only line would also give BRP the chance to say:  “This isn’t your father’s Harley-Buell.” and they could use that to distance themselves from some of Buell’s historical issues (with higher volume production, improved quality and the new Superbike, Buell was doing pretty well at putting the issues behind them themselves, but this break would be a perfect way to shift public perception and allow the public to assume that these bikes were better because of Rotax – rather than the mundane improvements that come with learning your product over the years).
    So if BRP didn’t make an offer, they really better think about it.
    . . . and if BRP made an offer and Harley turned it down, they’ve got some explaining to do.  Not only to their shareholders, but to the motorcycle community who have been patiently waiting to see what happens when all of Erik Buell’s ideas can come together without the anchor of Harley tied around his neck.
    Harley isn’t likely to find a more perfect suitor than BRP and they’re CERTAINLY not going to find a better suitor if they tell everyone they can’t sell Buell.
    If BRP has or will make an offer, Harley has a responsibility to either take it or open the floor to competitive bids.  It would be unconscionable for them to simply crush Buell when there are people out there willing to take the reins and give us the bike we’ve been waiting for.

  2. Dude,

    Victory is part of Polaris.  The Victory is more American the Hardley-Ableson in parts content, not to mention a much better motorcycle.

  3. Wait just a minute, Bombardier and BRP are not affiliated in any manner. I hope that MORE new BRP “Buell” motorcycles make it to market.

  4. Dale,
    To clarify:
    BRP and Bombardier are actually 2 separate companies.
    BRP was “sold off” from Bombardier about 5 years ago or so, while I was in that industry (Arctic Cat).
    BRP is made up of the Rotax, Evinrude/Johnson, Ski-Doo/Lynx, Sea-Doo and now Can-Am names in recreational products.
    Bombardier still has all the heavy industry stuff, like locomotives and jets.
    IIRC, the Bombardier family was heavily involved in the “purchase” of BRP from Bombardier.

  5. BRP and Bombardier are really joined at the hip.  Family members control both boards and I think a Bombardier is COTB of each company.  I suspect they can work closely together if needed.

    It would be very interesting to see what Erik could do with money and the resources of one of the transportation industires most advance companies.  I bet there I guys there who a bit about carbon fiber and ceramics 😉 

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