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R.I.P. Buell Motorcycles

Updated on October 30, 2009

It's no surprise that I never much cared for the look of most Buell motorcycles, and one was even at the head of the list of the Ugliest Motorcycles in history. However, what just happened to Buell motorcycles is nothing short of a crying shame, and it marks a day when all American motorcyclists have to be, at least in part, in mourning.

The news has just hit that the Harley Davidson motorcycle company will be closing its Buell subsidiary. Not selling it off, or letting the current managementĀ attempt a leveraged buyout, but closing it outright. Buell will let its last employee go just before Christmas. Happy holidays to you too!

Check the video message that the company is gone right from an emotionally-shaken founder Erik Buell:

The reasons for the closure are obvious. Not enough blind motorcyclists in the world who could overlook the incredibly ugly styling which was the Buell trademark. Buell barely ever sold more than 5,000 units per year and in the motorcycle business that's junior ankle biter status at best. I've been harping on and on in my Hubs about Buell's retch-inducing styling, and it just goes to prove that I was right all along.

The reasons for not even attempting to sell Buell in any way to any one are quite obvious as well. We live at a time when it is next to impossible to get a credit card or a home mortgage, let alone refinance a money losing motorcycle manufacturer. Leveraged buyouts may very well be a thing of the past, when investment banking was not a dirty word, and Lehman Brothers still occupied hundreds of thousands of pricy Manhattan commercial square feet.

Basically who is going to loan Erik Buell the money to keep his company going? No one. So it will be closed, the parts sold off for pocket money, and the company that started in a garage nearly a quarter century ago, now will no longer even have the garage. The typical rags to riches to rags story which is all too frequent in the midst of the Obamacession.

Yeah, you know... the Obamacession... the one that the White House has been trying to convince Wall Street no longer exists. Happy days are here again! For everyone except the American taxpayer, businessperson and consumer, of course...

Quite surprisingly Harley Davidson announced at the same time that they would also be seeking a buyer for their Italian business, MV Agusta and Cagiva. The ink on the purchase contract is still wet: Harley paid almost $110 million for the firm barely 15 months ago. This is clearly a case of buy high sell low, as if the folks over in Milwaukee think that their Varese asset is going to be turned into a cheque for $110 million they've been having more than just a beer or two at last night's H.O.G. function.

MV Agusta sells one particular model of motorcycle for upwards of $120,000. Exactly what a motorcycle does that makes it worth that much is a complete mystery to me, and apparently also to the vast throngs of international buyers which have shunned the brand. Thus Harley bled more red ink at the time that it least needed it, and now it's trying to get out of the profoundly bad deal they made just last year. Although commercial banking in Europe didn't quite take the shin kicking that it did on this side of the pond, the bottom line still is that it would be an immensely convoluted set of procedures to be able to work a leveraged buyout of MV Agusta and I, for one, would be profoundly surprised if any private investor is willing to take on a business that sells motorcycles that no one in their right mind could possibly ever afford.

The most serious repercussion of all this divestiture is the effect on the Grand Old Harley Davidson Company itself. For the first time since the very bad old AMF days, an unbiased observer has to legitimately wonder if there will be a Harley Davidson in a couple of years. A company like that cannot bleed so much money for so long without having to take extremely drastic, even Draconian measures. However, Harley Davidson is an American icon, and it seems inevitable that the marque will survive in one way or another.

After all, we live in Obamarxist times. How long will we have to wait until we see Harley get a huge bailout cheque from the American taxpayer? After all, the money sucked away by the IRS has been funneled into all sorts of down on their luck enterprises, so can Harley be far behind?

We now have Government Motors and soon we may have Harley Federalson. The insanity of communist bottomless checkbook corporate economics continues.

May the good Lord have mercy on the American taxpayers, at the time of their greatest need.


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      I've ridden several Buells and they're truly fun sportsbikes. I never said they were lousy bikes, just that the vast majority of them look like Joan Rivers in the morning before she applies her makeup with a trowel. Buell isn't going to be bought up by anyone. The assets are just gonna be sold off piece by piece and it will be another footnote in motorcycle history. It's over folks. Cope with it.

    • profile image

      JJ 8 years ago

      I'm going to assume for a second that Hal has never ridden a Buell... I own both a Lighting and an 1125R and have to say I'm thrilled with both. Although I am not too pleased with H-D right now I must say compared to a Honda or Yamaha they are "priced right". It is possible to buy a Sportster for "about", if not, the same price as a Honday Shadow and get a bike with a better paint job and fit and finish. Honda builds a great machine, as do the other Japanese bike makers, however I'm tired of hearing Harleys are over priced. The chrome on a Harley actually looks like metal versus the "chrome clad" look of the other bikes.

      I really hope Buell gets bought up by another company... they build awesome motorcycles that are fun to ride. Harley made a mistake and maybe they will do the right thing before it is too late.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Actually, the statement that you share the IQ of a squirrel is fact, as is the statement that most Buells would scare small children with their profound ugliness. Those are facts, not opinions. Your comment about HD's marketing deficiencies is so profoundly dumb that it is rejected by 99.37% of all squirrels surveyed. Therefore, I must amend my previous statement. You're not even as bright as the average squirrel! :P

    • profile image

      doug s. 8 years ago

      hal regurgitates:

      "doug s.: HD knows nothing about marketing, huh? A company which has been repeatedly named by marketing and advertising associations as the best marketer in the world... uh huh... MORON!"


      yust cuz h-d *USED TO* know how to market to boomers doesn't mean it still knows what it's doing - if it wants to continue w/its present customer base, it's time to start marketing h-d golf carts, electric wheelchairs, canes, adult diapers, caskets, tombstones...

      buells, (which are beautiful btw), are bikes for folks who actually want to *RIDE*. and yes - h-d is clueless in its marketing skills for folks who consider motorcycling an *ACTIVITY*, not a spectator sport. one needs to change w/the times, and h-d shutting down buell is a clear indicator that it's now swimming against the tide. too many new riders are more interested in motorcycles that can actually go around a corner at the speed limit or faster, as opposed to one that looks cool parked at the local redneck bar.

      hal then further regurgitates:

      "Most Buells are uglier than a Halloween mask "


      is this a fact? or an opinion? if you think it's a fact, then you don't know what the meaning of "fact" is. if you think it's an opinion, well, everyone is entitled to theirs. mine, and that of many many others is diametrically opposed to yours.

      doug s.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      I love it! Some numskull just called me every dirty name in the book because:

      "I have posted under a couple different names and you do not allow the truth to be put on here"

      This guy is soooooooooooooooooo stupid that he doesn't realize that's the reason WHY I'm deleting his comments! He doesn't know I can see the IPs of each commenter and I'm not going to let one moron look like a mob!


    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Oh what a put down! I'm wounded to the core! I might need years of therapy!

      Dolt! :P

    • profile image

      mike 8 years ago

      "mike: Your comment is SO stupid, that it staggers the imagination. "

      Im sure it doesn't take much to stagger your imagination. Don't quit your day job.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Mommy drop you on your head a few times, did she? :)

    • profile image

      4Cammer 8 years ago

      Hal Licino:

      Cammer: I don't have to paint the Mona Lisa to recognize it's a work of art, bozo! :)

      Mommy not give you enough attention, did she?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      MSGT S: #1) Most Buells are uglier than a Halloween mask (thought it was apropos given the date today...). #2) As for Buell getting money, how is that a false statement, Einstein? Where's the money? What's happening with Buell motorcycle manufacturing other than getting shut down? No one in their right mind (and I can understand you may not fit that parameter) would argue that point. Let me introduce you to a factor that may be new to you: REALITY! Sheesh!

      Rex: Are you as nuts as your buddy above? Who said that Buells were not innovative, nor hard work, blah blah blah. I even went on the record on this website stating that there were a couple of Buells that weren't SO ugly that I could stand them. But remember REALITY? Buell couldn't sell enough bikes so they're DEAD, nice people or not.

      Hank: Where are you getting your Buell sales figures, dude? Quote the source or shut up. Besides, EVEN IF YOU ARE CORRECT, 2006 is ancient history. Buell was a huge drag on HD and they had no choice but to jettison it. AGAIN: REALITY!

      Lonnie: Thank you for being reasonable. You seem to be the only one in a while.

      mike: Your comment is SO stupid, that it staggers the imagination. What does anyone like you who is riding a Fisher Price three wheeler know about motorcycles? :P

    • profile image

      mike 8 years ago

      Buell was building some of the best bikes they have ever built. The company was showing real growth and was cut off just as it was about to hit its stride.

      The 1125r is an amazing looking motorcycle. Having some pretend "reporter" with a cat head sitting on a 70s motorcycle tell me what an ugly motorcycle looks like... WOW.

      OH BTW, Get some facts before you spew your dribble next time. I could have guessed and got more accurate info than you have here.

    • profile image

      Lonnie 8 years ago

      Hank, I believe your facts are in err. Buell never has sold 12,000 bikes in one year. H-D sales may be down, but are still better than every other manufacturer. The fact that you could still get 2008 Buell 1125's of the dealer showroom floor after 2 years and at a substantial discount doesn't exactly make one think that Buells were selling. Bash anyone that doesn't worship EB, Buell is no more, get over it.

    • profile image

      Hank 8 years ago

      Your facts are in err.

      Buell, of the 3 American motorcycle companies, was the only one showing growth. (Source: Harley-Davidson and Victory 3Q financials.

      Buells numbers, you are right, were not big. But you said 5,000, you were shy by about 7,000 per year.

      The reason for dispatching Buell had much more to do with two internal disasters at Harley-Davidson, the Street Rod and the XR1200. Both ran tens of millions over budget and are showing very sluggish sales.

      If HD is the "king of all marketing", please share with us why their numbers were off 84%.


      You spoke but said little.

    • profile image

      Rex  8 years ago

      I guess anyone can write anyone on the internet. All your personal opinion because your facts are not true.

      Buell motorcycles are some of most innovative motorcycles being produced and a true story of hard work, and determination on Erik's part.

      The people that worked for Erik loved working for Erik. They decided they did not need the union at their workplace, because they were a part of the business and were treated fairly on their job, and they enjoyed making a great product for great Enthusiasts.

      Honda said that you meet the nicest people on a Honda. I believe you meet some of your best friends on a Buell. Just talk with Buell Enthusiasts. We have made friends for life.

      The Homecomings each year at the Buell factory were fantastic. You always felt welcomed and it wasn't fake, and it wasn't to make money. It was to show their appreciation to the people that loved the product they made.

      Buells have always been works of art in my opinion. The Manta Ray Tank on the tubers. The RSS 1200 bodywork, the RR bodywork, The S2 bodywork, the look of the S1 white lightning. Not all were perfect. The X1 left a little to be desired, the Blast was okay, but not perfect, but not all bikes are perfect. I am a motorcycle enthusiast. I love all kinds. I think we will see the Buell in the future be classified along with the Vincents, BSA's, Triumphs, Nortons, etc. as bikes everyone wants to have.

      Personally, nothing is better than riding my M2 on the road. It handles great, rides great, sounds fantastic, and you cannot stop anywhere without people stopping to ask you questions about this great bike.

      Each to his own opinion. Personally, I like my Buells. thanks REX

    • profile image

      MSGT S 8 years ago

      Your article is based on conjecture and faulty logic.

      “Not enough blind motorcyclists in the world who could overlook the incredibly ugly styling which was the Buell.” I would say that is about the most subjective comment you could make highlighting your own opinion and not everyone’s opinion.

      “Basically who is going to loan Erik Buell the money to keep his company going? No one.” This is a false statement.

      Fact, an innovative American company has gone under due in part to the economy and in part due to the incompetence of corporate HD.

      Fact, 180 more Americans are out of work.

      Fact, Buell motorcycles were innovative and unique and the riders are some of the most loyal riders on the roads, more so than HD riders due to the fact that Erik Buell is very assessable to them.

      You may want to google the history of Buell, it is a ture American story and far from over.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      maltesegirl: Let's face it, exactly how much market is there in a recession for a toy that often costs well over $25,000?

      Dustin: I find it difficult to believe that HD would hire you in any capacity but sewage unclogger. Your opinion is noted and filed where it belongs, in the trash.

      Paoli: Thanks, I appreciate it.

      Andy: Keith Wandell gets a base salary of $975,000 and with some options, etc. it's likely in the $1.5 million category. Does he earn it? I severely doubt it. :)

    • profile image

      Andy 8 years ago

      Twenty million a year in losses? Isn’t that what they are paying the top dog at Harley to make all those great decisions? Oh wait let’s see—get rid of MV or a couple of top dead beats? Hmmmm. Tell ya what, you take the top dogs and I’ll take MV


    • profile image

      Paoli 8 years ago

      Good write up, Hal. Well said.

      I doubt we see this kind of writing in American- Canadian motorcycle rags.

      The Europeans are more at the ball, they don't let emotions take over opinions.

    • profile image

      Dustin 8 years ago

      this guy who wrote this article WOW. You Willy G's right hand man? What Harley did with buell could very well ruin HD's rep for good. I work for HD and ride both brands. I also asure you I will never buy another HD motorcycle again. The company is going in the wrong direction. Everything that is good they trash and throw to the side. They do it with in their own main line. They drop the nightrain? Best selling uncruiser like softail in the line and by far the best looking softail. Its all opinions but the cat that wrote this article yours STINKS!!!! You prob cruise around on your goldwing and that great im sure you couldn't handle a 1125r or a nice tuber.

    • maltesegirl profile image

      maltesegirl 8 years ago

      i also agree. hopefully things will get better down the road.i have a harley and they are nice bikes but even they are not selling right now.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      MKenney: Well, it seems that the younger riders were far more interested in chicks, since Buell barely ever sold 5,000 in a year. Numbers rule.

      Andy: Sure, dude, why don't you, since you are the expert about motorcycle company finances, shell out $20 million a year just to cover MV's losses? :)

      Cammer: I don't have to paint the Mona Lisa to recognize it's a work of art, bozo! :)

      elvisizer: Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on your butt on the way out. :)

      carl colen: Well, Erik did use Sportster engines! The question is what the hell they wanted to do with MV!

      doug s.: HD knows nothing about marketing, huh? A company which has been repeatedly named by marketing and advertising associations as the best marketer in the world... uh huh... MORON!

      jdg: Read my Hubs on Obama being a Communist and you'll understand! :)

    • profile image

      jdg 8 years ago

      Agree with you on most of your motorcycle opinions, except I think the Suzuki Savage 650 is ugly, but what's with the politics? This whole crash can be traced to Reagonomics and the whole idea that you don't need to pay your own way in this world. Ronald and the Bushes abandoned traditional conservative values and decided that you don't need fiscal responsibility in government. Hey, let's boost spending and cut taxes. We'll all be rich. And you know, they were right, except the country got bankrupt.

      Obama has been in office for 9 months. The crash happened last September. Bush authored the huge November bailouts.

      Come on, you seem a sensible man so stop the name calling and put your shoulder to the wheel and help out. I don't know how but I do know why, because the world needs a strong USA.

    • profile image

      doug s. 8 years ago

      buell's are fantastic looking motorcycles. especially for sports bikes. and, unlike h-d's, they can go around corners at speeds approaching the speed limit, lol! the only problem h-d had w/the buell's is they need to be marketed, unlike h-d, which has its reputation on kitsch & nothing else. h-d knows nothing about marketing - it will really be in trouble when it actually has to start marketing their cruisers, as the kitsch wears off, and newer generations of bikers want bikes that have at least a modicum of performance.

      and, as far as obomarecession? what have you been smoking? what rock were you hiding under for the prior eight years before obama got elected? it's a bushrecession, likely will last a long time. you think mclame & putrid could have done any better?!? the damage was done before barack ever took office.

      why not yust go crawl back under your rock, so you can remain in the dark, instead of spewing your ignorance here?

    • profile image

      carl colen 8 years ago

      writing on the wall...old school harley biker types don't mix with younger high tech sport enthusiasts. buell water...harley oil. what were they thinking??

    • profile image

      elvisizer 8 years ago

      wow. this is the first time i've been here, definitely going to be my last. I thought I'd be reading an article about Buell going out of business, not a barely coherent rant about styling and right-wing political idiocy.

    • profile image

      4Cammer 8 years ago

      Hal, what kind of bikes have you designed?

    • profile image

      Andy 8 years ago


      Love Harley Davidson motorcycles, detest Harley Davidson Company, (i.e. upper management). Hope they go broke and some Hell’s Angel type buys them. Their decision to sell MV Agusta just proves that they not only have no brains but they also have no pea-nuts. (All they know is money, they don’t know nutun bout no bikes)


      p.s. I dig your subjects

    • profile image

      MKenney 8 years ago

      Your comments on the styling are subjective. I'm 30 and I think my Firebolt is one of the best looking bikes out there. My friends think so too.

      And while we're on the subjectivity of styling, I think big chrome Harleys are ugly. The difference is I don't blog about it unless I feel compelled to respond, which in this case I do.

      Another thing to consider - what is Harley's strategy on attracting younger riders now that Buell is going away? It is very short-sighted to kill off the one brand in the stable that appealed to younger riders. But then again, attracting younger riders is not something HD brass has been known for.

      My take is that you will see Buell again, and perhaps much sooner than you think. There are already reports of investor groups interested in a buyout. Time will tell, but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this. It's in Erik Buell's DNA to produce sport-bikes, not the overweight chrome couches that HD is known for.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Actually Harley Farquarson didn't get handouts but they did get a Reagan Administration tariff on imports of 750cc and up. It didn't do much as the Japanese just sleeved down to 700 for a couple of years.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      HF shouldn't exist anyway. They got too much government cheese for too long.


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