Harley says it's the end of the road for Buell
The final chapter in the story of Buell Motorcycle Co. may have been written as Harley-Davidson Inc. said Thursday it was shutting down the East Troy bike manufacturer it owns after more than a decade without a profit.
Buell, which began as an experiment in a Mukwonago barn 26 years ago and developed into a company that was acquired by Harley, has struggled in the recession.
It was just more than a month ago that a Buell 1125R won the coveted American Motorcycle Association's sport bike championship. It was the first pro championship for an American motorcycle manufacturer since 1986.
But this summer, Harley executives dropped plans for a $10 million Buell facility in the East Troy Business Park, saying they had taken a fresh look at the plans and decided the timing was wrong. Also, company founder Erik Buell did not renew his employment contract with Harley-Davidson.
Harley has provided millions of dollars in support for Buell Motorcycle Co., keeping the fledgling sport-bike manufacturer from being trampled by its Japanese and European competitors.
Buell shipped 13,119 motorcycles in 2008, compared with 303,479 shipped by Harley. The company had $123 million in sales, compared with $4.3 billion for Harley.
From a business perspective, Buell simply ran out of time.
"The business loses money for us year in and year out," said Keith Wandell, Harley-Davidson Inc.'s chief executive officer. JSOnline