Harley Davidson, BMW, Moto Guzzi, Triumph, Honda… and us? Yup, pooling together our nest eggs, a home equity loan and max out a credit card here and there, and we could have been a motorcycle maker. For those who don’t inhabit the Buell corner of the interwebs, EBR, essentially the successor company to Buell, sold for a measly two million dollars and change yesterday.

So what would we have gotten for the contents of our piggy banks? For a start, all the rights to the opus of one of the world’s greatest motorcycle designers and the fellow travelers he attracted, a 450 pound motorcycle with knocking on 200 horses in race tune and an easy and well behaved 150 in street legal tune, packed in the best handling chassis in the history of motorcycling. The complete tooling to build that awesome motorcycle, including the line to turn castings from no less than Rotax into finished engines. And being that the line was shut down overnight, probably several unfinished bikes, maybe some finished bikes that GE Capital hadn’t floored yet, and probably enough parts to build a bunch more bikes at your leisure.

To say nothing of the “goodwill” which despite being worthless in the minds of the industry, still keeps several websites hopping five years after HOG(NYSE) axed Buell. With all that goodwill and an installed base of at least 10,000 EBRs and the earlier Rotax powered Buells built under HOG(NYSE)’s ownership, you could make a paying parts business out of EBR without ever having built another new bike. Do a Carroll Shelby and screw together a few new bikes every once and awhile and you’d profitably keep the market jacked up for decades. Or pay the rent on the factory space and fire the assembly line back up… EBR did manage to move at least ten million dollars in bikes in barely a year of production.

But we weren’t the only ones snoozin’ and losin’… HOG(NYSE) could have had a product to appeal to riders before they drew a Social Security check. Polaris could have had a real sportbike instead of just a “sport cruiser”. An established maker could have added EBR to their quiver of products, and an upstart 3rd world maker could have cheaply joined the “big boys” by buying EBR. Heck, any of a dozen motorcycle makers could have bought EBR just to keep a competitor off the market.

Sadly, none of the above happened, which is an indightment of just how “corporate” the motorcycle biz has become today. It thus fell on a minor player in the metals wholesaling biz and Buell enthusiast to save Buell, in fact he was the only bidder as two others failed to match his bid. Heck, barely a baker’s dozen potential buyers even did a walk through of the EBR plant. That is chilling for the motorcycle biz, which is chock full of literal mom and pop shops and makers that these hard working folks spent a lifetime building. A lot of these folks are reaching if not past retirement age, and are looking to sell, hopefully for enough to provide for a retirement above the poverty line. These are the folks who gave up the corporate jobs with the pension for their love of motorcycling, and they damn well deserve better!

Advertisements