Common Tread

Erik Buell Racing shuts down — again

Jan 26, 2017

How many times have I written this story?

Too many. And it never gets any more fun.

Erik Buell Racing issued a statement Thursday saying it would wind down operations. I have to believe this time it's for good.

The company has been bought by Harley-Davidson, shut down by Harley-Davidson, put on the auction block, supposedly resurrected. It promised new models. Bitter fans (and Erik Buell had many) blamed Harley-Davidson, blamed former partner Hero, and blamed other motorcyclists for not buying Buells. In the end, it seemed that even the marque's fans were finally left exhausted and the company ended with a fizzle, not a bang.

The statement said EBR will wind down operations next week, and went on to add: "The decision was a tough one for EBR as it has been solely focused on the growth and building EBR for success. The team at EBR has worked tirelessly making every effort to build the company. There is no fault on any of the team at EBR for this decision. They and their families have our deepest gratitude for their efforts and dedication to EBR. This difficult decision was based primarily on EBR facing significant headwinds with signing new dealers, which is key to sales and growth for a new company. In addition, EBR has had limited production in 2016 and 2017 that was under goal. The combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR."

And that says it all. This is no time to try to bootstrap a motorcycle company in the United States. Sales are weak. Victory is dead. Harley-Davidson is laying off employees. People in the industry are looking around to see who's next. After a year of effort, EBR had only put together a little more than a dozen dealers across the country. Sales were too small to qualify as a rounding error.

For all the friends and supporters and good will he has in the U.S. motorcycle industry, Erik Buell couldn't make a go of it and that says a lot about where we stand. One month into 2017 and I've already written two stories on Common Tread about motorcycle companies ceasing operations. If Victory was a bit of a shock, EBR is nearly a formality. I expect more surprises before this year is over.