For those hoping for a revival of the Buell brand, think again.
“Buell is done,” says Harley-Davidson boss Keith Wandell (pictured).
He told an international press crew attending the Harley 110th celebrations in Milwaukee today that Buell would not be making a comeback.
“Buell was intended to bring young riders to the brand, but the average age of Buell buyers was over 40. It wasn’t doing its job. Buell is done,” he says.
While he emphatically stated he would not comment in future product, H-D chief operating officer Mark Levatich later confirmed the company would make a Harley learner bike to replace the Buell Blast.
He says it will be a V-twin under 500cc, but could not confirm any timing.
Meanwhile, Keith says they have product on the planning boards for the next five years.
“We have product plans up to 2018 which focus on all demographics to entice young customers and others who might not have been in a Harley dealership before,” he says.
“The company is now in a strong position and there are growth opportunities everywhere:
Young, females, Hispanics and African Americans as well as emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India,” he says.
Keith says the company suffered a blow in the 2008 credit crisis because a lot of customers bought Harleys on their home equity.
“We are a high-end luxury commodity so people need to have dispensable income,” he says.
Sales subsequently plummeted by 40% in 2009, but have since rebounded.
“We’re still off our peak in 2006 of about 350,000 by about 25%. This year we will sell about 250,000,” he says.
“But our financial performance is on par.”
Keith stepped in as the GFC hit and had to make some hard decisions about product, ownership of MV Agusta, Buell and staffing.
As an outsider to the company, he says it was easy for him to see what was wrong with the company.
He streamlined production, dumped the other brands and cut about 1500 staff.
“Families protect their weak and teams get rid of the weak. We were a family and now we are a team,” he says.
Keith is not daunted by the revival of the Indian Motorcycles brand.
“What motorcycles?” he jokes.
“Our biggest threat is the economy, not competitors,” he says.
“I’m not convinced we are in any kind of recovery period.
“Our goal is to continue to develop great products.
“We have no control over the economy.
“We will never make a decision in this company just to affect the stock price.”