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Harley-Davidson terminates Buell brand, sells MV Agusta

October 15, 2009 | 11:49 am

Buell Harley-Davidson announced today that it is discontinuing its Buell product line and will cease production of Buell motorcycles permanently by Oct. 30. According to Harley-Davidson spokesman Paul James, the discontinuation of the 26-year-old Buell brand, which has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Milwaukee-based manufacturer since 1998, "is part of Harley-Davidson's go-forward business strategy. The new long-term strategy aims to drive company growth through a focus of efforts and resources on the Harley-Davidson brand."

James said, "The fact is, a dollar invested into Harley-Davidson, there's more impact than the same dollar invested elsewhere when it comes to reaching new riders and enriching the experience of our core customers."

As part of the company's new myopia on its core brand, Harley-Davidson is also divesting itself of MV Agusta, the Italian sport bike company it purchased last year.

"We're exiting the sport bike market with those niche brands," James said.

MV Agusta is being sold because it was a standalone business unit. Buell "was highly integrated into the entire business and the distribution network of Harley-Davidson," James said, so "selling Buell as an outside entity was not the best choice for the company."

While Harley-Davidson is giving the ax to Buell the brand, it's still in talks with Erik Buell, the man, who may continue with Harley-Davidson in an advisory role as it develops new products.

No buyer has yet been named for MV Agusta. As for Buell, dealers will sell remaining Buell inventory and provide warranty, service and repair work. Harley-Davidson expects to provide replacement and service parts for as many years as required.

Harley's announcement to terminate the Buell brand comes on the same day it announced third-quarter earnings. Worldwide, retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles declined 21.3% in the third quarter of 2009 v. 2008.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Buell Motorcycles