You have probably heard by now that on October 15, Harley-Davidson announced that its third-quarter income was down by 84 percent. First on the list of fixes was the pulling of the Buell line. Buells justifiably have their fans, without a doubt. But marketing—in particular, articulating the bikes' many strengths in rooms full of fawned-over Harleys—has always been a problem. So the move was both not surprising… and not expected.
"We invested earlier this year by building a Buell ‘store-within-a-store,'" says David Brown, owner and general manager of Knoxville Harley-Davidson. "Harley-Davidson has been great, and we've recovered some of that.
"Harley-Davidson had been struggling with the Buell line for some time. They brought in this new CEO (Keith Wandell), and he just started making all these chops. Buell was one of them. It was a great opportunity for our customers. With all the incentives and rebates, you could get a $12,000 bike for around half of that."
"They probably should have done it a couple years ago," says Shane Tymon, sales manager at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. "If you could sell one at retail, you might gross $1,500. The problem was that you could never sell one at retail. They really didn't know how to market it."
Online scuttlebutt about dealer incentives as high as $5,000 per unit were accurate, say Brown and Tymon. But it wasn't just free money. There were restrictions on models and stipulations regarding long-term commitments to service and parts-stocking.
Both dealerships have sold all their new Buells, and say they are committed to servicing the line well into the future.