Loan to help rev Buell’s future

Local motorcycle manufacturer gets infusion from GE Capital

By Dave Fidlin


The Buell name and its presence within East Troy has gone through a sometimes-dramatic sequence events in the past three years. But the motorcycle manufacturer recently received a boost with cash infusions and plans to build a motorcycle dealership network beyond Southeastern Wisconsin.

GE Capital’s commercial distribution finance arm is making funds available to Erik Buell Racing so the 3-year-old company’s variety of motorcycles and racing gear can be accessible at dealerships across the country.

Buell, a familiar name in East Troy, established his racing company in the ashes of Harley-Davidson’s decision to cease manufacturing and selling motorcycles with the Buell name.

The news of Harley-Davidson’s October 2009 decision was devastating at the time to village residents and officials. Less than two months later, Buell announced he would form a spin-off company that became Erik Buell Racing.

In a statement, Buell said Erik Buell Racing has gained its footing, and the GE Capital financing will assist in future growth plans.

“As we ramp up our production capabilities and introduce other models, it’s great to have a finance company that can support us as we expand,” Buell said in the statement. “I’m pleased that GE Capital, with its decades of experience in the motorsports industry, continues to support emerging manufacturers.”

As the build-up of Erik Buell Racing continues, the company has been selling its first motorcycle, a street bike known as EBR 1190RS. It carries an estimated price tag of $40,000. Buell said another new model is expected to be unveiled in the year ahead.

The company’s future growth plans are focused on both the economy and high-performance markets – an effort, according to the company, to reach motorcycle enthusiasts of all income brackets since not everyone can shell out $40,000 for a motorcycle.

Specific terms of the agreement between GE Capital and Buell were not made available.

But the company said it made nearly $32 billion available in 2011 through its commercial distribution finance division. Beneficiaries included an estimated 30,000 manufacturers, dealers and distributors across North America.

In explaining GE Capital’s philosophy, Sameer Gaur, a commercial lender with the company, said its investments help build up a variety of industries – including the motorsports group that Buell falls within.

“We’re not just bankers. We’re builders,” Gaur said. “Across businesses and industries, it’s important for us to contribute to the growth of American manufacturers at every stage of their development.”

Buell began building motorcycles commercially in 1983, when he worked out of a garage in Mukwonago. Despite the growth and far-reaching name recognition in ensuing years, Buell’s roots have remained in the area.

His brand of motorcycles fell under the Harley-Davidson nameplate in 1998 when the two parties agreed the Buell Motorcycle Company would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson.

When the arrangement was unwound 11 years later, Harley-Davidson executives said the decision was part of an economic restructuring within the company. In the midst of the recession, Harley-Davidson in late 2009 said its third-quarter earnings had declined 84.1 percent in year-to-year comparisons.

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