Best Business Potential – EBR/HeroErik Buell is an interesting chap. The ex-Harley-Davidson engineer with the famously fertile imagination has created quirky – but effective – motorcycles since 1983.
In 1993, Harley-Davidson purchased 49 percent of the company, and 10 years later Buell became a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Motor Company. Buell motorcycles developed a semi-cult following, and by the end of 2006 it had produced and shipped over 100,000 machines.Despite that impressive number, unfortunately Buell motorcycles never quite gained the market traction that everyone had hoped for. And on Oct. 15, 2009, the discontinuation of Buell was announced as part of H-D’s strategy to focus purely on its own brand. By the end of that month the last Buell was made, bringing the final number to 136,923.Rebounding from the abrupt — and what must have been fairly humiliating — departure from Harley, Buell lost the rights to his own name. Undaunted, a few days later he morphed his interests into EBR (Erik Buell Racing) and produced a race-only version of the 1125R model.He also acquired the tooling and V-twin motors for his bikes from Rotax, and now in 2014, after some engineering tweaks, Erik Buell has ended up with a credible Superbike racing contender – the 1190RX.Indeed, Larry Pegram has campaigned the bike in AMA National races this year, and with a wild-card entry at the Laguna Seca round of World Superbikes Pegram carded EBR’s first-ever world championship points.Impressive though that is, where Buell really scored was in selling 49 percent of EBR to Hero motorcycles — the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.Owned and based in Delhi, India, Hero produces some 2 Million motorcycles a year, mainly in 125cc and 150cc sizes, in a country where motorcycles are real transportation and not the luxury they typically are in America.So Hero gets the large displacement motor technology it wants for future products and a great PR message on the world racing stage, while EBR gets some very nice funding to keep the dream alive and continue racing.And even if they never finish first, everyone wins.Hero MotoCorp’s Managing Director and CEO Pawan Munjal summed up the vision for Hero—and by implication EBR: “Being the global leader in two-wheelers, we have been challenging the routine and the conventional. Our new motto is to drive change through path-breaking innovations.“With our finger on the pulse of the youth, we are therefore developing products that will cater to customers around the world, both in the near- and long-term. We have now successfully developed an ecosystem of technology research and development that is designed to think beyond the obvious and deliver future-ready mobility solutions.”Futuristic projects already in the works include the RNT turbocharged diesel workhorse motorcycle; the Leap electric/fuel hybrid scooter that is powered by lithium-ion batteries and an 8kW electric motor, that has an on-board 124 cc generator ‘range extender’ to recharge the batteries on the fly.Other projects in the pipeline include the Hastur 620cc parallel-twin sporting motorcycle; the Hero Ion electric motorcycle with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender; the Hero SimplEcity lightweight electric urban motorcycle; the Splendor Pro Classic 100cc Café Racer; and lastly the Passion Pro TR 100cc off-road adventure bike.With so much going on at Hero, it seems Erik Buell’s imagination will be allowed free-rein to explore more of his ideas, and the EBR business has a very rosy future ahead.About Ultimate MotorCycling 2014 President’s Picks:As President of Ultimate MotorCycling, I am a fortunate individual. Not only do I get to ride a huge variety of machines, I am also privileged to be a part of this fascinating industry that so intensely fuels our passions.As 2014 draws into its last quarter a picture has emerged of various developments that have happened in the past year. Don Williams, our Magazine Editor, has already published his Top Ten Motorcycle Picks and somewhat naturally I agreed with him. When Ron Lieback, our Website Editor, challenged me to come up with picks of my own, I naturally gravitated more towards the industry happenings, although I do have some machinery opinions as well.I find myself interested in those manufacturers who have the best feeling for the current motorcycle buyer; those who are trying to listen to market demand and not just thrust their latest whizz-bang machine at us; those who are trying to encourage new and returning riders to the fold; those who are trying to make the pie bigger.So this is what I’ve come up with. It goes without saying that these are my personal picks and you may or may not agree with me; of course you may feel I’ve left something out. Respectful discussion is very healthy and I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion—good, bad or ugly. Thanks for reading and being a part of the Ultimate MotorCycling family!To read the others, visit 2014 President’s Picks.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.