Mike Stevens | Oct 16, 2009

HARLEY-DAVIDSON RELEASED its third-quarter financial results this morning, bringing with it the shock announcement that the Buell motorcycle brand will be discontinued immediately.

With motorcycle sales down 21.3 percent and net income down 84.1 percent on the same period last year, the American motorcycle manufacturer announced it would also sell its recently acquired share in Italian bikemaker MV Agusta.

In dollar terms, Harley-Davidson’s net income for the third quarter of 2009 was US$26.5 million, compared to US$155.5 million for the same period in 2008.

Year-to-date, the American bikemaker took $163.6 million – down 71.6 percent for the same period last year.

“As our announcement regarding Buell and MV Agusta indicates, we are moving with the speed and decisiveness required to bring our business strategy to life," Keith Wandell, Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson said.

"The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful, long-term growth."

The 2009 MV Agusta F4RR
The 2009 MV Agusta F4RR

An emotional Erik Buell announced the passing of his namesake brand in a video today, thanking customers and dealers and assuring existing owners (and buyers of remaining stock) that Harley-Davidson will honour all standing Buell warranties.

Buell’s axing will result in 80 lost jobs in assembly, and 100 office positions.

"Buell and MV Agusta are great companies, with proud brands, high-quality exciting products and passionate enthusiasm for the motorcycle business, “ Wandell said.

Buell has introduced many innovative advancements in motorcycle design and technology over the years and MV Agusta is known in Europe for its premium, high-performance sport motorcycles. However, our strategy to focus on the Harley-Davidson brand reflects the fact that we believe our investments in that brand are a better utilization of overall company resources."

One potential buyer for the MV Agusta brand is Volkswagen, with CEO Ferdinand Piech - an avid motorcyclist - expressing disappointment in the past that the German carmaker did not buy Ducati when the brand was struggling through the 1980s.

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