New ownership aims to steer Buell in right direction


EBR Motorcycles, the company formerly known as Erik Buell Racing, recently welcomed the public into its East Troy factory one day after the first completed bike came off the assembly line.

Erik Buell Racing filed for receivership in April 2015, shutting down operations and laying off 126 employees. India-based Hero purchased the design consulting business for $2.8 million. Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Liquid Asset Partners LLC purchased the manufacturing assets in January for $2.05 million and put a plan in place to restart production.

Erik Buell and Bill Melvin, Jr. roll the first motorcycle off the assembly line at EBR Motorcycles.
Erik Buell and Bill Melvin, Jr. roll the first motorcycle off the assembly line at EBR Motorcycles.

During a recent press event on the factory floor, Buell said he is excited about the new company’s situation and believes its product can compete with any foreign brand.

“We had these great products and great engineering, but what we have now is we’re tied in with some great American businessmen,” Buell said.

The new business influence comes from Bill Melvin, Jr., Bill Melvin, Sr. and their team from Liquid Asset Partners LLC.  Melvin, Jr. is serving as chief financial officer. Steve Smith, who has a background in the automotive industry and joined Buell in 2013, is chief executive officer. Buell is serving as chief technical officer.

Smith said the company has roughly a dozen employees now and hopes to double that by the end of the year. The goal is to produce 500 units this year.

“We think we can deliver one to two units a day right now; that’s our short-term goal,” Smith said.

Before shutting down, the company had 30 to 40 people focused on production and another 90 in engineering and consulting. Operations have been consolidated from three buildings down to one.

Melvin, Jr. didn’t rule out a return to contract engineering in the future and said there has been interest since the company relaunched.

EBR Motorcycles will be producing two models to start, the 1190SX and 1190RX. The models will have an MSRP of $12,995 and $13,995, respectively.

“We have reduced the prices a little bit, but it’s mostly market driven,” Smith said.

Buell said while there is a possibility of producing other models and sizes, his focus right now is on establishing a solid foundation for the business.

Melvin, Jr. said the company has had a lot of interest from potential dealers and is initially focused on the west coast and south, where the selling season starts earlier.

Ed Laben, director of sourcing, said suppliers have been generally receptive as the company comes back to life.

“Some suppliers were left holding the bag a little bit more than others; we had to have some discussion with those,” Laben said, adding that the company has done a mass mailing to suppliers and is getting some responses back.

“None of us can fix the past,” Buell said. “But they’re all businessmen and they’ve had ups and downs and the answer is we’re ready to buy stuff.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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