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Harley-Davidson to shutter Buell motorcycle brand, will sell Italian division

Thu, 15 Oct 2009

Harley-Davidson is axing two notable brands as it refocuses on its core business.

The iconic American motorcycle producer said on Thursday that it will kill the 26-year-old Buell brand and will sell recently acquired Italian motorcycle company MV Agusta.

The announcement came as Harley revealed its third-quarter financial results, which saw its earnings and sales slip as it deals with the global economic conditions.

Buell will wind down production by Oct. 30 and will sell off its inventory of motorcycles, accessories and gear. About 180 employees will lose their jobs, mostly in December. It will cost $125 million to close the brand.

Harley dealerships will continue to service and offer parts for Buell bikes, and warranties remain valid.

Buell was founded in 1983 and carved a niche with its motorcycles' designs and technology, while also finding success in racing. It's been a wholly owned subsidiary of Harley since 1998. It was founded by Erik Buell and has produced more than 135,000 motorcycles over its history.

Harley bought MV Agusta in August 2008 in an effort to expand in Europe. But 14 months later, Harley is reversing course, though during the brief ownership period, the Italian company resumed production at its Varese factory and jump-started product development.

By Greg Migliore