Brammo is now part of the Polaris family. The Oregon-based electric motorcycle manufacturer has been totally consumed by the Minnesota powersports juggernaut in its latest bid to own all the things. But why Brammo and why now?
Polaris has been on a tear recently. It bought and resuscitated Indian, launched Victory, came out with a three-wheeled freak, and got in on the electric runabout bandwagon with its acquisition of Global Electric Motorcars in 2011.
That same year Polaris made its first investment in Brammo, part of a $28 million round of funding, and that was followed up with another cash injection a year later. It clearly wasn't enough.
We knew Brammo's cash reserves have been dwindling for a while, but that was only part of the problem – it's been on life support for years.
Brammo has been selling the same two bikes – the Empulse/R and Enertia – for over five years. The components evolved slightly, but the motorcycles remained largely unchanged. While the company expanded into supplying batteries and drivetrain bits to other manufacturers – similar to Mission Motors – its core business languished. Zero, Brammo's closest competitor, was putting out new, upgraded models nearly every year, while the Empulse and Enertia collected dust on showroom floors.
But even with the Polaris acquisition, the Brammo brand is essentially dead. From today's announcement:
Polaris is acting as a leading investor in a recapitalization of Brammo that enables the company to focus exclusively on the design, development and integration of electric vehicle powertrains.
If there was any hope for an Empulse 2.0, those have officially been dashed. And to make things worse, it doesn't sound like Brammo will be sticking around Oregon, either:
Polaris will utilize the assets acquired to begin manufacturing electric motorcycles in the second half of 2015 at its Spirit Lake, IA facility.
Polaris isn't saying exactly what it plans to do with Brammo's talent and IP beyond using its lithium-ion battery tech and "freeing Brammo to continue developing its innovative electric vehicle powertrains."
More government and commercial deals are surely part of the plan, but the surge of interest in electric motorcycles – particularly with the publicity of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire project – could mean Polaris is ready to launch its own two-wheeled EV. An electric Indian would be compelling, but the smarter money is on evolved electric drivetrains for everything from quads to snowmobiles – maybe even an electric Slingshot.