Big Dog Motorcycles Cuts One-Third Of Workforce

Paul Hansen, Marketing Director of Big Dog Motorcycles announces another round of job cuts, laying off one-third of its workers. The company has laid off 22 employees, with 27 more layoffs expected within the next 2 months. The objective is to readjust the workforce to the weak consumer environment, which has been impacting other motorcycle manufacturers. It is the 3rd round of layoffs in the last 12 months for the Wichita based company. At its peak in 2004, Big Dog had 340 employees and now about 100. Sales of high-end custom motorcycles have declined during the last 3 years and Big Dog wants to be a viable company when the economy rebounds.

33 Responses to “Big Dog Motorcycles Cuts One-Third Of Workforce”

  1. 1 Harry Sep 6th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Not good…when will this shit stop? Too bad we can’t ask the gov’t to bail the M/C industry out like they do the Airline industry along with the bailout they did w/ the mortage lenders going ass over teakettle when everyone was foreclosing and they were losing money. The problem is bikers are a proud lot, they wouldn’t take no damn handouts from the gov’t.

  2. 2 A**hole Sep 6th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Unfortunately I was one of the sacrificial lambs to get laid off this time. From an employee stand point, it shows how desperate it is this time around. In the past layoffs, you could understand the justification for each person laid off. This time, managers sacrificed their staff to save themselves, and their drinking buddies. But hey, that is business. I am not as upset as I thought I would be, though. I guess that is from knowing it was coming for some time now. Sheldon Coleman and a couple of the VPs are great men, with a great business sense, as well as personable, and compassionate. We were offered a generous severance package, and were handled professionally. I just feel terrible for the many employees that lost their jobs, that had dependants. I hope they rebound quickly, and get back on their feet. Hopefully the industry rebounds, as well as BDM, or there will be many more dedicated employees looking for work. Any one hiring?

  3. 3 Jeff Nicklus Sep 6th, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    I am shocked that Big Dog still has 100 employees. You can bet that number will get down into the 30-40 range before the end of the year.

    Over & Out,


  4. 4 Bo Sep 7th, 2008 at 8:50 am

    You always seem to know how it is with all the manufactures in the motorcycle industry. How is Bourget Bike Works fairing out in AZ. ?

  5. 5 Kephas Sep 7th, 2008 at 9:16 am

    We all knew this was coming. It’s hard to watch a mega trend dissolve. This is only the beginning unless the V-Twin markets diversify and learn to adjust to their new markets.

    I just returned from Dallas on a sales venture. I sell after market accessories to the V-Twin and Metric markets on a national level. During my visit I took the opportunity to conduct a small study on the difference between the two markets.

    Here’s a quick summary:

    Fortunately, I have a progressive Metric and Harley customer are right next door to each other in Dallas. The contrast of positive atmosphere was amazing. The Harley dealer employees were tense and when asked how this years business has panned out, the answers were on a negative tone but trying to be positive. The feeling in the air was “I’m just trying to keep my job”. The customers were shopping Harley. Most showed caution to display buying signals. Some of the customers actually approached me for “inside information” on rather to buy Harley or not. Many had already made their mind up on buying a Metric but wanted to give Harley (American Bike) a chance. One customer had made his decision for a Victory motorcycle. What was sad was that the Harley sales person did not know that these decisions were already made in the customers mind. The Harley sales person was taking for granted that they sold Harley. Instead of fact finding with the customer, the sales person forced credit information in a panic. The customers left without a new motorcycle and walked next door to the Metric dealer.

    That’s what prompted me to visit the Metric customer in this same fashion. What I found was the opposite in employee attitude and customer activity. The Metric market has the competitive edge at this time in the motorcycle markets. They have been selling against Harley and V-Twin for years. Nothing is taken for granted. The biggest difference is that the Metric dealer knows that the customer will go to the Harley dealer to shop their deal. With confidence, they watch their customer go out to seek a Harley knowing that the percentages are now with them for a returned sale. If not, they have six standing in line. Not one customer approached me for “inside information”. They did compliment me on my Ultra Classic and expressed their desire to buy a Harley but could not justify the cost. The Metric customer did display remorse for not “buying American”. I could not get a minute with the sales staff. They were busy selling and fact finding. The GM sat down with me and told me how he has turned his inventory three times since March. By the way, this Metric customer gave me a record order during my visit.

    I’m just a sales guy interested in my markets. This is not a scientific study. I didn’t keep a recording or ask questions from a form and submit my answers to some university for further study. I just spent a few hours and talked to a dozen or so people that make up our wonderful market.

    I hope this helps. It’s not in the water or the air. It’s actually about how we approach the customer, having a competitive product and most importantly, sales people with passion that do not take their brand for granted.

    Blessings. Sorry to go so long.

  6. 6 J Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:50 am

    There are good and bad Harley dealers, and good and bad metric dealers- always have been, always will be;

    Right now, the issue is more to do with cost and credit- the credit facilities that provided for the purchase of a $30K+ motorcycle have simply dried up for those with less-than-perfect credit, and that won’t change anytime soon. This was the rocket fuel that provided the industry with far too many expensive choices.

    The metric market is thriving now because they have lower-cost choices. People want to save gas, want to enter the market, but are not willing to put down $20K+ for- in the case of Harley- a semi-finished product. As the dollar gets stronger, Harley will probably see even more pricing pressure from the metrics in this country, so now is the time for Harley to come up with a new game plan, before those dealers with the massive Company-mandated overhead start dropping like flies……..

    Hello Harley- try the old formula- give away the bike, mark up the accessories…… Don’t try to outsmart GM- do what they are doing, and yield to pricing pressure……

  7. 7 Bob Sep 7th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    For a number of years now I have entertained thoughts of purchasing a new Harley Screaming Eagle. I have ridden high end custom bikes for years and still will. Just always wanted a new Screaming Eagle Harley. I have taken friends to Harley dealer in Ft. Worth,TX and they have ended up going elsewhere for their new Harley simply because that dealer is so arrogant and don’t give a damn attitude of go somewhere else if you don’t like it here. They have always claimed that no other Harley dealer will sell them a bike at mrsp price. Now in a few weeks right next door to this dealer is a huge new metric dealership going in. I suppose with the don’t give a damn attitude the Harley dealer will continue to tell prospective buyers to just go next door and buy.

  8. 8 Bob Sep 7th, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Jeff Nicklus , you seem to know alot about all these manufactures. What is going to happen to Bourget Bike Works ?

  9. 9 Art Loomas Sep 7th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Bourget Bike Works? In survival mode like most.

  10. 10 Nitrous Phil Sep 7th, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Sad, but sign of the times and all of us are effected.

  11. 11 V-Twin Sep 7th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    The economy is not the cause for Big Dogs downturn in sales. I fee the poor reliability and massive amount of recalls and service bulletins are the real cause of lagging sales. I feel the customer would like to actually like to ride the bike home after the sale not trailer it home?

    Former Engineering Manager at Big Dog

  12. 12 Bob Sep 7th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Reliability being the case for Big Dog and not the economy would make Bourget safe at this point and time then. Very reliabilable.

  13. 13 Jeff Nicklus Sep 7th, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Bob & Bo,

    Unfortunately I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Roger for some time now. As far as I know he, like everyone else, is slow right now. Roger is in a unique position however as he builds the type of bikes you either love or hate. He has many devoted customers that would sooner walk than buy anything other than a Bourget. So if I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet that Roger, without a doubt, will be one of the guys who will survive this downturn.

    Also, like I have said before, the only bikes we are selling at this time are the $40K and up units. Most of Rogers’ Bike start in that range so I am sure he is in the same situation.

    As for Big Dog: When all is said and done I believe Big Dog will survive and still be a dominate force in the industry, however, the question I have is, will Sheldon remain as the Owner and Head Honcho in charge. Will Big Dog hit the “For Sale” block? Only time will tell.

    Over & Out,


  14. 14 Dave B. Sep 7th, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve said this before and will say it again, BigDog will cease to exist past 2010. Their style is dated and no longer as fashionable as in recent years, and they show no real interest in changing their product line to adjust for what customers now want…at least not enough to support a manufacturer like BigDog. BigDog is a business venture only, and will only be around as long as easy sales and newbie “chopper” people with loose wallets are available.
    True custom shops will always be around because they love this kind of work, the freedom of style & innovation that makes their product unique… and they will make sacrifices a company like BigDog won’t, in order to continue doing what they love. And customers will seek them out, just like the old days.
    BigDog has had its “gold rush” and I feel it has no stomach for a struggle to survive and will soon cash out and fold up.
    It’s unfortunate but veeerrrry predictable.

  15. 15 A**hole Sep 7th, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    cracks me up about the former engineer from BDM complaining about reliability. Considering the engineers were where the reliability isues began. Engineering beyond their ability! Guess that happens with marine, and lawnmower engineers. OOOOHHHHH!

  16. 16 Sheridan Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Are Big Dog exporting internatiornally yet?

  17. 17 A**hole Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    not yet. should have started a year sooner.

  18. 18 Troy Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I heard BDM announce a while back that the chopper “fad” was over. I have news for them: choppers were never a fad, just their expensive production choppers were a fad. It’s hard to imagine that $40-$50K production bikes were ever going to be a long lasting thing.

  19. 19 bcarter Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    This is just another black flag on the open seas. One more ship to fall pray to this disease we call a recession. Good news though, President Bush assured us all that we weren’t in a recession. That should turn things around. Clear sailing ahead!

  20. 20 B Sep 8th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    BDM ever had a $50K chopper. Even if you dresses it out with every bell and whistle.

  21. 21 Stevo Sep 8th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I have just read some very interesting comments and some I beleive and others, well, let’s just say that they are very misinformed. I happen to have a very good inside source at Big Dog and I have spoken to them over the week-end. I beleive that Big Dog will survive and Sheldon will not close the company. He may have to take it down a little deeper, but they will still be standing when the economy turns around. ” It will turn around ” I see alot of lay offs in every industry right now (except Government) and everyone is hurting in some form or fashion.
    The engineer that used to work for Big Dog that made mention of the problems, well, that’s why you don’t work there anymore (fool)
    If you can look at the #’s like I have, you can see that Big Dogs realibility has overwhelmingly improved over the last three years and is now one of the lowest warranty claimed motorcycles in the American Market. Not a bad turn around.
    Please get the facts straight before you write about what you don’t know. By the way, I hope “V-Twin” isn’t designing Aircraft in Wichita right now, we may want to think twice before we fly.


  22. 22 A$$HOLE Sep 8th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    well said steve o. A lot of people think they know what is going on, but rarely see the #s. For BDM to survive, things will have to change pretty drastically, but it can happen. If they can tap into the international market, that will be a big shot in the arm. No one should count BDM out. Sheldon Coleman will not go down with out a fight. He is too invested to just walk away. A lot of “engineers” have come and gone through BDM doors, and most found themselves pushed right back out the door. Especially when their math did not add up, or their designs turned out to be faulty, and cost the company money. I am guessing VTwin went back the designing lawnmowers, or bicycles, or little red wagons. You were right on about the warranty claims being all but eliminated. They have always done an exceptional job addressing warranty issues, even when the claims flooded in. Every one was addressed and resolved. Their customer service is second to none.

  23. 23 Gunrunner Sep 8th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Dave B. –
    You are not very observant. Did you not see the photo at the header? Besides having a motorcycle that runs on gas and burns rubber… there is nothing dated about that bike, and Big Dog has always stayed on top of the styling.

    Those “newbie chopper people” have made the K-9 model the number one selling chopper in the world, and have made it difficult for these “true custom shops” to retail anything in comparison – period. This brutal economy has forced a lot of these “true custom shops” to unfortunately close their doors… look what happen to southern California. We lost a lot of good guys out here, and numerous shops across the nation. Where were the people that “love this kind of work, and the freedom of style & innovation that makes their product unique” when those shops needed them most?

    The good old days are just that. Big Dog has already made the sacrifices to survive the coming of ages, and Big Dog compares to no other company.

  24. 24 Dave B. Sep 8th, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Same dog, different fleas. What you fail to realize is the BigDog name itself is so closely entwined in the recent trends that the industry backlash now occuring will soon make it “uncool” to have one. When your product is based on fads or trends, your product will lose market share when the trend subsides. You can be sure the folks at Big Dog (as others like them) are very aware of this fact, and have no intention of losing all their profits from recent years sales to an obvious end of their rocket ride.
    It just makes me wanna put on my parachute pants, put some white rain on my mullet, and moonwalk over to the nearest BigDog dealer and ride one home… not!

  25. 25 A$$HOLE Sep 8th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    And what amazing, new, cutting edge, one of a kind, trandy bike are you riding, Dave? What designs or new products have you developed? Sounds like a bitter little man who hates all that he cannot afford. Harley…Dinette Set…Harley…Dinette Set? What about the new Wolf at the top of this thread is old, or stale?

  26. 26 Dave B. Sep 8th, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    One of mine of course, my frame, my forks, my paint, my wheels. What else would you expect? But this blog is not about me and my 20 years in the industry, it is about a shrinking trend that some folks (even when they’re standing in the middle of it) can’t seem to notice… that is of course just my uninformed little opinion.
    And you can call me a big stinky poo-poo in your next entry if it makes you feel better.

  27. 27 Johnny Rockets Sep 10th, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Dave’s just bitter. It’s understandable. He has been building bikes for 20 years and still works out of a 2-car garage because he has no business sense. Big Dog went from the same to 4,000 bikes per year in practically no time. You think that’s because Sheldon Coleman is a business idiot, Dave? Think again. Having a Coleman in the industry is the best thing to happen to motorcycles since WWII. Sheldon will do the same for the industry that his grandpa and dad did for outdoor gear. Big Dog will survive this economic downturn. The bikes they build are cutting edge and beautiful. My insider at Big Dog tells me that the company could still cut another 20 non-production employees and be going strong. Some departments have hardly been touched by the layoffs.

  28. 28 A$$HOLE Sep 11th, 2008 at 12:21 am

    I would like to see an example of Dave’s bikes, that allows him to call some one’s work ugly and dated. What is “VEEERRRY predictable” is the small fry hating the big shop that has had success. The new models, including the Wolf on this header are all something completely new, and not choppers. There is nothing ugly or dated about that bike! They are staying ahead of the curve, and hunkering down to weather the storm. Some smaller builders are hateful to a company that has succeeded where they wish they had. What small builder out there would turn down the chance to grow to what BDM has become. BDM could lay off 40 people and still be able to build bikes just fine. Some of the non-production positions that have been eliminated, will come back to bite BDM in the butt, though. I can think of more than a couple over-paid, self-important employees that could be let go and save the company a lot of money, maybe even save a few skilled positions, with the money saved from getting rid of these corporate monkeys.

  29. 29 Dave B. Sep 11th, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I don’t know why you’re so angry, I’ve never wished any ill will to anyone on this blog, I’ve only stated what appears obvious to me after many years in the business. I don’t have a bitter bone in my body and am not envious of anyone in the motorcycle industry no matter how large or small thier shop or wallet is.
    What I have said is BigDog bikes have a dated look, and they do.
    I’ve said I don’t think BigDog intends to spend the fortune they’ve made in recent years just to stay in the business because they love doing it that much, and they won’t.
    I’ve said the trend they helped make popular is dying, and it is.
    I’ve also said the name BigDog evokes the same mental picture as an IronHorse, an Ultra, a Rucker, etc, and it does.
    If you want to see my bikes there are some on YouTube or you can attend bike events, I attend a lot of them and exhibit sometimes and enter bike shows on the Easyriders Bike Show circuit in Columbus and in my home state also, or you can post your email address and I’ll send you some.
    I hate that you lost your job at BigDog (you did state that in one of your posts) it is tragic and scarey to lose a job… but if you are a skilled guy you will bounce back from it quickly and probably enjoy more success than at your last job. Hell, start a shop of your own and make it your life’s mission to run me out of business, I don’t care… I’m only here to post my thoughts, observations, and experiences of the industry I love on this blog.

  30. 30 Blue Sky Rider Sep 11th, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Rucker is a bad word and a very bad boy! Doesn’t sit near Big Dog!

  31. 31 A$$HOLE Sep 25th, 2008 at 12:54 am

    I get angry when some one attacks my blood sweat, and tears. When some one talks smack, I call them out. Put up or shut up! That is how I live my life. If by dated you mean top of the line fit, form and finish, then I guess they are dated. Top of the line paint and graphics, and very stringent cosmetics standards are dated? I guess you are right. A lot of shops put out junk, that would never pass BDMs standards. If well engineered, good riding bikes are dated, then who wants to be contemporary? I have never seen anything, or expirienced any thing in life that I found scary. Losing my job is more an inconvenience than anything. I still have passion for the industry, as well as does everyone else that has lost their jobs, and that are still working at BDM. Sheldon Coleman included. BDM has spent more money coming up with the new models, and components, as well as the international compliance testing, and engineering, than most brands earn in 5 years. BDm will not lay down and die. And I speak on behalf of all BDM employees, past and present, with the exception of Peter Anton, when I say we take it as a personal attack, an insult, and fighting words to be compared to Iron Horse in any context. Especially by Joe Blow Nobody.

  32. 32 Jack B. Nov 4th, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Okay guys…
    Would someone please give me a list of the metric companies still in business at the end of 2011? Thanks in advance…

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