Another very sad day in the motorcycle industry. Last week I was informed that Big Dog Motorcycles laid off or furloughed a few more workers and that the company would probably close its doors in the next few days. This morning, Big Dog Motorcycles started to call its remaining dealers to inform them that they are done…Big Dog main lender would have already taken over the company. Practically it means that all Big Dog warranties have stopped. Big Dog Motorcycles, LLC, started production in 1994 and it is estimated that since then it has built over 25,000 motorcycles, becoming at one time the world’s largest manufacturer of custom motorcycles. The company surfed the booming years of the motorcycle industry by providing an entire line of chopper motorcycles using S&S engines, 6-speed transmissions, stretched one-piece steel tank, super fat tires, chrome components, steel fenders, and an extensive variety of custom paint colors and graphics. All models were designed and manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Wichita, Kansas.
Since 2006, like many companies in the motorcycle industry, Big Dog Motorcycles was struggling to adapt to new economic realities. President Sheldon Coleman tried different approaches, shrinking the number of employees by laying off employees or ordering furloughs, trying without success to sell out his business or to find a financial partner, launching a more reasonable priced bare-bone chopper, adapting by proposing a new bagger model, courting the Canadian and European markets, even recently trying to sell rolling chassis on eBay. It was not enough or too late. The disappearance of Big Dog Motorcycles after many of its competitors is the symbol of the end of an era that many call “The Chopper Craze”.
Big Dog Motorcycles now belong to its bank. So, what’s next? Sheldon Coleman is probably going to try to achieve a new business plan that others in the same situation have tried before him. Launching a new company (for ex. Big Dog Parts) providing to actual owners of Big Dog motorcycles the parts they need to maintain their bikes on the road. For this, Coleman would have first to get from his company ‘s main lender the stock of parts that he has used as collateral for loans. Coleman owns the building across from the current headquarter, ready to be used as a base for such new business. Manufacturing of new parts would follow, which is good news for all Big Dog riders who want to continue to enjoy their bikes. A core of Big Dog Motorcycles remaining employees will probably be re-hired for the new parts business (to follow…)