Exclusive: Brammo Speaks to Rumors of Closing Doors, Mass Layoffs


Brammo, the Talent, Oregon-based electric motorcycle manufacturer, has been the subject of some dire rumors lately.  Those have ranged from innocent speculation about Brammo’s health, primarily due to the extension of a huge model-wide sale to the end of the year, to statements that Brammo has closed its doors and laid off all its staff.  There was enough hint of truth to the chatter that we felt it necessary to contact several insiders in the industry, local sources, as well as talk to Brammo directly to find out the truth of the matter.

*For some details on the last six month’s developments, see our piece a few months ago: The Brammo Fire Sale – The Story Behind the Story.

The first and most dramatic bit of gossip was that there was a company-wide layoff at Brammo.  Brammo’s Adrian Stewart reports there were in fact about 20 workers (out of the total of around 70 at that location) laid off, hardly company-wide, and they were assembly-line mechanics tasked with wrenching the Brammo Empulse together.  The reason behind this is simple.  The 2014 Empluse model year has stopped production.  The 2015 Empulse has been delayed, but is targeted for the first quarter of 2015.  Though a tough decision, as a layoff always is, it made sense.

Brammo Empulse battery pack

Brammo Empulse battery pack

The second bit of drama that we saw on the forums, as well as heard from some locals, was that there was a “Closed” sign on the front door, and the doors have been locked since before Thanksgiving.  This, Stewart said, he has no explanation for.  He said they closed for the Thanksgiving holiday- Thursday and Friday, the two days most businesses close – and were back to work on Monday.  Baffled, he did say that someone may have put a sign up and forgotten to take it down, but he wasn’t sure.  Apparently all the employees, management included, use the back entrance to the building, and don’t really see the “front” doors.  Remember, this is a building that was recently a WalMart – in Stewart’s words, “enormous”.  Regardless of what started the rumor, the company has been hard at work (Stewart mentioned 60+ hour weeks) and it’s business as usual.

Those two rumors quelled, what exactly is happening with Brammo?

The official word from the CEO, Craig Bramscher, is that they are “working through a deal”, via local news station KDRV-TV.  The back story to that has some interesting twists and turns.

We covered Brammo’s BrammoPower ventures, and their relationship with Polaris, a major partner in our previous story.  What we didn’t cover was the Better Place deal.

Prototype modified Renault Laguna EVs charging at the Better Place visitor centre in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, north of Tel Aviv.

Prototype modified Renault Laguna EVs charging at the Better Place visitor centre in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, north of Tel Aviv.

Better Place was an Israeli based company that was focused on electric vehicles, charging stations and battery-swapping tech.  After an astronomical rise, they suffered an equally dramatic collapse.  They went bankrupt, and the assets were acquired by the Canadian investment firm TerraCap Ventures.  TerraCap is also one of the investor companies for Brammo.  The short version of a very long story is that TerraCap, after shopping around for someone to manage their newly acquired assets and coming up short, turned to Brammo’s Craig Bramscher for help.  See this almost amusing post on the Better Place Facebook page, where they advertise the position:

Yosef Abramowitz: ‎Better Place Israel

from our friends at TerraCap: Seeking General Manager, preferably former BP executive: General Manager

Job Description: The General Manager is responsible for all matters in Israel related to the recent purchase of certain assets of the recently bankrupted Better Place on behalf of Terracap Ventures. The General Manager will need to have a thorough understanding of Better Place, its business model, former employees and technology used by the company.

Brammo added the Better Place/TerraCap deal to its list of “Things to Do”, and a pile of charging and battery swap tech to its warehouse of goods, intellectual as well as physical.  (To read a fascinating account of the rise and fall of Better Place, check out the lengthy and detailed story on Fast Company, here. Back in 2009, Shai Agassi, the driving force behind the company, even made an appearance on The Colbert Report.)

Suffice to say, Brammo has a lot of irons in the fire, not the least of which is it’s electric motorcycle segment.  Polaris is keenly interested in Brammo’s battery design and manufacturing, as well as the rest of the electric drivetrain capabilities, and is the biggest investor.  Brammo has scored some contracts for it’s BrammoPower division as well.  As we observed a few months ago, there are a whole lot of balls in the air, even more than we were aware of, and only so many hands – and resources – to juggle them. One is forced to wonder if the company is stretched beyond what’s reasonable, or prudent.  Is this brilliant, opportunistic entrepreneurship, or ADD management lacking focus and direction?



Ultimately, Brammo has to answer to its investors.  They, including Polaris, at this point sound like they’re trying to evaluate the scope and range of all of these various projects and tangents, and quite literally as we spoke. Stewart emphatically stressed that all plans to continue the development and production of the motorcycle segment were an unwavering commitment – including the requisite warranty support and parts/service.  We discussed some of the possible future models of the Empulse, the features, and yes, even the transmission.  More on that later.  Here’s what Stewart noted:

  • Despite facing stiff competition in the marketplace, 2014 will be our best year so far, with sales up 60% on 2013.
  • We now have 52 dealerships in 14 European countries, including the UK
  • New importers and dealerships have also been appointed in Japan, Australia and Canada.
  • In 2014 more than 75% of our sales came from European dealerships, which is great news for US exports.
  • Because we design and build battery packs here in the USA, we have a thriving OEM business. BrammoPower, our electrical powertrain supply business enjoyed great success in 2014 including winning key government contracts.

All in all, exciting news.  But the kind of excitement that gives you ulcers.

Stay tuned – Stewart assured us there’d be news to follow within a few weeks. He quite frankly said there’s a lot up in the air as to the “final” arrangements and decisions, and nobody really knows for sure how things will shake out.  Management, as well as investors included.

2014 Empulses ready to ship

2014 Empulses ready to ship

Category: Bikes

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23 responses to "Exclusive: Brammo Speaks to Rumors of Closing Doors, Mass Layoffs"
  1. finecadmin says:

    Not that I work for Brammo, of course, but…

    I expect most of those “things to do” will ship right alongside my 2011 Brammo Empulse.

  2. Mike says:

    They should look to tie up with a rental company.
    ICE motorcycles really can’t be rented, as it’s a skill to shift gears on a motorcycle. But, an electric bike, no gears.

    1. Warren says:

      The Brammo Empulse has six gears.

    2. Brian says:

      You need a motorcycle license to operate an ICE motorcycle. I see no reason why that would be different for an EV motorcycle. If you have the license, presumably you know how to shift the gears.

  3. Brian says:

    I know I have mentioned this on previous stories, but the most exciting part of the Brammo story is their new connection with Polaris. Polaris makes some fun ICE toys. I would love to see some electrified options.

    This one is at the top of my personal wish-list, an electric slingshot!


      1. Brian says:

        Yeah, no. If I had $65,000 to spare, I’d buy a used Tesla Roadster. Not one of those.

        It’s fun to think about, though. I would love to have either, just can’t afford to.

  4. See Through says:

    Electric motorcycles of these sizes is pretty bad idea. Such products can only survive in giant industry bubbles. Harley Davidson gave up on this for good reasons. Unlike electric cars, these can’t be made too heavy and controlling aerodynamics is difficult without thinning the riders.

    Electric bicycles that assist riders is a much better idea, as they are inherently for short distances and only work to assist in hill climbing.

    1. Steven says:

      Wait, you don’t like Tesla, and you don’t like electric motorcycles either. Come on and admit that you simply don’t like any non-gasoline vehicles.

      1. Tim says:

        You’ve managed to see through See Through.

      2. See Through says:

        Don’t be ridiculous 🙂 I drive a BEV for commuting and almost 95% of all trips.
        I’m just pointing out the hard realities of life.

    2. Richard Maxwell says:

      Bad idea? I’ve put 20K miles on an electric moto in two years and don’t own any other vehicle. Fuel cost? About $200. Tuneups? None. Exactly why isn’t this working for me?

      1. See Through says:

        Interesting tidbit from you. What was your gas costs earlier? What’s the range of your moto? And what exactly are you driving?
        Finally, how much did you spend for it?

        1. Nix says:

          See Through — Maybe you should have asked questions like that of someone who owns one BEFORE declaring they were a “bad idea”.

          You know, get the facts before you open your mouth and spew stuff you know nothing about.

  5. Steven says:

    Perhaps Harley Davidson should buy them. That would solve two problems at the same time.

    1. c4v3man says:

      Oh no, not another Buell “let’s take a fun toy, poorly market it, and kill it off asap” investment.

  6. Stimpacker says:

    I own several bikes that look like that – street fighter types. Yet, I won’t be buying a Brammo bike anytime soon.

    The range is just piss poor. Take any quoted range and cut that in half – that’s the real range. Most car EV’s are driven in a mild manner – city and work commuting. Bikes on the other hand, are fun vehicles. We bikers take them for fun rides, twisties, etc. No plodding down the highway at 60mph behind a Prius.

    I’d buy one if it can go 60 miles of hard riding. That’ll mean at least 100 mile rated AER. It’s gotta be nimble too. So yea, EVs are fun but the technology isn’t there yet to make EV bikes just as fun as gas ICE bikes.

    1. Nix says:

      If you want 60 miles of hard riding, the best electric bike option right now is the Zero SR with the optional Power Tank addon extra battery. It more than meets your stated criteria with a combined city/highway range of between 125-141 miles.

      Or wait for the yet-to-be announced 2015 Brammo Empulse specs that are expected well before next riding season gets into full swing.

  7. STUMPY says:

    why no mention of Lightning Motorcycle? They are the only company shipping an electric super bike. Cheaper, faster and better than Brammo, Ergo, Mission and is real. Started delivery last month.

    1. Ted Dillard says:

      If by “shipping” you mean “have delivered one”, then yeah. 😉

      Not sure how your math works, but in my world, at $38,000 base price, you could buy 4 2013 Empulses for the price of the Lightning 218, right?


    2. Sven says:

      Hello. I just could not resist. Lightning and Brammo, both imported to Canada by me! Lightning is more than twice the price of the Brammo Empulse R! Not cheaper! Also to compare these 2 Bikes is like comparing a Honda CBR125 and a Kawasaki HR.
      Don’t get me wrong. The Empulse R is my everyday rider and she goes fantastic. (and bwt as harder as I drive her, the more range I get out of her. Top so far is 134 miles) The Lightning is the most exotic Bike in my entire Lineup. It cannot be compared or put in to the same bracket of the others, just because it is also electric.
      Also, correct the Lightning started selling now, but only very limited in the San Franscisco Area, because they want to make sure that all delivered Bikes are within reach of the factory, if there should be a recall. So Richard is playing it very safe. Good for him.
      And it also begs the question, why the Energica was not mentioned. That would be the Bike in between the Lightning and Brammo.