Somewhere around the start of the business day yesterday, Brammo launched a new site on www.brammo.com featuring the company's new focus on powertrain development, resulting from the recent purchase of the motorcycle production by Polaris. Besides a snappy new-generation web look, and one of the slowest loads we've suffered through in recent experience, we're immediately struck by the Polaris-styled utility vehicle on the start of the spash page cycle, shown above, which we noticed a few months ago in a video.
Naturally, this is fueling even more speculation about the so-far unspecified details of the Polaris buyout and the future of the Brammo company. The new site, in the context of a site launched in an as-yet still incomplete form by a company that is presumably still in flux, does give us some interesting breadcrumbs to follow.
Breadcrumb #1 - Products
First, we see the "Products" tab, which gives us the two basic components of any EV drivetrain - motors and batteries - minus the one key "controller" part. (Keep in mind, other players in this market, such as Mission Motors, has developed its own - magnificent - controller and offers that as part of their "drivetrain" product line.)
This little tidbit isn't as clear-cut as it may seem, since Brammo has outsourced a lot of it's battery/motor development in the past few years.
Next we have the "Design and Engineering" tab where we see the interesting addition of "Industrial Design to the expected, more specific to EV Engineering Powertrain and Prototyping listings.
Breadcrumb #2 - Capabilities
This is interesting because it sends out feelers for a more broad-based range of services that, clearly, Brammo has, but hasn't floated out as a hire-able service before now. Add to that the background of some of the key staff in Industrial Design, and it starts to feel like Brammo is simply joining the freelance design contract business, using assets it already has in-house.
Naturally, most of what we're seeing on the site looks like on-file images of motorcycles - clearly stuff they had produced and stuffed into the archives. Likewise, a lot of the Powertrain development and other vehicle work shown here is also vintage motorcycle work, with a teasing bit of utility vehicle candy thrown in for good measure.
But what about the bikes?
Empulse "Nike" engineering mockup
Breadcrumb #3: the bikes
No doubt at this point, the Brammo Faithful are going to start fetching around for their familiar turf- the bikes. Instead of being listed as "Products", Brammo is calling them "Projects", as in "design and production projects", and even more of a tease at this date is the listing of the "Ronin" and the "Engage MX", all with dead links.
The Ronin, we're guessing, is the utility vehicle, and we're going out on a limb now and suggesting that this is a unit that has reached full prototype status at Brammo, was developed for Polaris, and we may see in actual production with Brammo design influence.
The Engage MX is a model that was floated out on the Brammo site a few years ago, when they were still operating with the strategy that they could "offer" a half-dozen products without any real concrete production plans, and post them to the site with pre-order buttons, presumably to gauge interest. It was a strategy that was unceremoniously dumped, with the deletion of all vaporware products by dead of night, with no explanation.
We're aware of at least one hard sample of this bike, ridden by one Shelina Moreda, a photo that made the rounds of social media for obvious reasons:
Shelina Moreda at the office (via Brammo Facebook)
The girl does know her way around the back wheel of a dirt bike. There is a "legacy" page where, if you're starting to twitch with withdrawal for your old, familiar haunts you can see the page as it existed a few days ago, here: Brammo Motorcycle Site
Here's where things get a little more interesting. The next tab is R&D, and it takes you to a dropdown titled "Motorsports".
Breadcrumb #3: R&D = Motorsports
Clicking on that tab you get a full-on resume of Brammo's company race campaigns, from the very earliest days running a race-prepped Enertia at the Isle of Man to the latest racing this past summer.
Clearly, the Brammo boys like to race.
While the "racing improves the breed" debate has raged on since the first days of a guy racing whatever he had with a motor in it, (trying to justify doing it again to his wife or mother, perhaps?), and rages on still, Brammo seems completely committed to their (motorcycle) race program. On that page, you get the full monty on the argument for a factory race sponsored effort:
Shelina Moreda and the Brammo Girls. Looking for a new home?
Why do we race?
- While we love having customers and fans at race events, the primary reason we race is to push our designs to the limit and test theories that would otherwise remain untested or unproven within the constraints of the normal world. The race track is a magical proving ground for testing – the variables are many, but finite, the rider can push the equipment within an understood amount of risk, and lap times can measure real improvements. While some amount of product testing can and does occur in the real-world, outside of owning an expansive private test facility (Brammo does not), the race track provides the next best way to push technology to the limit.
- Racing is real. Despite all the marketing “spin” and maneuvering, you can’t fake results at the track. There will always be excuses and “might-have-been” scenarios, but the race track speaks an honest language. If you get beat, it’s because you or your equipment were simply not good enough that day. That statement alone will launch engineering staff into a frenzy of problem solving in order to determine how to be better next time. It will encourage them to rethink assumptions and “limits” that may now be deemed incorrect or too conservative.
- Racing allows Brammo to learn from others including their mistakes and successes. We alone cannot test every possible configuration of vehicle. By watching and learning from others, we can accelerate our understanding of what works and what does not.
- Racing provides stories and experiences to share with our customers. We believe that racing provides a unique view into our development efforts and creates a connection with customers. We leverage social media and the internet to tell these stories. When a potential customer researches our company and our products, they will discover that we race and are willing to push our products to the limits so that they won’t ever find them.
- Racing builds our relationships with our partners and suppliers. Racing provides a platform to test not only our new ideas, but the new ideas of our partners as well. We have raced with “alpha” and “beta” versions of new technologies to include our motor and motor controller. By having a way to use these new technologies in a controlled environment, we ensure that our suppliers come to Brammo first when it comes to proving out a new technology. This approach has obvious benefits in maintaining a competitive advantage for our commercial products in the future.
- Racing is exciting and builds team morale. There is nothing like a common goal and some competition to anneal a team. Racing is a high-stress, time-sensitive environment. It’s not for the faint of heart. Being absolutely dependent on the work of your teammate in these conditions builds both a sincere trust as well as a better understanding of each member’s personal strengths. It is only when all members come to grips with and accept their role to the benefit of the collective that magic things like winning occur.
Um, yeah. OK. Bookmarked for next time we want to get into that discussion. Point to be made, however: when you look at the relatively flat-footed product development of the Empulse over the last few years with no appreciable model upgrades, compared to the fairly remarkable trajectory of Zero, with no factory race program since 2010 and a bike that's arguably more advanced than the current Empulse, one has to ask: "Where's the beef"?
Also, there's the painfully obvious question. If Brammo is no longer building bikes, what will the company race? Officially, that is. And what about the Brammo Girls?
Brammo "R&D". Breadcrumb #4?
Finally, let's meander on down to the bottom of the page where you get the "Careers" link. There we find the one open position - Business Development Director:
Brammo is an EV Powertrain supplier to Powersports and other vertical markets.
The Business Development Director provides sales leadership to develop and support strategic executive level business relationships to achieve profitable results. Develops and executes executive level selling strategies for corporate clients, targeting specific corporate customers. The Business Development Director is responsible for managing relationships and actively managing accounts.
- Responsible to deliver sales results through strategic account development. Secure and support strategically important accounts and opportunities.
- Develop and maintain executive level relationships by developing business solutions.
- Identify specific target accounts and opportunities.
- Develop and support Global Sales Team; planning, organizing and building the sales and support team.
- Seek out, target and initiate contact with major prospective customers. Develop network of contacts and qualify target accounts.
- Build influential partnerships with accounts; fully understand customer goals, objectives and business needs. Be able to recommend Brammo solution’s that serve the customer’s business objective.
- Develop and manage strategically important relationships that further business development activity. Build partnerships that support our advanced solutions, drive continuous development of solutions and of our brand.
Interesting. Can we conclude Brammo has all the bits in place for this new direction, but nobody to, well, direct it?
Before you dust off your resume and send it in, do stop by the GlassDoor site and read some of the comments. Like any other "Yelp"-like site of it's ilk, you have to take what's said there with a hefty grain of salt. But when you see consistent themes, especially in contrast to other similar companies? One has to wonder.
"Upper management seems utterly clueless and without clear direction/vision. Egos Egos Egos - if you have a Masters Degree, make sure you carry proof with you at all times. Lack of accountability to engineering deadlines and at executive level."
Advice to Management:
"Put people in place that actually have some idea of what is trying to be achieved. Stop lying to the public and your employees. Stop wasting money to go racing with a team that no one at all cares about."