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MailTribune.com
  • Slow road for Brammo's Enertia

    But founder optimistic about motorcycle's eventual worldwide sale and appeal
  • ASHLAND — Craig Bramscher wishes he could fast forward to the day Best Buy stores across the globe had his Brammo Enertia electric motorcycles in stock for avid riders.
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    • Local Best Buy will carry Enertia
      Medford's Best Buy store, scheduled to open in August in the Poplar Square shopping center, will include an electric vehicle showroom.
      Adroit Construction of Ashland is performing the $1.1 milli...
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      Local Best Buy will carry Enertia
      Medford's Best Buy store, scheduled to open in August in the Poplar Square shopping center, will include an electric vehicle showroom.

      Adroit Construction of Ashland is performing the $1.1 million-plus makeover of the former Joe's Outdoor Sports & More. According to the Medford Building Department, the remodeled store will cover 52,720 square feet.

      "The race track is usually right at the front of the store," said Brammo founder Craig Bramscher.
  • ASHLAND — Craig Bramscher wishes he could fast forward to the day Best Buy stores across the globe had his Brammo Enertia electric motorcycles in stock for avid riders.
    Patience, however, is the watchword as expected and unexpected obstacles are cleared from the mass-marketing road.
    After raising $10 million two years ago — primarily from Best Buy Capital and Chrysalix Energy Ventures — Brammo now has the Enertia in production. A second round of investment is under way, the Brammo founder said, which will push the bike's reach to Europe and Asia and set the stage for an eventual public offering.
    "With spring and summer coming up, we're anxious to get the bikes into more stores," Bramscher said. "Essentially, (Best Buy) is in the same boat, they want to get to 50 stores as fast as they can. They have more than Brammo Enertias, like scooters and other products."
    The company began what Bramscher calls "pilot production" last August with just a "few hundred" bikes shipped from the Ashland factory on Clover Lane.
    One of the early discoveries was that the Enertias could be constructed faster than anticipated — and more economically.
    After originally putting a retail tag of $11,995 on the bikes, Brammo decided it could make money retailing them for $7,995.
    Although Best Buy committed millions of dollars to the project, to date there are just six stores stocking Enertias — two in Southern California, two in the Bay Area and two in Portland.
    "We're behind where I thought we'd be," said Bramscher, who hoped to see 50 stores carrying Enertias by now. "In a perfect world, I would have loved to have had more stores by spring, but we completely understand why."
    Selling electric-powered vehicles in a store rather than at a stand-alone dealership sometimes leaves local government officials scratching their heads.
    "The laws for opening up dealerships at Best Buy stores are different in every state and even county and city rules vary," Bramscher said. "There are some zoning issues where it just doesn't make sense. City governments have never been asked if it was OK to sell motorcycles in consumer electronics stores, but they are mostly supportive with our long-term ideas."
    While zoning issues are worked out, Bramscher sees a second part of the equation adding up to an eventual sales boon. States across the union offer tax incentives for electric vehicles. The California Air Resources Board has a $1,500 rebate in place, lowering the Enertia's cost there. In Colorado, tax incentives bring the final cost to $3,995. Oregon has a $1,500 incentive.
    "In some states, it's 50 percent of the cost of the vehicle," he said.
    There are 33 employees on hand at the moment, little more than 10 percent of the number Bramscher envisions during peak production.
    "It took longer than anticipated to raise the Series A (first round) of investment, but after funding we delivered the first bike almost to the day," he said.
    It's been a challenging time to raise capital, he said, but the nature of the product has attracted international interest.
    With more investors comes diminished control over the company.
    "Hopefully we pick the right people that add more to the business than anything else," Bramscher admitted. "You do give away some of the company, but you do grow the business.
    He said despite the difficult climate for raising funds, Brammo has received considerable interest, including a "strategic partner investment" that Bramscher was not ready to discuss in detail.
    The bike itself had to have some minor alterations — the size of the license plate holder and angle of the low-beam headlight for example — to gain certification in Europe.
    "Best Buy has stores in the United Kingdom, so that's our first beachhead in Europe," Bramscher said.
    Doors in Hong Kong and Singapore also have been opened by the involvement of actor Jackie Chan, who operates an electric vehicle distribution business is Asia.
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