Saturday, April 28, 2012

Confederate Motors Still Flying

By Brendan Dolan

          One of the fastest growing companies in recent years has one of the fastest products. Confederate Motors is a private motorcycle industry in Birmingham, Alabama. It makes motorcycles named after fighter planes. Founded in 1991 by H. Matthew Chambers, a former trial lawyer, Confederate Motors has brought a unique style to the motorcycle industry, as an initiative seeking “enlightened design through true American inspiration,” as Chambers puts it.
          The Company began in 1991 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The following year, they moved to San Francisco. Then in 1993 they moved back to Louisiana, but this time in New Orleans. The Hellcat models were the first to be in production, with over five hundred of them issued between 1996 and 2001. In 2001, Confederate filed for bankruptcy. They bounced back in 2003 with a new generation of Hellcats, continuing business in New Orleans. In 2005, the company’s factory was damaged due to Hurricane Katrina.
          Plans were then organized for a new factory in Birmingham, Alabama, where they are today. The move to Birmingham was because the city has a strong automotive industry. Another reason is because of the Barber Motorsports Park, a race course which is now the company’s testing ground for new bikes.

X132 Hellcat
          Hellcats were named after World War II fighter planes. Chambers said “this is the most expensive material selection and craft methodology, it is simply the best approach maximizing strength and guaranteeing permanence.” The lead designer of the bikes, Edward Jacobs, had always dreamed of creating the core of the machine. He said “we’ve been able to do that with the unitized case of this new Hellcat.” All of the cycles, including the Hellcat, Wraith and the Fighter, are specifically designed to be multi-generational heirloom products, with new carbon fiber wheels and the highest quality stainless steel qualities.
          Lately, the company has taken a huge leap forward. A decline in manufacturing and low funding in recent years has paid off successfully, now that they have received an influx of insurance money from New Orleans, because of the hurricane, and made an alliance with S&S Cycles from Wisconsin.
          One former Board Member of Confederate decided to leave the industry after the move to Alabama because he felt it was not right to leave New Orleans, but the company felt it would be better to leave because of the crime rates and the economic down turn. Matt Chambers felt that Birmingham was a better fit and offered a better real estate plan. The company now rents an 8500-square-foot facility.
           The economic recession affected Confederate. Due to the high costs of the bikes, and the very limited number of them, sales went down and shares dropped. However, the city of New Orleans has now been trying to lure Confederate back, offering them an estimate of $750,000, as a loan just to return. It is unclear whether or not the company will move again back to Louisiana, but plans have been set for a new warehouse, business office and assembly facility in the New Orleans area. Business can be done cross country between Confederate and S&S by power train transportation in order to make the new Hellcat models.
           Given S&S Cycles’ ability to increase production efficiencies, the X132 Hellcat is the best model the company has to offer and is more affordable by the company’s standards. The pricing for the Hellcat is reportedly equivalent to the top ten percent of the Harley-Davidson models.

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 Brendan Dolan is a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas College from Queens, New York. He is a Communication Arts major with a concentration in Journalism. After graduation from STAC, Brendan hopes to work for Sports Illustrated as a Sports Writer or in the Entertainment Industry.

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