U.S. HIGHLAND: THE SAD STORY BEHIND THIS HIGHLY ANTICIPATED U.S. MADE SPORT ATV
A plane crash took the lives of three pivotal figures from Highland Motorcycles. Mats Malmberg, founder and managing director of the company, president Chase Bales and CFO Damian Riddoch were on a private aircraft returning from a business trip to Michigan when the crash occurred. The NTSB investigated the accident, and speculation centered around fuel exhaustion.
Malmberg was a motorcycle racer who founded Highland over 24 years ago in Sweden. At that time, he purchased the V-twin Folan engine from the company that developed it and then used it in a chassis of his own making. After a short period, Malmberg redesigned the engine until very little of the original remained. Shortly after that, he developed a single-cylinder engine. Over the next few years, Highland built about 300 units, primarily sold in Sweden.
Malmberg became partners with Bales, an Oklahoma businessman who specialized in corporate acquisition and finance. Bales was a motorcycle enthusiast, and the two of them moved the company to the outskirts of Tulsa. There, the plan was to develop motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-side utility vehicles and eventually produce them entirely in the U.S.
It’s frustrating to think of what might have become of Highland, which appeared to have every base covered for success. But it’s also interesting to think how a company like Highland might excel today, with far less competition building sport quads. Perhaps the timing is ripe for another company like U.S. Highland.