Archive for January, 2010

Brett Smith Named Head of Baja Motorsports

January 28, 2010

Former Custom V-twin Executive Leads Chinese Importer/Distributor

Brett Smith, former president of S&S Cycle, one of the leading names in American motorcycles, has been named head of  Baja Motorsports‘ U.S. operations. Smith currently is traveling in China where he is visiting Baja factories and component suppliers.

Brett Smith

I’ll be providing more information on this major move when Smith returns to the U.S. and gets settled into his new position. In the meantime, here is information on Smith and Baja in a Q&A session that I developed with Smith.

Baja Motorsports is based in Tempe, Ariz., where it operates a 70,000 sq. ft. parts, service and warehouse/office facility. It sells Chinese-made powersports equipment primarily through big box retailers such as Pep Boys. Service is provided through a network of some 1,000 independent service shops in North America.

Baja was launched in 2004 by Richard Godfrey, president and CEO, Jennifer Andrew, vice president of operations/CFO, and Ryan Daugherty, vice president of sales and marketing. In the first year, Baja posted sales of $6.5 million.

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Tucker Rocky Changes Sales/Marketing Approach

January 23, 2010

Sales & Marketing Team Reorganized

A recent brief announcement out of Tucker Rocky Distributing about changes in the marketing department piqued my interest. The note said that long-time marketing and advertising guy Stephan Ulbrich was no longer with the big national Fort Worth-based distributor. Several other reassignments were also mentioned. The moves followed the

Steve Johnson

departure of another long-time TR marketing executive, Tim Pritchard, vice president of sales and marketing, who left the company in October after eight years with the distributor.

What was up with the changes, I wondered? So I called Steve Johnson, TR’s president and COO. It turns out that the personnel changes reflect a significant shift in the way TR is working with its customers, both on the supplier side and on the dealer side.

The departed ex-employees aren’t talking, of course, but here’s the story, as Steve discussed it with me.

“It was clear to me that we needed new leadership in the sales and marketing area,” Johnson told me. ” Tim had been here many years and we had a philosophical difference on how to run the company, so I made a change.”

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Cycle World IMS New York: Meat the Press

January 22, 2010

While pretty much all the press attention during the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show stops is directed toward the motorcycles, it’s kinda cool to turn that focus around to the journalists themselves.

If you’ve never been a part of this roving crowd of camera snappers and flashers (CAMERA flashers) it’s often been described as a scrum al a rugby, and for good reason. As the media schedule skips from OEM announcement to OEM annoucement, the press follows in a tight bunch, each jockying for position and camera angles. It’s even crazier at the European shows (like EICMA) where it seems that a fist fight is only a shove or elbow away. This roving band of moto-journos tends to break up as the hours progressive until it’s the niche guys getting the niche news. Good times for sure.

At the opening of the New York IMS stop, show representative and extremely debonair motoguy, Robert Pandya, was directing the first few hours of the press event. At 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, the show floor was still chockablock with unopened wooden crates, union workers, cleaners, assemblers and other assorted workers. Forklifts whirred and honked their way through the crowds, impatiently navigating the crowds to deliver payloads of whatnot.

There were reps from blogs, magazines, radio shows and newspapers, a span of media representation ranging from Roadbike to All About Bikes magazine, from Popular Science to American Iron. Oh year, don’t forget the Motorcycle Radio Network and Rider. In other words, the show gets some pretty damn good press from a wide range of media. We like this.

“Move in here folks,” Pandya says while trying to start the show at the Cycle World booth. “We don’t want to play journalist shish-kabob.”

From here the group moves en masse to BMW to hear head media-man Roy Olliemuller tout the OEM’s 2009 sales numbers before introducing the BMW crew and the S1000RR. There were those forklifts again in the background (and almost in the foreground!)

Boom, off to Victory Motorcycles. Then the Suzuki Busa Beats 2010 launch. Next, Star and the Performance Machine Raider. Honda? You’re up. Harley-Davidson’s got a new bike. Let’s go see it. A Ducati fashion show AND the 2010 Multistrada 1200? Bellisimo! Hardcore Choppers. TapouT. Ducati freestyle stunt team. Phew. It’s a busy schedule.

Harley Posts Big 4Q 2009 Loss

January 22, 2010

Harley-Davidson lost $147.2 million from continuing operations in 4Q 2009 on revenue of $764.5 million. For the year, it earned $70.6 million from contining operations on revenues of $4.29 billion. Full year income from operations was down 89.4% from the $684.2 million it earned in 2008. 4Q shipments were down 53.1% from 4Q 2008. For the full year 2009, revenue from Harley-Davidson motorcycles was $3.17 billion compared to $4.24 billion in 2008 on shipments of 223,023 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, compared to 303,479 motorcycles in 2008.

Tim Conder, a senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, notes that Q4 is the seasonally weakest at retail and is subject to the largest year over year percentage swings. He also noted today that Harley’s planned shipments this year of 201,000 to 212,000 units, down 5%-10%, were below expectations of analysts who follow the company. Analysts thought shipments this year would be about flat.

Conder said that Harley’s U.S./global sell-through was worse than his expectations. U.S. retail sales for Harley motorcycles were 162,385 units. JD

Contact me with news stories and tips at 952/893-6876 or joe@powersportsupdate.com

The Old Throw-Yourself-Downhill-Gear-Test: We Like It

January 20, 2010

Short of purposefully having a get-off on your motorcycle, what better way to test a new brand of riding gear than to throw yourself down a hill in (what looks like) the Silverlake area of Los Angeles? Arlene Battishill, the brains behind GoGo Gear and Scooter Girls, does in this little video she posted to YouTube.

 
I talked to her the day after she did this and she was still pretty shaken up by it, but I can’t help but find this endlessly entertaining. From what I’ve been able to surmise, Arlene is a pretty unique woman — who else is going to attempt to create a line of high-fashion riding gear for women from the ground up with no motorcycle industry experience whatsoever? So, if you ever get the good fortune of meeting her you’ll think, ‘Of course she threw herself down a hill to test that gear.’

Piaggio Cuts Sales and Marketing Staff

January 19, 2010

No Reduction in Dealer Services Planned

Reduced unit sales of scooters in 2009 forced Piaggio USA to cut several top level managers in its sales operation and flatten out its sales staff, Paolo Timoni, president and CEO of Piaggio’s US operations, told me.

Noting that industry-wide U.S. scooter sales were down about 65% last year, Timoni said that steps had to be taken to balance revenue and costs. “We don’t expect 2010 sales to go back to 2008 numbers,” said Timoni. So, it was cut either sales or dealer services.

“Given our priorities for 2010 and 2011,” Timoni said, “ we concluded it was a priority for us to maintain our service capabilities (to dealers) as much as possible, because we think this is what dealers need. Probably, we could get with a smaller sales organization, since there wouldn’t be that much sales, right? Therefore, we basically reduced the size of our sales organization.”

The position of vice president of sales and marketing has been eliminated and the former head of sales and marketing, Gary Pietruszewski, has been let go. The marketing management functions now will be handled by three managers, who report to Timoni. “It’s a much flatter management structure,” he says.

Melissa MacCall is responsible for marketing, Internet activities, promotions and co-marketing activities. Karen Andrews is brand manager for Piaggio and Vespa, and Rick Panettieri is brand manager for Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.

At the same, the number of regional sales directors was cut from three to two, and three regional sales directors were dropped, reducing the number of sales directors from 10 to seven.

“We have great opportunity here,” says Timoni. “You notice we didn’t touch our service organization. We thought that would be the best investment we could make now, and we hope dealers appreciate that basically all the infrastructure and organization to support and service them has been untouched. That’s our strategy.”

No other changes are planned for the time being. “That’s all there is,” says Timoni.  JD

Call me with your story ideas and news tips at 952/893-6876.
Or email me at joe@powersportsupdate.com.

A Saturday at Harley-Davidson of St. Augustine

January 18, 2010

Dealernews Top 100 Dealer Builds Traffic Several Ways

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fl. (Jan. 16, 2010)—Owner Clark Vitulli opens his small Harley-Davidson store here before 8 am this cool, drizzly Saturday morning, making last minute preparations for a couple of special events and the shooting of several TV commercials.

Sales of all makes of new and used motorcycles were down more than 40 percent in Florida last year, but Vitulli’s operation bettered that sad figure; his sales were off by less than 30 percent. The operation generated revenues of nearly $10 million last year. One reason for his success is that he worked hard on promoting the store and giving prospects many opportunities to visit his 16,000 sq. ft. facility. It has a 9,000 sq. ft showroom and a 7,000 sq. ft. service department with 10 service bays that is completely air conditioned with an AC duct in each bay. There are 20 full-time and part-time employees.

There’s a picnic area and a band shell for live music every weekend. There’s also a shuttle bus running to the huge outlet mall nearby.

Clark Vitulli

Today, the store is promoting a 9 am blood drive, followed by the monthly meeting of the store’s HOG group. After the meeting, the film crew will move in to shoot footage for a series of 30-second TV commercials featuring customer testimonials. The shoot will last a couple of hours. After that, traffic should slow down this afternoon.

While it seems a bit crazy here, it’s a typical Saturday for the store.

The dealership also operates a tiny retail satellite operation (Harley calls it an Alternate Retail Outlet – ARO) a few miles away in St. Augustine’s Old Town, the center of this delightful historic tourist attraction. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States, older than Jamestown by 42 years, in fact. It was founded in 1565, 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Vitulli and his business partner, Allen Good, opened the small 1,500 sq. ft. store to sell apparel and accessories in December, 2009. It’s in the high rent district of splashy retail shops on St. George Street, the main tourist venue, but with the high pedestrian traffic, it generates sales of about $200/sq ft and helps drive riders to the main store located on the edge of town, just off I-95.

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Big Dog Motorcycles Does Indy

January 13, 2010

In these shaky, gloomy times it’s nice to do some horn tooting now and again. So let me take this chance to toot the collective horns of Dealernews and our Big Boss, Advanstar. In his New Year’s missive to the media and his company’s suppliers, Big Dog Motorcycles CEO Sheldon Coleman announces that he’ll only be attending one tradeshow this year — the Dealernews International Powersports Dealer Expo! Hooray for us, though the reason behind this decision is sobering. 

In Coleman’s words:

As a reminder, we have decided to focus our energies on only one of the two February trade shows for this year. In the past, we have tried to accommodate both the Cincinnati V-Twin Expo and the Indianapolis Powersports Dealer Expo into our schedule and budget. Unfortunately, this year we had to choose between these two find events.

As previously announced, for 2010, Big Dog Motorcycles will only be exhibiting at the Indianapolis Dealer Expo (February 12-15).

We have enjoyed the years of exhibiting at Cincinnati and will miss exhibiting this year at this excellent show. We are respectful of all that Easyriders does for the industry, and are appreciative of the many awards we have achieved at this event. Hopefully next year our budget will allow us to return.

In the meantime, we are pleased to attend the Dealernews Powersports Dealer Expo with our Big Dog booth and factory team.

OK, let me lay down my horn.

 

Catch a Thief: Langston Motorsports Burglarized

January 12, 2010

The call is out to help catch the thieves who burglarized Langston Motorsports, the Perris, Calif., store owned by champion racer Grant Langston’s father. ON Jan. 9, 2010 at 3:51 a.m. two masked men wearing hoodie sweatshirts smashed through a glass door and grabbed eight bikes, including Grant’s Pro Circuit KX250F championship bikes from 2005 and 2006. Surveillance cameras captured footage of the two thieves running in and out of the store and loading motorcycles into a 14-foot U-Haul truck with a large image of green fish on the side.

Here’s the video:

According to police, the motocross community should keep a sharp lookout for anybody trying to sell these one-off bikes or their nearly unobtainable parts. Anybody with any information should contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department a 951-210-1000 using the case number PE100090014. Deputies said if anyone sees the suspects with the bikes, DO NOT try to apprehend them, but to call 911. A $1,000 cash reward is being offered for any information that leads to the recovery of the two championship bikes. Visit the store’s website at  www.langstonmotorsports.com for more information. 

 

Here is a list of the stolen bikes:

2005 Kawasaki KX250F (Grant’s championship bike) 

2006 Kawasaki KX250F (Grant’s championship bike) 

2008 Yamaha TTR50 – New 

VIN# LBPCA02Y180000912 

2008 Yamaha TTR125 – NEW 

VIN# 9C6CE12Y270619824 

2007 Kawasaki KX250F – NEW 

VIN# JKAKXMTC17A019821 

2008 Kawasaki KX450F – NEW 

VIN# JKAKXGDC47A018839 

2007 KTM 65SX – USED 

VIN# VBKMRA2377M026729 

has Chaparral Motorsports graphics 

2007 KTM 65SX -USED 

VIN# VBKMRA23X7M026689 

has Chaparral Motorsports graphics

 

Malcolm Smith’s Stamp of Approval: The Malcolm Test

January 12, 2010

File this one under the Things We Like category. Seems that motorcycling legend, Top 100 Dealer Grand Prize winner and all-around super nice guy Malcolm Smith has started up a new blog over at his dealership’s website. It’s called The Malcolm Test and in it Malcolm puts his considerable knowledge to use testing, reviewing and showcasing the products that he sells at his Riverside, Calif. store, Malcolm Smith Motorsports

Here’s some wordage from the blog:

I created this blog to test and showcase products that standout to me in some way. I appreciate products that demonstrate unique design, quality craftsmanship, and superior functionality.

Looks like he started it at the first of 2010 and thus far he has reviews up for the Gaerne GX-1 boot and the Motion Pro Tri-Drive Mini-T Handle. And Malcolm’s a smart cookie in addition to being a good dude — at the end of each review he includes a buy-it-now link to the e-commerce portion of his store’s site. Nice stuff and a great way for Malcolm to capitalize on his well-deserved notoriety. This is an idea that might be worth replicating in some way, shape or form.

On a side note, at last year’s Dealer Expo, we (myself, Arlo Redwine and former editor Guido Ebert) had a chance to sit down to dinner with Malcolm, his wife, Joyce, son, Alexander, daughter, Ashley, the filmmaker Bruce Brown and some of the crew from the store (sorry for forgetting your names everybody, it was the wine!). We had a nice night in a private room at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse where we got to scarf down some delicious food, drink some fantastic wine and simply enjoy everybody’s company. That may go down as one of the most memorable “business” dinners I’ve ever been a part of as Malcolm, Joyce and the rest of the gang were perfect company.

 With that said, here’s another bit from Malcolm’s blog — his impressive stats:

– Six-time Baja 1000 Winner
– Four-time Baja 500 Winner
– Two-time Roof of Africa Rallye Winner
– Eight-time Six Days Enduro Gold Medal Winner
– Star of On Any Sunday
– Owner of Malcolm Smith Motorsports
– Industry Leader
– Philanthropist
– Family Man
– Still Winning and Grinning!