Archive for April, 2010

Kindergarten: The Great Opportunity

April 30, 2010

Joe Delmont

I’ve mentioned my four grandchildren before, but bear with me; I have two stories about how kids view kindergarten as a great opportunity that might brighten your day.

My five-year-old grandson, Sammy, will be heading off to kindergarten in the fall, and he’s looking forward to it. Sort of.

Sammy’s a rough and tumble kind of guy. He’s husky and very coordinated, and he’d rather play tackle or dig for worms than read a book. But that’s OK; he’s coming around and he loves to go exploring at the internationally-recognized Minnesota Zoo and the very excellent Children’s Museum in downtown St. Paul, Minn. He loves the dinosaur exhibits and if there’s a truck or tool anywhere in sight, he’s after it.

Anyway, Sammy’s dad, my son, Bryan and his mom, Brooke, have been working with him on his numbers and letters to get him ready for school. He hasn’t been to pre-school, but the day care center he visits is run by a former teacher, who seems to be pretty good. So, Bryan and Brooke expect that Sammy will make the adjustment to big time kindergarten sessions in good shape this fall.

During a recent training session, Bryan asked Sammy if he was excited about the new kindergarten opportunity. Sammy said with enthusiasm, yes, he was. Bryan beamed.

“Maybe I can get a girl friend, Dad,” Sammy said. Hmmmmm. I hope he’s not disappointed.

A Disappointing Experience

On the other hand, the grandson of a friend of mine was somewhat disappointed with his first day at kindergarten last fall. When you start talking about kids, all sorts of wonderful stories pop up.

It turns out that this young fellow had very high hopes for his first day at school. Like Sammy, he had been working with his parents on numbers and letters, and he was really excited about learning to read. In fact, he was disappointed that he couldn’t start reading immediately. He hoped he would learn that in school, he told his folks.

His parents were happy, though, because he was anxious to see what kindergarten was all about, and they assumed he would do just fine in the new school. The boy set off for school that first day with high expectations, unrealistic expectations, as his parents found out that evening.

When the boy arrived home after the first day, it was obvious that things had not gone well. The boy wasn’t happy; in fact, he was in a downright funk. When the parents sat down with the boy and pulled out from him what went wrong, they were pleasantly surprised that the problem wasn’t to serious.

His answer was simple and direct. “I didn’t learn to read today,” he said. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas
at or 952/893-6876.

One-To-One Training Offer Is Great Idea

April 30, 2010

Program Offers Lessons for Motorcycle Dealers

I picked up my new MacBook Pro laptop the other day, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience.

I’ve written before about Apple’s outstanding customer service but one of the best parts is its One-To-One program that offers personal help in setting up your new computer, personal training and assistance in working through your personal projects.


Consumers Starting To Spend Again

April 29, 2010

We’ve talked in this space recently about indications that consumers might be getting tired of their frugal ways and could be itching to spend some of that money they’ve been saving. There are more indications in the news that could be happening.

First quarter profits for several retail companies— from Polaris Industries to Target and Royal Caribbean Cruises— have been encouraging.

Even though unemployment still nearly 10% nationally and the housing market is mixed, at best, consumers seem ready to spend on discretionary items.

“They’ve saved some money, they’ve paid down debt, and at a certain point you just get bored eating frozen pizza and watching cable TV on Saturday night,” Barry Ritholtz, head of the financial research firm FusionIQ told the Associated Press.

Consumer spending has increased for the last five months and retail sales have climbed for the last four months, according to AP research.

But don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet, not by a wide margin. Dealers are still going to have to work hard to build traffic and they’re going to have to work even harder to convert that traffic into sales. But there does seem to be more reason for optimism today than there was six months ago. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas
at 952/893-6876 or

MIC Exec To Address Congressional Committee

April 29, 2010

Legislative Solution To Lead Ban Is Sought

Paul Vitrano, an MIC executive and the face of the motorcycle industry in battling Washington’s misguided ban of lead in toys,  plans to tell a congressional committee this morning why the ban doesn’t work and how it can be fixed.

Paul Vitrano

Vitrano, general counsel of the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), is scheduled to address the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection at 10 am ET. He’ll be talking about the need to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that became law in August 2008.

You can listen to a live audio webcast of the hearing by visiting the House Energy and Commerce Committee website:

The CPSIA is enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and has virtually eliminated the sale of ATVs and dirt bikes designed for children under age 12. This enforcement has resulted in the unforeseen consequences of children riding adult-sized ATVs—a potentially fatal situation— as well as the needless loss of millions of dollars in business for the struggling U.S. powesports industry.

Vitrano plans to testify that the CPSC has acknowledged the ban could result in children 12 years of age and younger riding larger and faster adult-size vehicles, a known safety risk. The  CPSC’s own studies show almost 90% of youth injuries and fatalities occur on adult-size ATVs, according to the MIC.

“The real risk to children comes from banning youth models, not from the lead in certain components,” says Vitrano.

Proposed legislation that could permanently stop the ban will be discussed at the hearing. “The only permanent solution is a legislative solution,” says Vitrano.

Vitrano says he plans to “urge the committee to provide as much clarity as possible in developing a legislative solution so that the CPSC is left with no doubt about Congress’ intent to ensure the continued availability of youth model motorized recreational vehicles.” JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
952/893-6876 or

Who Wouldn’t Love a Job Right Now?

April 28, 2010

We’re not above using this space to help out a fellow industry type in need, especially when it means possibly helping another fellow industry type who is also in need. In this case, it’s the scoot-tastic (did I just write that?) folks over at Scooterworks USA.  The Chicago-based crew behind the legendary Scooterworks catalog, Scooterworks direct and Genuine Scooter Co., has a job opening.

Here’s some wordage they forwarded to me about the position (bold added by me):

Sales manager with 10 plus years of experience with phone sales experience and management, preferably in a mechanical/cycle/auto parts environment. College degree necessary.Must be an “evolved” individual with superior coaching and mentoring ability, an understanding of revenue generating sales techniques, a great communicator who can move a team forward and sustain a fun, rewarding work enviroment. Must be familiar with a variety of selling software applications and a fast learner with exceptional and proven team- building and revenue generating skills.

Individuals without applicable experience need not apply. Must have impeccable references and work background. Great benefits and salary plus bonus which will be commensurate with professional experience and performance. We are an EEO and are based in Chicago. No phone calls or “drop ins”. Resume and cover letter to

Got the goods? Give ’em a shout. 

Tucker Takes Bold Step in Digital Marketing

April 28, 2010

Distributor Offers Product Videos at

When I talked with Steve Johnson, the boss of Tucker Rocky Dustributing, in January, we discussed the growing importance of digital marketing. I thought his comments certainly were interesting, but not hugely important for the industry or even for the company.

Steve Johnson

I was wrong. When we spoke again Monday I discovered how badly I had missed the mark. The Fort Worth-based distributor has taken steps that could significantly change the way powersports PG&A products are sold to consumers and dealers.

Very simply, Tucker has basically dropped its B2B and consumer print advertising in favor of product videos that are distributed through YouTube and Tucker’s own “TV station,” the website,

In addition to TR house brands such as FirstGear, Answer, MSR, and ProTaper, the site also carries videos featuring products from Arai, K&N, National Cycle, Ogio, PJ1, Scorpion, Bridgestone, and Cobra, among others. The videos are well produced and do an effective job of explaining and demonstrating the features and benefits of each product. Visit the site, and you’ll see what I mean.


And the most expensive motorcycle on the planet is…

April 21, 2010

… a Dodge. Yep. 

According to this recent BusinessWeek story that sums up some of the priciest goods around, the peculiar Dodge Tomahawk V10 Superbike snags the top spot for most expensive motorcycle, priced at $700,000. 

To me, it kinda looks like a Monopoly car — and I wonder if we can really consider it a motorcycle because it has four wheels. It weighs in at 1,500 pounds(!!), but can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. 

Here’s a clip of the behemoth in action. (The video states it’s priced at $500,000, but the more recent info above is correct.)  

So would you drop that kind of money on this bike?

Hey employees, it’s your time to speak up. Owners? Sit and listen.

April 20, 2010

(Ed. Note about change in first paragraph: Ray said, sure, go ahead and add his name.)

A while back, I got a note from Ray Jones, service manager at Shawnee Honda in Shawnee, OK.

The gist of his message is this: Often times, the regular workaday employees of a dealership don’t get a chance to weigh in on what could be done to improve business. And, in many cases, these workers are on the front lines of a store and know exactly what is or isn’t going right (sometimes before the management ever catches on).

So, this begs the question: When the economy goes soft and everyone is scrambling for ideas, how many often does management turn to its seasoned insiders for ideas?

Here’s the text of a short column I asked him to submit. Take a look and please let us know what you think — and maybe offer up examples of when you were asked for ideas, what they were and the results.

Maybe the best ideas are right under our noses and we are failing to even consider them. These are the ideas of the employees. Let’s challenge the people who actually work in the dealerships to bring new innovative ideas to the table and not overlook (more…)

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, Coming Right Up

April 16, 2010

Just got word from the good folks over at Harley-Davidson that a loaner Forty-Eight, the latest Sportster-based bike in the Dark Customs lineup, will be coming my way next month. If you read this here, it’s pretty obvious that I’m a fan of this growing class of bikes. Low, light and quick. Good stuff all the way around.

I first got to see the Forty-Eight when it was unveiled during the International Motorcycle Shows New York stop. The most striking thing (more…)

Customer Service Isn’t Dead

April 10, 2010

It’s Alive and Blossoming at Your Apple Store

It’s easy today to wring your hands and really despair over the state of customer service by America’s retailers. Plenty of examples of disinterested, couldn’t-care-less service practices pop up every day. But things aren’t as bad as they might seem. Actually, customer service is offered at a very high level in some places. Just visit your friendly Apple computer store and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s refreshing if you’re a consumer and educational if you’re a retailer.

First, a disclaimer: I’ve been an Apple guy since I bought my first computer 25 years ago. It was a MacIntosh SE, the third machine in the revolutionary MacIntosh line. I never regretted that purchase, nor have I regretted any of the many Apple purchases I’ve made since then. Today, I’m a dedicated iPhone user; in fact, I do almost as much work for Dealernews and its website on my phone as I do on my laptop.

Back to my point: Apple has two things going for it: It knows how to meet market needs and it knows how to take care of its customers. Let’s talk about customers.