Author Archive

Rally support during a recession?

June 29, 2010

I got the following e-mail from David Grant, the newsletter editor for an Arkansas chapter of the Green Knights motorcycle club:

I am on the committee organizing a rally for the military, police and firefighter (Green, Blue, and Red Knights) motorcycle clubs this coming October in Harrison, Ark. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to approach dealers, manufacturers and aftermarket companies for support in these economically challenging times. We would accept monetary donations toward the charities we’re supporting, products for door prizes, or just an on-site display setup. The three clubs are about community service, hence this theme is a friendly competition with support for local economy.

I replied to David that I didn’t know much about organizing rallies. But this didn’t stop me from offering some advice: (more…)

Don J. Brown: In Memory

March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The motorcycle industry has lost its oldest, dearest analyst. Don J. Brown, whose work spanned decades, died yesterday at home. He was 80 years old.

Don’s full biography can be found (where else?) at the website of the AMA Hall of Fame. I just want to share a few personal reflections.

For the past few years I’ve edited Don’s pages in Dealernews: “State-by-Statement” and “ATV/Dirtbike-by-State” — in which he predicted, by state, how many units dealers would retail that year — and “DJB Composite Index,” his by-brand national predictions for the year.

By-brand is the key word. Because of Don, our magazine has been a dealer’s only source for annual retail sales of all the major brands. Some companies like Harley-Davidson divulge retail sales in their financials, but not many. And we’ve had them all. (more…)

V-SEPT Responds to Criticism From Dealer

February 8, 2010

I’ve been reporting on V-SEPT ( for about five years now. For those of you who don’t know, the company offers an Internet-based CRM (customer relationship management) system built specifically for powersports dealers. Click here for my latest profile on the system, written for our July 2009 issue.

More than one dealer has told me that they have a high regard for V-SEPT, and several current Top 100 dealers have noted it in their contest applications, including Andy’s Cycle Sales of Hazard in Bonnyman, Ky.; Dothan Powersports in Dothan, Ala.; Family PowerSports in Lubbock, Texas; Gieson Motorsports in Rock Falls, Ill.; and Skagit Powersports in Burlington, Wash.

Heartland Honda in Springdale, Ark., is another Top 100 dealer that uses V-SEPT. In an article I wrote for our website last December, store manager Greg Donahoe shared his opinions on several marketing-related vendors. Below is the most relevant portion of the article relating to V-SEPT: (more…)

Powersports: The Lost Decade? Not Really

February 1, 2010

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2010 issue.

I have yet to see the final MIC numbers for 2009, but dealers likely retailed about 500,000 new motorcycles and scooters made by the major brands. This is roughly the same number they retailed in the late 1990s. For all you industry veterans, wouldn’t it be great if you could just downsize to your 1999 staffing and advertising levels, and call it good? The OEMs and aftermarket could do the same. With all the recent layoffs, maybe that’s what they’ve had in mind.

If only it were that easy. For one thing, technology and the Internet have changed how business is done. Today there are dealership duties that didn’t exist a decade ago. Even our favorite V-twin hippie, Rick Fairless, has computer people on staff. Turn to page 18 for some insight into how he’s built one of the smartest websites I’ve visited. It’s plain fun.

Technology doesn’t necessarily mean more overhead: It can save money in man-hours and advertising. Fairless, for example, explains how he’s stopped spending money on the Yellow Pages. Another columnist, Eric Anderson (page 28), talks this month about digital signage that acts as a silent salesperson on steroids. (more…)

Cycle World Reader Surveys on Tires, Helmets

December 15, 2009

Retailers are hungry for statistics about the recessionary consumer. Last year, Cycle World produced two such shopping surveys, one on tires, the other helmets. The magazine compared the results with 2005 findings. Below are results transcribed into purely textual form. Click here for full reports with pie charts and bar graphs. You’ll see studies dating back to 2005, including a 2008 study on dealerships.

The most interesting findings may be that 42 percent of readers bought their current helmet at a dealership, and 30 percent bought online (see the full results below). But of the readers who wanted to buy a helmet within the year, only 35 percent planned to do so at a dealership; 44 percent planned to go online.

Similar stats for tires: 44 percent bought at a dealership, 20 percent at an accessories store, and 31 percent online. Since 2005, online purchases have grown by 10 points; dealer purchases have dropped by 5 points.

But who are Cycle World’s readers? (more…)

Arai, Shoei Unveil Models, but How Are High-End Sales?

November 1, 2009

Opener[1]The embargo on Arai’s new RX-Q street helmet ends today, and I’m thrilled to see the article on it comes up No. 2 in a Google search. (Click here to read it.) The folks at Arai stopped by our office a couple of weeks ago to give us a presentation, and left us with information and images. They didn’t donate samples because they only had a few, including a size medium straight from Japan. I tried it on, and (surprise, surprise) it felt great. Qualitywise, this will be another winner hitting the market in late December or early January and retailing for roughly $675.

Does the price sound kinda high? Arai says it’s positioning the RX-Q between the Profile and Corsair-V. In fact, the company is marketing the model as a Corsair-V for the street. I think the helmet is a knockout, but how eager are dealers right now to stock this price point? Tucker Rocky president Steve Johnson told me this past summer that sales of high-end brands are suffering the most. He even mentioned Arai as an example.

Then again, Arai’s timing may not be as bad as it seems. I just heard on TV that the recession is technically over due to the rise in GDP. And although unemployment will remain high for a while, people who haven’t lost their jobs should feel more confident they won’t — and may start spending again. (more…)

Vendors That Compete Against Their Own Dealers

October 18, 2009

BrokenChainWhy has the industry allowed so many vendors to compete against their own dealers through online sales? Shouldn’t everyone respect the supply channel? Or do some vendors have legitimate reasons for selling directly?

Two years ago, I was attending an annual meeting of MIC members when a guest speaker told the 200 assembled vendors that they all should be selling online. “The most important way for the aftermarket to sell is the Internet,” the market analyst said. “Companies used to be worried about how it would affect their retail establishments. That way of thinking has gone by the wayside.”

This comment surprised me. When the analyst asked for questions, I asked whether he believed motorcycle dealers in particular no longer cared whether their suppliers sold directly. He gave a quick affirmative and left the stage.


The Good and Bad of MAP Policies

October 9, 2009

Low_Price_Guarantee[1]As PG&A inventories remain bloated, the dangers of heavy discounting mount. Brands take a wallop once their suggested retail prices become a running joke on eBay. To combat this, we’ve long had minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policies.

But dealers have mixed feelings about these policies. Some dealers don’t like them, period. The market should dictate prices, they say. Most dealers like the idea of MAP pricing, but they hate the policies of specific vendors or distributors. Or, perhaps more often, they resent policies that aren’t strictly enforced.


Without Credit, and Clueless

October 3, 2009

j0309203“What do you mean I don’t qualify for a loan? I can easily make the monthly payments. My motor home was just repossessed a few weeks ago.”

Ever hear something like that?

David Damron, owner of Chaparral Motorsports in San Bernardino, Calif., has — many times. “People got some excess cash, so they think they can finance,” he told me in August. “And they seem to have somehow forgotten about the two repos. It’s unbelievable the amount of people that are coming in filling out credit apps that are in the high 400 scores and wanting to know why they couldn’t get financed because they’ve got the cash flow now because they’re obviously not having to make the payment on the boat or the car or the truck. They don’t understand.” (more…)

Small Stores Versus Big Stores

September 25, 2009

Exterior_HIn a column titled Memories of Dealerships Past,” industry veteran Mike Vaughan wondered whether the industry downturn will give way to smaller, friendlier stores.

One thing is apparent. The number of dealerships is falling rapidly. But what types of stores will be the predominate survivors? What will be the best way to distribute the smaller volume of motorcycles, about half the volume of only a couple of years ago?

Going by the trBertsend in the general retail world, where big-box stores have taken over, I’m guessing the ratio of big stores to little stores will increase. That means more people riding or driving longer distances to get to a dealership. But motorcyclists typically aren’t averse to traveling.