Archive for the ‘Motorcycle’ Category

Survey: 3Q U.S. Harley Retail Sales Up 3.5%

October 3, 2011

Here is some good news for followers of Harley-Davidson: Retail sales in the third quarter were up 3.5%, compared to the 3Q last year when sales slumped 9.4%, according to a recently-completed survey of dealers by Wells Fargo Securities.

There’s more good news as well: Inventories remain at five year lows and all of the dealers described inventories as comfortable/light with a need to improve the mix such as adding more touring bikes. Inventory levels are at about 40-45 days, according to the survey.

However, dealers voiced concerns about the inventory mix and said there probably were lost sales due to lack of product availability on models such as the model year 2012 (MY12) touring, sportsters and softails. “We believe Harley underestimated U.S. summer demand, especially in touring (models),” says Tim Conder, Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst and author of the report. “It likely will be late fall before Harley has U.S. inventories normalized,” he added.

Here’s an interesting comment from Conder: “We continue to believe Harley is making specific efforts to limit some availability of Touring models, in part to encourage the dealer network to grow sales (i.e. Sportster, Dyna, Softtail) into targeted, less penetrated customer demographic segments (i.e., under 35, women, African-American, Hispanics). However, this effort may have been too aggressive when combined with York restructuring transitions.”

The survey included 40 dealers located in 24 states across the U.S., approximately, 6% of Harley’s U.S. dealers and was skewed toward larger dealers in major metropolitan areas. The survey included 10 dealers in the East,  10 in the South, 10 in the Midwest and 10 in the West.

The dealers surveyed were very aggressive in their marketing. In addition to selling new and used motorcycles, clothes, merchandise, parts, accessories and service, 98% of the participating dealers had Harley Owners Group (HOG) chapters, 55% offered rentals, 45% sponsored a Rider’s Edge training program and 33% had an on-line sales program.

The dealers also were very aggressive on their pricing. Seventy percent of the dealers sold at MSRP, 20% sold at MSRP with what Wells Fargo calls “minimal discounts,” and 10% sold at a premium to MSRP. Twenty percent of the dealers said they were selling at least some new models below MSRP, compared to 13% in the Q211 survey by Wells Fargo, and 18% in Q310.

Here are other findings from the survey:

  • The ratio of used to new bikes has improved from 2:1 to 1.75:1.
  • The price gap between used bikes and new bikes has continued to narrow. Used bike prices were stable through the 3Q after rising for much of the last 24 months, according to Conder.
  • Price discounting does not appear very likely in the near term, says Conder, “given clean dealer inventories, increased demand and management’s aggressively managing supply in line with demand.”
  • Used Harley bike prices stabilized in Q209 and have increased since then to the point where new bike demand “is positively impacted,” notes Conder. Since Q209, he says, dealers reporting flat or increasing used bike prices jumped from 25% to 88% in Q311.”
  • Prices of used Harley’s are likely to continue to increase, year over year, over the next year, Conder predicts.
  • Credit standards of Harley-Davidson Financial Services (HDFS) have remained basically stable between the second and third quarters this year, according to the dealers.

Harley common stock has traded in a range of $28-$47 over the last 52 weeks. It closed at $34.33 on Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. JD

Let’s make the safety pitch

August 29, 2011

This space has been filled more than a few times with my take on motorcycle safety gear and apparel — why it should be worn, why it could be smart business for dealers to sell the heck out of it, and why the industry as a whole should be more aggressive in promoting its use.

Yes, training is absolutely paramount, too, but protective gear is something I feel very strongly about personally, and it’s an aspect of riding that intimately involves powersports dealers. It seems to me it’s one-third of the trifecta — unit sales, service, and PG&A — that makes up much of the business relationship between a dealer and its customer.

There are tons of reasons why a rider should wear ATGATT and why it should be promoted, and we’ve heard from dealers like Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW, whose store atmosphere revolves around strongly suggesting that customers wear all the kit — not because it’s legally required, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Yes, I can sound a little preachy, but quite simply, I’m a safety geek. Motorcycle riding is inherently risky and can result in death or severe injuries, and for me it’s all about managing that risk. Suiting up each time is second nature, so much so that I feel naked if I’m not in full kit.
And then I received in the mail a package from Phil Davy at Leatt USA (see our “Five Questions” interview with Davy on pg. 12). Inside the box was Leatt’s new STX Road neck brace, the street-rider version of the company’s successful lineup of neck braces developed and built for off-road riders.

With some interest, I’ve watched as neck braces have become a fairly common part of motocross and off-road racing and riding. (An interesting phenomenon yes, but remember the days before knee braces became the norm?) But I never made the connection to the street until Leatt announced the STX at Dealer Expo.

Upon inspecting the STX I was struck by just how much it looked like safety gear. The armor in a riding jacket is pretty well-hidden, Kevlar jeans are mostly discreet and helmets are just helmets. But this, it looked absolutely orthopedic and a bit awkward. In adjusting the STX for fitment, I was concerned it would be bulky and strange to wear.

I was wrong. After it’s dialed in and properly fitted, the STX just kind of disappears, and can barely be felt while being worn. In fact, there’s almost a comforting feel to having it snugged up against me. It quickly has become a standard part of my riding gear, even for spins around town.
Although it’s comfortable, the Leatt makes me hyper-aware that I’m wearing a protective brace to guard against neck injuries in the case of a crash. Putting on the neck brace before each ride has made me even more keenly aware of protective riding gear — mainly how little of it many riders wear. It’s summertime, so you know the drill; shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes, no helmets. In noticing all of this it has me thinking about what the industry as a whole can do to get more people suited up.

Perhaps these are wasted thoughts, that those of a mind to protect themselves will do so, while the rest won’t. But I can’t help but think it’s a good thing for our industry if there was a concerted effort to promote protective gear.

Pushing safety gear doesn’t scare people away. Indeed, Davy says that “injured, maimed and dead motorcyclists do more to chase away new customers than any safety pitch.” We all should keep this in mind.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews September 2011 issue. 

The Trench: Joe Rocket’s latest all-climate offering

February 1, 2011

Our man Steve Blakeney over at Sullivans Inc., just sent us the latest offering from Joe Rocket and upon first glance, it looks pretty cool (or warm).

The Joe Rocket Trench is a combo bit of kit that features a mesh, armored jacket surrounded by a trench coat-length waterproof outer layer. The inner jacket also sports a removable fleece vest. Oh, and there is a rain pant included that’s stored in a pocket on the outer layer. When combined together, the three pieces look like an all-climate riding solution.

Here’s some of the details from Sullivans:

Trench coat (outer layer) features:

  • 100 percent waterproof
  • Waterproof pockets
  • Reflective stripes and logos
  • Adjustable cuffs
  • Built-in straps that ca be used to secure jacket to legs
  • Built-in storage straps for rolling up and affixing jacket to motorcycle
  • Rain pan included and stored in integrated pocket.

Mesh jacket (inner layer) features:

  • Grade A C.E.-rated protectors in shoulders and elbows
  • Removable spine pad with pocket for optional C.E. spine protector
  • Removable warm fleece vest
  • Multi-point SureFit custom adjustment system
  • Internal face shield pocket
  • Snap Loops for attaching jacket to belt
  • Reflective stripes and logos
  • Available in sizes small through 3XL.
  • MSRP is $249.99

We are a giving bunch

February 1, 2011

Growing up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, I lived across and down the street from a bar that was a hangout for a well-known motorcycle club.

It was the kind of place where a midnight brawl meant that my friends and I could go out the next morning and find billiard balls in the gutter opposite the bar. Cops kept close tabs on the joint, if I remember rightly, and it was always jumping on the weekends.

We mostly avoided the place, but as it is with things dark and dangerous, there always was a strong urge to poke around and maybe peek inside during the safety of daylight. Motorcycles. Bad dudes. Fighting. What boy wouldn’t want to check it out?

Once a year, on the marquee outside there was an incongruous message alongside the dates of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs’ next appearance. It read something like “annual toy drive” or some such, and it always seemed odd (to my juvenile mind) that a rough-and-tumble place like this would have anything to do with toys.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the toy drive this motorcycle club held every year around Christmas was reflective of something quite common to the motorcycling world as a whole. Sure, the club existed on the fringe of the general two-wheeled brotherhood, but its members were doing the same thing many other riders were doing everywhere — giving and supporting their communities.

Motorcycles and other powersports activities attract a wide range of personalities, but there is one trait that seems to be almost universal, and that is, as a whole, we are a very giving bunch. Toy drives. Charity runs. Supporting veterans groups. Fund-raising events at dealerships. There are countless small events all over the country raising money for local organizations and groups. And then there are the biggies, the mega-events known far and wide — Oliver Shokouh’s Love Ride for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Ride for Kids events benefitting the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

In 2009 alone, the Ride for Kids activities nationwide raised $4.4 million for the nonprofit focused on finding the cause and cure for childhood brain tumors. Some of the top fund-raisers contributing to that amount were held by powersports dealers. Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa, Ill., landed the top business spot with a contribution of $126,857. Bob Henig, owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Md., personally raised $59,012. Not a bad haul for either one.

When motorcyclists come together to give back to their surrounding communities, stuff gets done.
Take this month’s cover dealer, J&W Cycles, a Top 100 dealer for 20 years straight located in Washington, Mo. Owners (and brothers) Bob and Jimmy Jones not only serve on several local boards, they’re also behind a popular motocross race held each year and the local Town and Country Fair. Bob is also president of the chamber of commerce and Jimmy serves on the board at MMI, and the dealership supports several local charitable organizations.

The Jones brothers’ commitment to community even earned the dealership the Top 100 Best Community Involvement Initiative award in 2007. Reading over the list of activities and groups they support leaves one wondering how they have time to run a top-notch dealership, let alone get any sleep.

Examples of giving and charitable work can be found at all levels across the spectrum — from the bad-boy motorcycle clubs of my youth to the outpouring of local support offered by the Joneses, owners of a 34-year-old dealership.

So what’s the motivation? Hard to say or even guess, but it likely falls somewhere between laying the groundwork for good karma and pure altruism.

One thing for certain, the Jones brothers’ commitment to community has earned them and their dealership an esteemed spot in their local area and a loyal customer base, which is a pretty good payoff for simply doing good deeds.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews February 2011 issue.

Joe Rocket Dry Tech Nano gear long-term test: A year of of all-weather riding

January 19, 2011

by Trevor Trumbo, former Advanstar group marketing director, Powersports and Veterinary divisions

It’s difficult to find good riding gear that you can live with day in and day out all year long. But this 2010 offering from Joe Rocket may be the only set of gear you need to buy. I’ve been wearing the Dry Tech Nano jacket and pants for more than a year, and I have put both pieces to the test. Consider this background on my riding:

A motorcycle is my only mode of transportation in California. I commute to work five days a week on my motorcycle. The total round trip distance is 54 miles. I take day/overnight trips around California every weekend on the motorcycle and consistently log 300-plus miles. Each week I ride between 500 and 800 miles.

The jacket and pants have held up to harsh commuting conditions consisting of highway riding at 70-plus mph through heat, cold, and rain. I’ve had other jackets and pants that show fraying edges after a few months of riding. The Joe Rocket set looks almost new (except for the dirt and grime, see pic below) and I can confidently report that the stitching and seams remain in excellent condition. Both jacket and pants have multiple highly reflective panels that do a great job of making sure you’re seen when riding at night or in low-light conditions.

The jacket and pants provide plenty of ventilation during the summer, when many riders either wear a mesh jacket or don’t wear a jacket at all. The Dry Tech Nano jacket flows enough air to keep you cool in all conditions, except 100-plus degrees and sitting still. I wear the jacket all 12 months of the year. When the weather begins to cool down, you can zip in the removable liner and be comfortable down to about 20 degrees (that’s the coldest temperature I’ve ridden in). Colder than that and you’ll want heated gear anyway. The pants feature a removable liner that you only need in the coldest of conditions.

I was most impressed with the ability of the jacket and pants to keep me warm and dry, even in torrential downpours. I can tell you that I don’t miss pulling over on the side of the road and trying to change into rain gear at the first sign of a storm and then having to change out again. The Joe Rocket gear lets me keep on riding without worrying about the weather. The pants feature full-length waterproof zippers up the legs making them easy to get into and out of. The Nano web material used, according to Joe Rocket, was originally developed as an air filtration system. No matter, it certainly works as advertised and is 100 percent waterproof and dries very quickly.

The jacket is adjustable for a variety of rider sizes with elastic/button adjusters on the sleeves and Velcro straps around the waist. And with adjustable CE-rated armor, you can get the right fit whether you are wearing layers or just need some additional room after stuffing yourself at the buffet. The pants have Velcro adjusters at the waist to ensure a tight fit as well as removable suspender straps.

Overall, this is a great set of riding gear whether you’re motorcycle adventure takes you to work and back or across the country. The Joe Rocket Dry Tech Nano is an affordable option to semi-custom touring suits of similar quality.

 

Remembering why we ride

November 1, 2010

It was hell getting out of Queens and out of the city. Packed traffic on the Cross Island Parkway up and over the Throgs Neck Bridge. Accidents on the 95 heading to the George Washington Bridge. All lanes just limping along. Sitting in the jam on a superheated idling V-twin, no lane-splitting relief in sight.

Over the bridge and into New Jersey and it was hot. Not a lot of traffic, but a long list of highway changes in my travel plans. The effects of the red-eye flight were now clearly being felt, not a good thing given this was my first time on two wheels in this pocket of the Northeast. A handful of wrong turns and route changes, and things were finally smoothing out.

The city quickly fell away to country. Green ruled the color palette. The front wheel aimed north on the 87 — a straight shot (more or less) the rest of the way, and any tension that had built up during the first few hours into the journey evaporated into the ether. The only goal now was Lake George in upstate New York for the Drag Specialties Adirondack Run.

I’d been invited by LeMans to attend the annual dealer/distributor ride and jumped at the chance. The day-to-day slog of trade magazine work involves a lot of sitting, reading and editing. It means staring at a computer for hours at a time and transcribing taped interviews. It means juggling story budgets and weekly editorial meetings and lots of run-around tasks only tangentially related. It’s long bouts of grinding it out punctuated by short bursts of adrenaline.

In other words, magazine work is lot like many other jobs. So when given the chance, I happily snag the perks that come in the form of new bike intros and organized press rides or, in this instance, the fifth annual installment of the ride organized by Drag Specialties. Turns out I wasn’t the only one eager to step out of the office for a little two-wheel therapy.

Jim Matchette, Drag’s national sales manager, says the run was launched not only as a way to bring together its dealers, vendors and sales employees, but also as a chance to ride motorcycles in great locations. “That’s why we all got into the business in the first place,” Matchette said.

And boy, did they get it right this time. Two major loops featuring hundreds of miles of woodsy, twisty blacktop, all of it winding through upstate’s sheer natural beauty. The trees were just starting to turn, so the greens ran into reds into yellows. One trip went to Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the other up and around Lake Sacandaga to a lunch stop at the picturesque Jimbo’s Club on Brant Lake.

On one of the loops, I had the chance to ride with Jim Bannon and Buck Shelton, owner and service manager, respectively, of Mavrix Motorsports, a Honda Powerhouse dealership in Middletown, N.Y. Also in our group were their superstar Drag rep, Rick Pence, and one other LeMans employee whose name now escapes me. Good dudes all around. We took a wrong turn at one point that — like all good wrong turns — led to a miles-long lakeside road filled with banked turns and fast bits of two-lane.

Two days of riding through some of the best scenery this country has to offer. Nearly 400 miles of not thinking about a computer or a deadline or a desk or a meeting. Nothing but the steady drone of the road and wind one hears inside a helmet. Trees and turns and lakes and rain and road and acceleration. It was constant locomotion punctuated by leisure and cocktails and conversation.

After it was over, on the ride downstate into the city, the obvious smacked me upside the helmet. Matchette was absolutely right about actually taking the time to get out and ride, to get out and enjoy why most of us got into this business to begin with — riding motorcycles.

I’m not too sure about everybody else, but it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the workaday minutiae of our careers, even when working in this great industry, and put our passions on the backburner. So I wonder, how often do you get out and ride? How about your employees? Let us know at
editors@dealernews.com.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.

Off To EICMA, World’s Largest Motorcycle Show

October 29, 2010

It’s Friday afternoon, and in a few hours I’ll be boarding Delta flight 258 in Minneapolis headed for Milan Italy and EICMA, the world’s largest motorcycle show.

The show opens Tuesday and runs through Sunday, Nov. 7. I’ll be on the floor most days preparing reports that you can read here.

If you’ve not had an opportunity to visit EICMA, here are some numbers to consider: EICMA, which is open to consumers from Thursday to Sunday, drew 450,000 visitors last year, compared to the Dealer Expo which draws less than 20,000 industry only attendees. This year at EICMA, there will be about 1,100 exhibitors from 35 countries set up in six show halls that cover 505,000 sq. ft.

It’s a busy schedule. Tuesday and Wednesday are so-called trade days. That’s when much of the work gets done because there are no consumers jamming the aisles and clogging the booths.

These are the days when companies announce their new products to the industry and the news media. At this moment, there are 23 press conferences scheduled during the two days, roughly one every 30 minutes from the 10 am opening Tuesday to closing at 4 pm Wednesday.

Interestingly, some of the more savvy and aggressive companies have leaked unofficial information on their products prior to the official introduction in order to maximize coverage in magazines and blogs.

I’ll be working the show with Dealernews Editor-in-Chief Dennis Johnson, who has posted his own summary of the show here so I won’t go into all of those items. But here are some of the items on my To Do list, in no particular order:

  • Participate in selected press conferences, including EICMA’s state of the industry session, and sessions by several of the major OEMs.
  • Check out the Chinese and Taiwanese pavilions. I want see what new companies and products might be coming to the U.S.
  • Visit the U.S. Pavilion to discuss exhibitor plans for selling into the European markets.
  • Identify EICMA’s plans for it’s second motorcycle show in China next year.
  • Talk with Italian motorcycle officials such as Constantino Ruggiero, director of EICMA, who is retiring this year. I want to get his view on the 2011 EICMA-China show and his views on the Italian motorcycle industry.
  • Walk the floor to look for new products and new companies and pick up as many news tidbits as I can.

Okay, I’ll be busy at the show, but I’m also planning to sample some of the great dining and shopping in this buzzing fashion center. After all, I do have to provide a bit of perspective for the Big Show, don’t I? JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
joe@powersportsupdate.com or 612/845-8091

Major Management Changes at CFMOTO

October 8, 2010

CFMOTO, the Chinese powersports company, has made several top level management changes to its U.S. subsidiary based in suburban Minneapolis, according to sources close to the company. The changes include beefing up the management team with outside professionals and a shift in responsibility for Lev Mirman, the former president of the U.S. operation, CFMOTO Powersports.

Mirman retains his equity position with about a 10% ownership of the U.S. operation. Under the new setup, Mirman will focus on legal and regulatory concerns involving CARB, DOT and EPA.

The company declined to discuss the changes in any detail when I contacted the CFMOTO office today.

The new management team is designed to increase efficiencies, and help the company expand its product portfolio into new areas beyond its ATV, scooter and motorcycle products, sources told me. CFMOTO has about 200 U.S. dealers, down from a high of about 215, but it has been adding dealers this year, the company said.

CFMOTO is one of the few Chinese manufacturers that has established its own subsidiary in the U.S., similar to the Japanese models in which the manufacture manages its own brand through its own manufacturing and distribution channel.  Most other Chinese and Taiwanese companies simply hire independent importer/distributor companies to handle their products in this market.

CFMOTO’s parent company,  ChunFeng Holding Group, Ltd., was established in 1989. The group has eight wholly-owned subsidiaries engaged in manufacturing of liquid cooled engines, scooters, motorcycles, vehicle parts and accessories, and investments. The largest engine it manufactures is a 500cc unit, and the smallest is 50cc. JD

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

RSD/Victory Motorcycles: Project 200 Video

July 28, 2010

When I first saw pictures (stolen from Cameron Brewer over at RSD: Thanks Cameron!) of the custom Vegas 8-Ball that Roland Sands is doing for Victory Motorcycles, I immediately fell in lust over its swoopy profile. That new tail section and dropped down seat, combined with the full fairing, really highlighted the design lines that Victory is known for. (It should probably be noted that I’m an Roland Sands Design and Victory sycophant — I just like the stuff that they do when they do what they do.)

Then I got really excited (starting to creep myself out here) when reading about what RSD is attempting to do with this bike. It’s called Project 200 and it’s Sands’ effort at building a bike aimed at hitting a Modified Partial Streamlining (MPS) record. Here’s a ‘graph from the RSD blog that explains it in RD’s words:

This Victory project is for the sole purpose of going 200mph. What started off as a move to do something different with a Victory turned into a quest for the 200mph marker. This has been a personal goal of mine for sometime and to do it on what was a custom cruiser makes it much harder and more interesting. Adding the bodywork and performance parts lends itself to setting this bike apart as a true high speed performer. It will soon be getting a turbo motor which will make it a 200 plus HP beast for both landspeed and the drag strip.

So now that Victory has announced its 2011 lineup and RSD had a chance to show this beast to the dealers attending the Polaris/Victory dealer meeting, this video has been posted.

It shows the early stages of Sands’ quest to hit 200 mph. We’ll try to follow along as they post more vids. Could watch stuff like this all day. Well I could if I got paid for it, so until then I’ll link to videos when they come online and then go back to my work-a-day tasks such as reading press releases, interviewing folks and pining for future press rides.

New “Adventure” bike from Triumph? Oh, you tease.

July 7, 2010

UPDATE II: The official word from Triumph is here! Click on dealernews.com for the full scoop.

Editors note: <— That always sounds so pretentious, let’s try something different. UPDATE: The URL appears to now be working.

So, over at the official Triumph YouTube site, there’s this:

The small teaser includes information that the OEM is working on two different models:

Let the adventure begin! We’re working on two brand new models that we know the adventurers among you are going to love. Our website is now live so sign up for more information at http://www.triumphadventure.com

Tried checking out the www.triumphadventure.com URL, but it doesn’t appear to be loading. I did find out that the site is registered to Triumph Motorcycles, Hinckley, and was created on June 9, 2010. Otherwise, not much more info than that. Hell For Leather is reporting that the models will be shown at EICMA this year, as well as some other tidbits about the bikes. Let the teasing and leaking begin.