Posts Tagged ‘dealernews’

Great video/commercial from — can your store top it?

September 24, 2010

The guys over at just put together this video/commercial and I’ve gotta say it’s pretty fantastic. I don’t see a lot of local marketing programming done by my locals dealers — not their fault, I just DVR most of the TV I watch. While I can’t very well endorse the part where the rider pull off the main road like that to blast through the forest (are those approved trails?) I can certainly say it speaks to something we’ve probably all felt like doing — whether it was over a median, up an embankment to an off-ramp or over the tops of the cars in front of us.

That said, this is pretty well done piece of advertising for the e-commerce site that we wrote about in our print mag back in June. Read it here and here. Enjoy.

BRP’s New SxS Aims at Polaris’ RZR

June 7, 2010

Can-Am Commanders Feature Power, Performance, Utility

The Can-Am Commander 1000 X tops 72 mph with its 85 hp Rotax EFI V-twin.

BRP’s Can-Am Commander, the high powered 1000cc side-by-side vehicle that has had the market buzzing for weeks, finally was rolled out at the BRP dealer meeting in Reno last night.

There will be five models: the Commander 800R and 800XT and the Commander 1000, 100XT and 1000X. The X model gets the high performance package and special graphics.

So, what’s to add after all the Internet talk and spy photos? Some facts, a bit of perspective and a forecast, perhaps. I recently spoke at length with Yves Leduc, vice president and general manager for BRP’s North America Division, and others at the company and throughout the industry about the machine and its impact on this very important industry segment. Here’s what I found out and what I think the impact of this machine will have on the segment.

Yves Leduc

First of all, the folks in Valcourt are taking dead aim at their neighbors in Minnesota, and it sounds like they have the ammunition to make life difficult for Polaris, the makers of this year’s oh, so hot RZR.

Make no mistake, when BRP executives use the term, “no compromise” in describing the new Commander SxS family, they mean it’s going to outperform Polaris in every way possible. And from what I can gather—without having ridden or even seen the Commander first hand— they may have done just that.

Yamaha’s Rhino, the machine that launched the Rec-UT category, isn’t much of a player at this time, given consumer reluctance to get too close to the lawsuit-prone vehicle. And Yamaha hasn’t made any significant changes since the 2009 model year. So, it really comes down to BRP’s Commander against the Polaris RZR lineup.

One experienced off-road rider, who is very close to Polaris, says the Commander is a better performer, is better engineered and has better fit and finish. At about the same MSRP, that’s going to make a show floor buying decision pretty easy, even for die-hard Polaris fans.

Here’s just one pre-launch quote I pulled from a Polaris forum: “If they put a 900 Rotax in (the Commander), I would be tempted (to buy it).” Well, hello. The Commander 1000 comes with a 1000cc, EFI V-Twin Rotax. There you go.

And the Commander 1000X performance package carries an MSRP of $14,699 vs Ranger RZR S at $13,999 with only a 760cc EFI V-twin, generating 55 hp and a top speed of 63 mph. It has a carrying capacity of 300 lbs. The Commander generates 83 hp, has 600 lbs carrying capacity, 1,500 towing capacity, and a top speed of 72-mph to 75 mph, a BRP official told me. The RZR does have better ground clearance at 12.5 inches vs. 11 inches for the Commander, and the Commander is heavier at 1,200 lbs vs. 1,100 pounds for the RZR.

One interesting feature is the Commander’s two level cargo bed with a 600 lb carrying capacity, 400 lbs up, and another 200 lbs below in a lockable storage bin with a removable divider.

Here’s another unique engineering twist: Both passenger and driver seats can be easily removed for free-standing use in the field. Why sit on the ground, when you can pull the padded seats from your SxS and relax in them? It’s one of those ideas, like, why didn’t I think of that?

BRP Rollout Plans

“We said at the end of 2007 that we would have a side-by-side in 2010, and here we are,” Yves Leduc, BRP’s Can-Am chief, told me last week. “Despite the worst recession in history, we stayed the course. We could have postponed this project, but, instead, we made it a priority.”

Leduc likes the way the timing worked out. “If you compare our entry here with our ATV entry in 1999, it’s two different worlds. With ATVs, we entered a mature market with six very strong competitors.”

Now, BRP has several things going for it, says Leduc:

  • Very strong recognition for the Can-Am brand.
  • A dynamic and changing market segment for performance machines.
  • Limited competition, essentially only Polaris.
  • A unique segment that provides the best features of performance and utility machines.

“Clearly, we saw an opportunity to define the segment, a no compromise segment, when we started looking at this three years ago,” says Leduc. And it appears they did just that.

The Commander lineup, says BRP, feaures “the best handling in the industry” with power and work capacity. “It’s not an extreme sport vehicle,” says Leduc, “it’s a comfortable sport package, one that allows you to get the maximum out of the vehicle.”

BRP’s target buyer? “It’s the enthusiast; that’s clearly the buyer for the Can-Am, they tend to make it part of their lifestyle. That’s the emerging buyer for the SxS, many of whom never owned an ATV. We’re also targeting hunters and fishermen and large estate owners, who want the best.”

The Can-Am lineup will be rolled out to about two-thirds of the company’s dealer network in all states right away. He wouldn’t tell me how many dealers will receive machines or how many will be available this summer.

Limited distribution will begin in July, mostly to Quebec dealers, and demo rides are planned across the U.S. this summer. Full production will begin this fall in Mexico, accompanied by a major advertising blitz.

“The idea,” says Leduc, “is for us to get feedback from this first generation of users as we start shipping and adjust as we go along.”

At the same time that North American dealers get the machine, it will be launched internationally in all countries in which BRP has direct distribution, including Germany, Austria, the UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New-Zealand, and Japan. Then it will be sent to BRP’s authorized distributors, reaching a total of more than 50 countries.

The Can-Am Commander 1000 XT will be homologated for use on European roads.

BRP doesn’t have an electric model, nor a four-seater to match Polaris, and there aren’t any coming as part of this launch. “But,” says Leduc, “you can count on BRP continuing to improve the lineup.”

So, the battle is joined. JD

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

Cellphones replacing loyalty cards?

June 1, 2010

By now your business surely has a Facebook fan page, and some of you are even actively using it to promote your store/product/whatever. We even know of some Top 100 dealers who offer Facebook-only specials to its base of fans — usually, a 10-percent off something or other special. It’s a brave new world, this social networking stuff, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if all the work keeping up with it is for naught. 

Sure you have 500 fans on Facebook, but what does this mean? Has it translated into more sales or door swings? 

Well, the New York Times is reporting on a number of social networking companies who are turning their social media skills towards programs that can help you track your more loyal customers — at least those who are actively engaged in Facebooking, Foursquaring, etc. 

There are already several tech companies — Foursquare, Shopkick, Gowalla and Loopt — that have turned shopping and visiting stores into a game. Consumers using the social apps on their smartphones mainly use them to “check in” to different locations to let their Facebook friends know where they are or where they’re shopping. They can also collect virtual points, prize badges and titles such as Mayor or some such. They’ve basically turned running errands into a game. 

Sound silly? Yes, sort of, until now. A couple of these companies have introduced partnership programs that allow you to reward loyal customers for coming into your store and “checking in.” This is basically mobile marketing that allows you to offer such perks as discounts or free gifts to loyal customers. The idea is that these targeted bonuses will help increase repeat visits in addition to foot traffic. 

The New York Times reports that such companies as Gap, Burger King and Universal Music have plans to use Loopt Star to reward loyal customers. The participating companies can tailor the program to offer different “rewards” for such actions as “checking in” a certain number of times, or give out an extra perk to those with a specific number of Facebook friends. Retailers can design “rewards” with their own graphics, special offers and the actions they’d like their loyal customers to take. These include:

  • check in to selected venues with Facebook friends
  • check in to selected venues and broadcast this on Facebook
  • check in to selected venues at certain times of the day
  • check in to selected venues a specific number of times  
  • Foursquare, the most popular of the “checking in” apps, allows businesses to offer Foursquare Specials, a program that includes a set of analytics to gauge consumer behavior. The free program allows you to collect behavioral data about customers such as:

    • most recent visitors
    • most frequent visitors
    • the time of day people check in
    • total number of unique visitors
    • a histogram of check-ins per day
    • gender breakdown of customers

    Foursquare also encourages businesses to promote their involvement with the service via Twitter, with signs at the cash registers or sidewalk signs, and can help stores market their Specials via window clings or through downloadable PDFs.  

    Here’s an idea. Why not combine the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Revive Your Ride program and one of these mobile marketing services to promote the upcoming riding season?

    It’s undoubtedly frustrating keeping up with technology when you’re running a dealership, especially the rapidly evolving social media world. But it might be worthwhile to investigate what’s out there as it’s very likely a large swath of your customer base is already clued into this stuff. Also, a lot of a it is free and who doesn’t like free?

    Thank you, Don J. Brown

    May 2, 2010

    In this month’s Dealernews, we have a special section commemorating our longtime research editor and all-around industry sage Don J. Brown. It starts on page 32.

    Some very prominent figures from motorcycling’s past and present offer up their best memories and warm thoughts about Don, who died March 24. Indeed, these remembrances help paint a compelling picture of a man whose entire adult life was enmeshed with the industry that we call home. And, as Mary Slepicka points out, we all owe Don a sincere thanks for his life’s work.

    Reading this section during the editing process made me remember an experience with Don for which I’ll forever be grateful. It happened during a phone call shortly after I started at the magazine. We were deep in a discussion about one thing or another when I mispronounced the name of someone very prominent in the industry (the kind of mistake that makes me redden to remember). I can’t share this slip-up because of what Don said to me next.

    He stopped talking, held a moment, and then simply pronounced the name correctly. I paused and asked him what he said. He correctly repeated the name again, explaining how it was supposed to be pronounced. He then calmly and politely told to never let anyone hear me it say it like that again. It wasn’t a lecture or a scolding, just a reminder and a correction. We then carried on our conversation. This was my first lesson of many that talking to Don was the same as getting an education.

    With Don you got both historical reference and sage advice for modern times. Let him talk and listen, I learned. Trust me, I’ll never forget that name. Senior editor Arlo Redwine offers up his own very nice words about Don on the Dealernewsblog at

    Also with this issue, we’ve added some new features to the story (more…)

    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…)

    Straight From the Dealers’ Mouths

    April 1, 2010

    This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2010 issue. 

    Dealer Expo has come and gone for another year. You came. You bought. You shivered.

    Seems like each year in the run-up to the Indy show there’s talk parsing the benefits of attending, and this year was no exception. It was especially loud out there in blogland where it seemed quite a few powersports experts offered their opinions on why or why not a person should bundle up and head to Indianapolis.

    In the years I’ve been with Dealernews I’ve heard the same complaints every year. It’s too far. It’s too cold. The location sucks. Traveling costs are too high. It’s too costly to exhibit. All are legitimate concerns, especially the latter two given the sorry state of the economy and its effect on the industry.

    The only thing is, among the loose-floating opinions dropping around the Internet (where everyone’s an expert!) and the industry, I didn’t hear anything from the dealers — you know, the folks for whom this show is intended.

    So in a highly unscientific study that would pass no serious scrutiny whatsoever, I decided to survey dealers who actually attended Dealer Expo and took advantage of the Full Throttle Dealer Lounge that we set up. Yes this is a recipe for loaded data, but I wanted real feedback from those who take the show seriously.

    Working from a list of these dealer principals, GMs and parts managers, I contacted them specific business benefits they get from attending the show, any stand-out products they saw and any drawbacks from going to Dealer Expo. Seems the primary reasons for attending the show are meeting suppliers in person, getting to see new products up close, and taking advantage of show discounts and other ordering specials.

    Ryan Moore, parts manager at Athens Sport Cycles in Athens, Ohio, cited the opportunity to see new display ideas and learn some key selling points, in addition to researching delayed-billing options and dating terms. Moore added that while he didn’t see any products he could live without, and that he can understand why the location is difficult for some dealers, “I can’t see why anyone would not attend the Expo. Even if they didn’t take advantage of the purchasing deals available, it’s worth the product knowledge you can gain.”

    Another attendee, Derek Osner, the parts manager at Crossroad Powersports in Upper Darby, Pa., said he noticed distributors were really willing to work with stores given the economy, and that he appreciated that the show’s layout allowed him to find the things he needed to find. He also took advantage of show specials. “Seeing all the new products before everyone else gives us a jump on the competition even if it’s only for a little while,” he said. “You get to see the people you talk to on the phone every day. It’s nice to get my ass kissed vs. kissing other people’s asses!”

    Relationship-building is another reason many come back. Alex Horeczko and Scott Dudek, co-owners of Extreme Supply in Signal Hill, Calif., says the show is a great place to see everybody under one roof — despite the logistical problems (winter, flight delays, etc.) of getting there. “We debate annually if we should attend the show, and year after year, we always find some new products or a meeting that made the expense and time of the show worth it,” they said.

    Horeczko added that one business benefit is “supporting the industry by doing our part to make the show a success so the vendors continue coming year after year to do business.”

    Personally, I get a charge out of Dealer Expo. It’s very easy in the monthly schedule of producing a magazine, and daily grind of keeping our website fresh, to get bogged down with what feels like work. The show is an excellent reminder that I work in the motorcycle industry, that I’m surrounded by some of the coolest gear, gadgets and gizmos money can buy, and that I get to talk with and write about the most creative, intelligent, ingenious and fun-loving people I’ll ever know.

    This may sound like I’m blowing sunshine, but it’s true. There’s no other industry like ours. For goodness sake, I could be working at a trade magazine covering the paper products industry. Blech.

    But don’t take my word for it. Danny Manthis, co-owner of Doug Douglas Motorcycles in San Bernardino, Calif., had this to say about Dealer Expo. “The size of the show in its own way is an inspiration to a smaller dealership like mine. Why I say that is [because of] the number of vendors and the size of the crowd all there at Indy in the middle of winter for one specific reason: an interest in powersports. This makes me want to be, and glad to be, part of this industry.”

    Have anything to add? Let us know.

    Dennis Johnson
    Editor in Chief

    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…)

    Officials: Importer Used Fake CARB Certificates

    March 15, 2010

    One of Largest U.S. Importers of Chinese Machines Is Charged

    Two top executives of one of the largest importers of Chinese and Taiwanese powersports equipment in the U.S. have been charged by California authorities with selling vehicles that did not meet that state’s emission standards, according to the complaint obtained by Dealernews.

    Kening N. Ma, president and owner, and Shirley Hyunae Ji, vice president, of Goldenvale, Inc., were charged last week in a 70-count complaint. The complaint, filed in San Bernardino, Calif., Superior Court, charges the two executives and “another person or persons” with selling motor vehicles that had not been certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to consumers and dealers in California.

    The complaint charges the executives with multiple felony counts of grand theft of personal property (more than $400), possession of false certificates, and money laundering involving more than $448,000.

    The complaint said that Ma had, and used, certificates known to be “false, altered, forged, and counterfeited.”

    According to industry estimates, Goldenvale was one of the top two or three importers and retailers of Chinese and Taiwanese powersports equipment during the last several years.

    Goldenvale is a diversified importer that operates facilities in Ontario, Calif, and Dallas, Texas. It imports several powersports machines, including ATVs, dirtbikes, scooters and karts. The powersports units were sold online and through a network of dealers under the Roketa brand.

    The company also imported many other items, ranging from artwork and blankets, to  toys and cooking utensils.

    Specific sales figures are not available from the closely held company, but import data and industry analysts believe that Goldenvale imported nearly 80,000 units in 2008. But that number dropped off sharply to only about 2,000 units last year as the company attempted to deal with a large unsold inventory of machines.

    The company had big years in 2006, according to industry estimates, when it retailed nearly 50,000 ATVs, and again in 2008 when it retailed almost 50,000 scooters. Those numbers put Goldenvale in the top three importers/distributors of Chinese/Taiwanese ATVs in 2006 and scooters in 2008.

    Last week’s arrests were the result of an investigation that took several years, dating back as far as 2005, according to court records. The investigation was a joint effort of CARB and the San Bernardino’s district attorney’s office.  JD

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

    2010’s Top 100: Full Speed Ahead!

    March 1, 2010

    This story originally appeared in the Dealernews March 2010 issue. 

    With each new year comes a fresh new batch of Top 100 entries to dig into, read deeply, study long, poke around in and really get a sense of what dealers are doing in the world of powersports retailing. I think I’ll always be amazed by what I read.

    As many dealers and entrants point out, the competition offers the chance to benchmark their business, acting as a mirror in which they can check their store’s reflection. Given that most people considered 2009 a year they’d like to bury out behind the shed, we are happy to report that most of the entries indicated that those reflections were still able to fog up the glass a bit.

    In other words, 2009 may have sucked wind, but the dealers who entered the Top 100 competition demonstrated that they refuse to let a sour economy cow them into submission. While unit sales were down, we saw dealers pumping energy into growing P&A sales and service dollars. Some reported modest, but healthy growth in these areas, and indicated that they’re going to focus on more of the same for 2010.

    Marketing and advertising dollars were also in short supply, leading many owners and managers to finally learn exactly what technology could do for them. Text message promotions. Social networking. Online advertising via Google AdWords and other sources. E-mail newsletters.

    We receive submissions from dealerships of all shapes and sizes, ranging from elaborately prepared photo album presentations to quick-and-dirty handwritten entries. All highlight some of the most hard-charging and creative dealers on the continent.

    There was one entry that struck me, that from Doug Douglas Motorcycles, which seemed to embody the criteria on which the competition is judged. It is probably one of the most heartfelt entries I’ve ever read. A 3,500 sq. ft. Triumph-only store in San Bernardino, Calif., the shop is a throwback with a twist. Much like Triumph’s lineup of modern classics, which blend old and new, the store seems to easily represent yesteryear’s greasy aesthetic while maintaining a very modern front. This is especially interesting considering the store survives in the shadows of two of the largest dealerships in California — Bert’s Mega Mall and Chaparral.

    The store’s been in the same building since 1963 in what is still a residential neighborhood. And much like the old-time barber or grocer, they think of themselves as the neighborhood bike/repair center. They’re not completely old-timey. One staff member, a student at nearby California State University, San Bernardino, came up with a plan to display bikes and clothing on campus. In addition to the display, they also set up a booth to accept credit applications, “The results are that Triumph is now well-represented in the parking lot at CSUSB.”

    Intrigued, I snooped around Yelp and the store’s Google Maps page and read outstanding customer comment after comment. Sure, online reviews can be gamed, but it’s rare for a list of online reviews to not include at least one or two displeased cranks.

    I get a taste of the dealership’s spirit from two things: First, this description of founder Doug Douglas from the store’s website’s “Our Staff” page: “Founder of the company and part owner. Former national caliber racer that’s won the prestigious Baja off-road race more than once and set a solo record in the process. Grouchy, hard of hearing and the best mechanic you’ll ever know.”

    And then this line from the Top 100 entry: “What Doug Douglas Motorcycles lacks in fancy architecture, upscale location or slick-Willy ad campaigns, we make up for with heart and the determination to continue to provide the good people of the Inland Empire with a motorcycling alternative. We don’t win customers with a Crystal Cathedral, instead we treat them with respect, straight-forward answers and a fair price and let the chips fall where they may.”

    Yes, we celebrate modern retailing, encourage dealers to raise the bar, and are blown away by the powersports meccas built by some, but there’s something special about shops like Doug Douglas, stores that offer a direct link to the industry’s past.

    Dennis Johnson
    Editor In Chief

    U.S. Economic Outlook Turns MIC Breakfast Sour

    February 22, 2010

    Very Slow Growth Expected In Foreseeable Future

    INDIANAPOLIS, In.  (Feb.22)—  Looking for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the U.S. economy this year? Well, we heard all about it during the Motorcycle Industry Council’s annual meeting at the Dealer Expo here.

    Martin Regalia

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist, Martin Regalia, plopped the unpleasant news right in the middle our breakfast coffee and donuts in a most unappealing fashion. Unfortunately, the bad and the ugly outweighed the good by a wide margin.

    Regalia saved his heaviest punches for President Obama’s new budget. But more about that later.

    Here’s Regalia’s outlook, in a nutshell:

    The Good: We’re coming out of the recession, although very slowly.

    The Bad: We’re not growing fast enough to replace all the jobs we lost, among other things

    The Ugly: We’re staggering under so much federal spending that we may never get the budget (more…)