Bike Dealer Corrals Classic Bikes (& Customers)

Whatever they're talking about, he is not trying to sell them a '76 Honda CB400F.

There are, in my experience, two kinds of dealerships. Whether you’re selling cars, motorcycles, or lawn tractors, two distinct business strategies predominate, with very little middle ground: Trappers & Ranchers.
Trappers view customers as wildlife, out roaming the retail wilderness on their own. They are to be captured, subdued and skinned as soon as you can get your hands on one. Then move on; there’ll be another by soon enough. In human relationships, it’s known as the “love ’em and leave ’em” approach: say what they want to hear up front, and once you’ve gotten what you want from them, who cares if they’re unhappy.
And then there are Ranchers. They view their customers as a heard of sheep: a long-term investment to be nurtured, protected, managed…and patiently sheared many times over. Martin Motorsports in Boyertown, PA, is clearly a ranching outfit. How else can you explain taking all their inventory off the showroom floor and inviting 1,000 people to come look at old motorcycles that they couldn’t sell?

On March 12th, Martin Motorsports hosted their first-ever “Modern Classics” motorcycle show. They put manpower into clearing out their for-sale inventory, then populated their showroom with 100 classic bikes dating as far back as the early 1950s. All were out-of-production bikes owned by individual collectors, and many represented brands the dealership doesn’t even sell. They bought online ads and sent out 4,000 emails and press releases. The payoff was having 1,000 spectators come to enjoy the show.
How does all this effort to not sell any motorcycles pay off? Well, in the short term, the dealership sold T-shirts commemorating the show, and they’re putting together a hard-bound book of the show bikes. But the real benefit is in the long game: the show makes them memorable and attractive to the public. When the people around Boyertown who came to the show consider buying a bike (an idea the show itself put in a very good light), or accessories, or a new jacket or helmet, the show’s boost to the dealership’s marketing presence and public reputation may be just the thing to keep their sheep in the fold.
All the show bikes were professionally photographed for inclusion in a hard-bound coffee-table book. This was a real class act.

In the end, motorcyclists are a deeply passionate crowd who want to be around and do business with people who love bikes as much as they do. If you don’t care if you’re selling motorcycles or widgets to make your profit, that’s going to turn your customers off. The Martin Motorsports’ web page thanks the show organizers for “bust[ing] their butts for no other reason than to be around old motorcycles and the people that love them.” Perhaps the show was its own reward, increased business or not.
SOURCE: Martin Motorsports, Dealernews

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  1. facelvega Avatar

    I think dealerships of almost all kinds will be gone in twenty years. There's just too much overhead compared to web-based and direct retail, the first convincing employment of those other methods in any given field will have so much competitive (price) advantage that the other manufacturers will be forced to follow suit.
    That said, expanding the trappers vs. ranchers idea to the general area of specialized retail and service industries, I think there is a third option past ranchers: the club. This is where the clientele and reputation are so established that it plays up the idea of membership over the open focus on the idea of sales. Most of the top-end vintage car dealers work this way, as do most of the small handmade car makers (poor Bristol!). If you accept this third category, then Martin Motorsports is trying to move from rancher to club.

    1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      I hope that dealerships (car and/or bike) will still be around in 20 years. I believe it's decline would be a further step in the direction of cars as appliances. Where else, but at my local dealer, can I find out what is important about a car to me. Can't sit in it online, drive it, etc. etc.
      Also, we would miss out on the events that sometimes dealerships put on, such as this story. Yeah, I know that's rare, but it still happens, and it's a good thing.
      It is a good question though: what system could replace the traditional dealership that would combine all the aspects of that dealership (inventory, sales, service, parts) and do it cheaper and with a higher profit margin?

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        Single-use disposable vehicles.
        …or compulsory mass transit.

        1. Alff Avatar

          By then, the Matrix will have eliminated the need for most personal travel.

      2. skitter Avatar

        Instead of commission, the sales staff will be paid a salary.
        Instead of haggling over price, there will be a few standardized cars and more special orders.
        Instead of a massive inventory, there will be several cars to test and demonstrate different options.
        Warranty repairs will be simpler under a unified system.
        Local radio ads will be reduced a thousandfold.

        1. OA5599 Avatar

          RIP, Saturn?

        2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

          Salary .. No problem, that beats commission any day.
          Standardized cars, special options…. Not sure. I was lucky enough to order a car from the factory exactly how I wanted it, but could only do that after looking at, sitting in, and driving many different varieties. And I know it's not what you meant, but "there will be a few standardized cars" sounds very Communistic.
          I like the massive inventory. For the same reason listed above, as well as I would miss looking over at the dealerships as I drive by.
          Warranty repairs… I'd suggest that a lot of that depends upon the skill of the mechanic at the particular shop, and as I am currently witnessing I'm not so sure about the talent at my local dealer. How long does it really take to figure out the cause of a 'no-start' on a modern fuel injected car?

    2. P. Frere Avatar
      P. Frere

      Don't the Japanese have some sort of 'super dealerships' that are destinations in themselves–a place to test the cars, a shopping center and a fun park for the kids. Which category would a place like that fit into?

  2. facelvega Avatar

    Exactly what I was thinking when I mentioned this. The first major company that applies this to cheap family transport wins all the marbles.

  3. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    I would think that this is only possible when you have a limited product selection. I think the 2009 F-150 had something like 10 million possible configurations. Companies like Saturn or Tesla don't have that kind of an issue.
    I do believe that it will become easier to order the exact model that you want, however, delivery times will always depend upon the backlog from the factory.