‘High focus’ on U.S. market due to impression it makes offshore, says KTM’s Burleson

Publish Date: 
Feb 15, 2013
By Holly J. Wagner

DEALER EXPO, Indianapolis, Ind. -- Dealers and OEMs both have to focus on growth markets, and sometimes it may seem like that puts them at cross-purposes.

It largely means foreign markets for OEMs, who accurately see the U.S. as a relatively mature sliver of the world marketplace. Here at home, dealers have to cultivate customers they may not have tried, or been able to, reach in the past, using new methods.

Consumers today seldom use newspapers or phone books to find what they want. Instead they comb the Internet for information, and dealers bear the cost of that outreach as the industry tries to figure out how to measure the impact. Co-op dollars that were available for print, TV and radio ads in the past may be difficult to get for media like web content, for which metrics are still evolving.

“There is a lot of dissatisfaction on both sides of co-op,” said KTM North America president Jon-Erik Burleson, at Friday’s Super Session on dealer-OEM relations. “Dealers are looking for more Internet support. A lot of the advertising that was traditionally there has gone away, and a lot of the things that need to be done are cheaper to do. It just takes training and understanding and focus.”

The OEM wants to grow the national prestige of the corporate brand, while the dealer wants to get his own, local brand heard above the noise.

“In the past, Internet advertising didn’t count [toward co-op],” said Bill Cameron, owner of multiline dealer Skagit Powersports. “I don’t think too many guys do print, TV or radio any more. It will take the OEMs time to realize [the value of advertising in places like Internet music service] Pandora. You can put the ad you want to have on there. Because traditional media is going away, you need to have other outlets.”

Even that may cause problems in some jurisdictions, said Colorado dealer association executive director Jerry Abboud. Advertising rules vary from state to state, which makes advertising on a geographically boundless medium a dicey proposition.

The leaner economy of recent years means dealers looking for growth have to look at business segments they may not have paid much attention to in the past, or reaching them in different ways.

“We think the events are what draw people in and get butts in the saddles,” Sue Slate, Women’s Motorcycle Foundation programs chair, said from the audience. But while event marketing is a great way to generate goodwill and traffic at the dealership, it may not qualify for funding under established co-op terms.

Used bikes and add-ons are rich opportunities, but they require a different focus from dealers.  

“We’re selling fewer new bikes,” Cameron said. “The smart dealers are realizing they have to specialize a little bit. You have to have three or four things you are known for, and you have to add more space for it.” (Continued)