JUST ABOUT ANYBODY who’s dealt with Harley-Davidson in the past three decades has run across Ron Hutchinson, or at least some of his work.
In a career that spanned 34 years with The Motor Co., the lifelong motorcyclist (pictured at right) held a variety of engineering, education, manufacturing, quality, sales, service and marketing positions — all of them tied closely to the product — and he retired in 2009 as senior vice president of product development.
It’s hard to keep a guy away from the business who describes his entry into the two-wheeled world like this: “I started riding when I was nine on a minibike that my dad built — small, yet fast enough for a couple of great Irish cop stories.”
Hutchinson says he missed the industry and the relationships he forged with H-D’s dealer network, so after six months of retirement he started looking for a way to re-engage. He launched Accessory3, a manufacturer of aftermarket products for OEM trikes. He’s also recently signed a joint marketing agreement with Lehman/Champion and is looking at other OEM and conversion opportunities. Senior editor Dennis Johnson interviewed Hutchinson about his new venture.
Dealernews: Why did you focus on trikes with Accessory3?
Hutchinson: Since I knew the “recovery program” wasn’t working, and that I had two decades of experience in the motorcycle aftermarket along with a few years invested in bringing the Harley trike to market, it seemed a very natural fit to focus on three-wheeled motorcycles. Supporting that direction were some contributing factors that seemed to indicate an underserved market:
- Avoiding the issue of balancing on two wheels is very important to lot of potential motorcycle customers;
- The boomer generation has proven time and again they want to personalize their rides, and their rides are likely to evolve to three-wheeled motorcycles;
- There was a dearth of unique, premium products that would make the trike ride easier, more comfortable and safer.
All that sounded like a market opportunity. So while a lot of our product will work on two wheels, my focus was to be on trikes.
What’s the rationale behind creating products that are ergonomic, functional, protective and custom?
The tag line for A3 is “Your choice for Comfort, Convenience and Conspicuity.” The products we’re developing all fit within these three general areas. I suppose we could add customization but, frankly, any aftermarket product helps the individual rider make their own personal statement of what their motorcycle means to them. So customization is at the heart of all their PG&A purchase decisions.
The fundamental issue is very simple: Every OEM creates very specific targets for a new vehicle. They all create detailed customer and use profiles for the product, and those profiles are always an average across the range of the profile. The only exceptions are the few OEMs that have allowed for some adjustment of seats or other user/vehicle interfaces. So that spells an opportunity for the right customizing products to improve fit, enhance functions [and/or] add features for every individual customer.
Can you tell us about the organization A3 has partnered with, Beyond Vision?
Beyond Vision is a great little company that employs folks who are blind to serve a number of southeastern Wisconsin companies. Beyond Vision is doing machining, fabrication, assembly, fulfillment and call center support for Briggs and Stratton, GE Medical, Harnischfeger, Harley-Davidson, federal and state government [departments] and many others. Their mission is critical in the blind community where unemployment is in excess of 70 percent. Simply, they do great, high-quality work, and we’re proud to support their mission.
Don’t mean to sound crass, but is there a larger point here about helping others and boosting business at the same time…
The last thing I want to do is make a political sounding “social responsibility” statement, so I won’t. However, I will say that if a corporation can meet its needs for competitive labor costs while creating real opportunities for people in dire need for jobs, why not use a company such as Beyond Vision? Helping people contribute to society with value-added jobs, serving real customers seems so much more productive for our country than expanding an already bloated welfare system, but that may be awfully close to what I said I wouldn’t say. So what was that next question? (continued)