Across the States: October

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GEORGIA Albany Harley-Davidson can provide motorcycle riding lessons at an old school driving range, as long as it paves the parking lot. The school board approved a deal to let the dealership use the driving range at Monroe High School for rider training as long as it pays for resurfacing and repaving the lot. Cost: about $20K.

IDAHO A U.S. District Court judge on Sept. 15 vacated the National Park Service's Winter Use Rule, which had permitted up to 540 "best available technology" snowmobiles to run through Yellowstone National Park each day. But Judge Emmett Sullivan didn't replace the number with anything else. "Judge Sullivan's ruling may ultimately result in there being no snowmobile or snowcoach use in Yellowstone this winter," says the BlueRibbon Coalition. "His broad-ranging and novel interpretations of the National Park Service Organic Act and the Yellowstone National Park Act prohibit the Park Service from approving nearly any visitor activity causing impacts to natural park resources."

MICHIGAN The state has eased its off-road riding rules in select rural areas, allowing ATVs and off-road motorcycles to use the sides and shoulders of local roads. Counties allowed to open their roads to ORV use if they so choose include Bay County and those north of a "line" extending from Arenac County on Saginaw Bay to Mason County on Lake Michigan. Locals hope that opening roads and shoulders to ORV use will encourage recreationists to take side journeys into the nearby towns to buy gas, food and other merchandise, thereby spurring the local economies.

MONTANA A coalition of recreational groups filed a lawsuit in early September challenging the Travel Management Plan for a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in the north-central part of the state. The suit alleges that the plan closed more than 50 percent of forest lands previously open to motorized vehicle travel. "If this decision is allowed to stand, it will eliminate long-honored practices like using vehicles for camping and big-game retrieval, and could force property owners to ride expert-level ATV trails to gain access to their back-country cabins," says John Borgreen of the Russell Country Sportsmen.

NORTH DAKOTA Revolutions Power Sports in Grand Forks has purchased Hansen Cycle and Marine and renamed it Revolutions Cycle and Marine. Revolutions Power Sports sells Kawasaki, Polaris and Honda; the new Revolutions Cycle and Marine will carry Honda ATVs, motorcycles and scooters, and several marine lines.

BIG WINDS

LOUISIANA DEALER REMAINS HOPEFUL POST-HURRICANE

People who buy a big-ticket item at Cycle World of Houma usually go home with a sleek-looking vehicle that converts gasoline into fun. But lately generators in hurricane-weary Louisiana are selling; motorcycles and ATVs are not (at least so far).

"We're extremely concerned about the future of the business with respect to all this damage that has occurred, primarily from Ike," Glenn Diedrich says. He owns this Top 100 dealership, which carries Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha. The store itself lost only a small awning, although the storms did moderate damage to a warehouse about 10 miles away.

Whereas Hurricane Ike caused the most havoc, it was Hurricane Gustav, which hit on Sept. 1, that knocked out the store's power for seven days. Officials forbade evacuees to return until the Friday following the storm. "I had employees scattered from Texas to Arkansas to Mississippi to Tennessee to Alabama to Florida," Diedrich says. "They're all back now, but they were all affected in some way by the hurricane."

Cycle World of Houma usually delivers about 110 units per month, but at our Sept. 15 press time the dealership had sold only 10. On the other hand, it had sold nearly 80 Yamaha generators. "Yamaha helped us to get a special shipment of 50 generators after Gustav hit us," Diedrich says. "This was a tremendous help to many new customers as well as some existing ones."

To meet demand for the generators, Diedrich employed a skeleton crew while the store was officially "closed." Generators retail for about $3,000 max so the sales spike had only marginal effect on the bottom line. "You have to sell three or four generators to make up for one regular unit," Diedrich notes. But sales my improve soon. After the 2005 storm season, customers' insurance checks helped boost sales by 20 percent.

Read the full story, along with more news on how recent storms in Texas and Louisiana have affected local dealers, at www.dealernews.com/breaking news. — Arlo Redwine

MIC GETS INTO THE SUPERBIKE RACING BUSINESS

The Irvine, Calif.-based Motorcycle Industry Council says it will launch a professional road-racing series in the U.S. next year.

The new USSB race series is designed to encourage technological development in motorcycle engineering, according to Tim Buche, MIC president. "It will offer the only racing series in America for unrestrained factory superbikes and their teams, as well as those who aspire to join their ranks and compete with them," he says. "With the other series set to abandon superbikes as we've come to know them, USSB will fill that void."

The race series will steer clear of engine restrictors, and mandated power-to-weight ratios, spec tires and spec ECUs, according to USSB managing director Ty van Hooydonk. "We want to set the stage for racing teams to compete on the track, in the R&D shops, in the way they develop bikes and help develop production bikes, in how they develop their engineering staffs and crews, and their riders, too," he explains.

USSB rules are expected to be similar to existing race rules. The premier class, USSB Super Bike, will invite teams running factory-based 1000cc fours and larger-displacement twins. A future U.S. Sport Bike 600cc championship is also planned. Suzuki's Mel Harris, in an interview with RoadRacing World, confirmed that Suzuki would put a factory team in the USSB series.

USSB Inc. is being operated as a not-for-profit subsidiary of the MIC. As the sole shareholder, the MIC board of directors will appoint the USSB's board which will, in turn, function independently of the association, according to van Yooydonk. Although the MIC has an aftermarket council, the association's efforts primarily represent the needs of the major vehicle OEMs, who pay the majority of the MIC's annual membership dues.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHO'S LISTENING

Match the Icon comment...

"Worst shields ever"

"Ripoff pricing structure"

"Heavier, less safe"

"More boring than cottage cheese"

...with the helmet company it's talking about:

a) Scorpion

b) Fulmer

c) Arai

d) HJC

Quotes made by ICON marketing representatives to Parts Unlimited sales reps during the August Parts NVP show in Madison, Wis. Dealernews declines to reveal the answers...

EKO TO BRING SMALL SCOOT TO U.S.

The Department of Transportation has given Bangalore, India-based EKO approval to export its electric scooter EV 60 to the U.S. EKO chairman Anil Ananthakrishna told The Hindu News Update Service (yes, we monitor ALL the newswires) that his company will sell 10,000 units annually, mainly to food chains and smaller stores. He reportedly has finalized two U.S. distribution channels for EV 60, which will be priced between $1,500 and $1,800, and will set up a warehouse in Atlanta.

"Getting the Department of Transport's approval is like a green card [for the scooters]. We can now export the two-wheelers to the U.S. markets without any hurdle," Ananthakrishna told Indian press. Shipments should begin in January. The company is mulling the option of floating a subsidiary in the U.S.

The battery-operated EV 60 goes 35 mph. Ananthakrishna said there's good potential to sell them in smaller metro areas, for short-range use and as off-road two-wheelers.

READYRAMP GOES DIRECT

San Clemente, Calif.-based ReadyRamp has dropped its distributors and says it will now sell directly to dealers. "Material prices have forced us to stop selling to excellent customers such as Parts Unlimited, Western Power Sports and Lockhart Phillips," says the company's owner, Cord Bauer. The anticipated cost savings has prompted the company to cut the price of its motorcycle ramp/truck extender to $188.96 and offer free shipping within the continental U.S.

BRAKE LEVERS RECALLED

Motion Pro is recalling 10,000 Model 14-0415 brake levers used on 1999-2008 Suzuki motorcycles. According to the company, the lobe height on some of the levers is smaller and does not properly engage the stop-lamp switch, which means the brake light would remain on even after the operator releases the brake lever. Motion Pro is offering a free replacement; call the company at 650-594-9600 for details.

BUT WILL HE REMODEL?

Arctic Cat named Claude J. Jordan to the new position of president and COO, reporting directly to chairman and CEO Christopher Twomey. Jordan previously was VP of The Home Depot and president of its Home Services business.

PIAGGIO PROMOTES PIETRUSZEWSKI

Gary Pietruszewski, who has led Piaggio's sales and dealer development group for the last five years, has been promoted to VP-sales and marketing. He will lead the company's efforts in brand management, advertising, promotional events, affinity partnerships and marketing communications as part of his expanded role within Piaggio.

HARDEN HEADS BACK TO HUSKY

Husqvarna has tapped iconic off-road champ Scot Harden (right) as its national sales and marketing manager. One of his first orders of business will be to organize Husqvarna's first North American dealer meeting in 20 years. Harden, who was a regional sales manager at one time for Husqvarna, will also manage the company's marketing efforts. "This is a great opportunity to take Husqvarna's rich heritage and build upon it with the impressive resources of BMW to create a fresh, new brand identity," Harden says.

RIP: CLIFF GULLETT

The industry mourns the loss of Cliff Gullett, a land-speed racer from Bozeman, Mont., who died following a Sept. 3 crash during the annual land-speed trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Gullett, who was competing in the 500cc Streamliner class, was 47.

CALIFORNIA TO OK CATALYST-EQUIPPED EXHAUSTS?

The good news: California dealers soon may be able to legally buy and sell exhaust systems for motorcycles equipped with catalytic converters. The bad news: Dealers likely would be required to keep a record of every such system they sell for five years, or face up to a $500 penalty for each violation.

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) in August discussed proposed regulations that would create an approval process for critical emission-related parts such as catalytic converters. Because no reasonable process exists, the aftermarket does not offer exhaust systems equipped with catalysts.

If the regulations are adopted, retailers would be required to keep a record of each catalyst-equipped exhaust system they sell or install. Each record would have to specify the part number and model, the date of sale and/or installation, the buyer's name and address, and the motorcycle's make, model and VIN. At CARB's request, dealers would have to hand over all such records. Dealers would maintain the records for five years from the date of sale or installation. As far as penalties go, a CARB lawyer said the statutory maximum would be $500 per violation, though the amount could be less depending on circumstances.

"I think you are treating this product like a controlled substance," said Tom Austin, an emissions consultant to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), who said he doubted dealers would create a separate recording system just for catalyst-equipped exhausts. "I'm not here representing dealers, but I know a vast majority of them are not going to end up changing things."

Instead, Austin said, dealers would be forced to spend a lot of time sifting through inventory records created by their regular inventory software. "They're going to have all that information, but it won't be flagged as an emissions-critical part," he told the panel. "Most of them don't have the ability to flag this stuff. They're buying packaged software from a vendor that keeps track of all their sales. And there is an enormous lead time associated with a new module." Other workshop participants pointed out that many small, nonfranchised retailers don't even use inventory software.

The regulations also would require manufacturers to collect at least 50 percent of warranty cards making their way to consumers so that manufacturers could contact customers during a recall.

Several workshop participants said that their attempts to collect warranty cards for marketing purposes never approach 50 percent, even when they offer incentives. "We had warranty cards for years," said Ted Sands, chairman of the MIC's American V-Twin Committee. "We got maybe 10 back for every thousand."

For the full story, visit www.dealernews.com. — Arlo Redwine