All Hands On Board


If you're doing it by the book, you may be losing out

Ijust concluded several months of conversations with a dealer in my region. We agreed that he needed to take advantage of the used bike sales opportunities in our area.

Eventually, he plans to build a separate facility and showroom for his used bike operation. But for now he hasn't even made his staff aware of his used bike plans. That's unfortunate, because everyone needs to be on board for a used bike program to work.

Recently his dealership, an American V-twin single-branded store, accepted a metric cruiser as a trade-in from a customer for a new motorcycle. The used bike manager approached service about doing basic reconditioning on the trade-in — an oil and filter change, cable and chain lube, a state inspection, and general clean-up and detailing.

Once the service writer saw that it was a metric bike, he blurted out, "We don't work on those!"

"Why not?" said the used bike manager.

Part of the reason, the service writer said, was that the dealership did not carry parts for that brand. However, the used bike manager found out that the technicians only wanted to work on franchise bikes.

This is the reason for getting employees across all departments to buy into your plans for a used bike program. And it's a good reason for conducting regular meetings with all staff to discuss used bike issues. A used bike program affects all departments.

If you've never really dealt with used bikes before, make it clear that this new initiative is a big commitment for the store. Enlist the support of all sales associates. Answer everyone's questions. And make sure the managers have smiles on their faces. Everyone should know that creating and successfully maintaining a used bike program require a change of thinking.

So what happened after the service writer blew off our used bike manager's request? The service manager interjected. "We'll get it handled," he said.

There Are Options

If you're a single-brand dealership, you're not limited to that brand when it comes to securing pre-owned inventory.

Getting parts for other brands is simple. The service department requests the applicable parts from the parts department. The parts department then contacts an appropriate dealer to obtain the parts. Most dealers will sell parts to fellow dealers for less than retail price. Then, when the parts department sells the parts to the service department (via the repair order) they mark up the parts' price by the normal 20 percent.

If the bike requires something more extensive than simple reconditioning or maintenance, then coordinate a process with a nearby dealer carrying that brand to get the bike repaired there — via a "sublet." Your service department then can mark up the outside repair charges by 20 percent, and cashier the repair order.

This "sublet" process allows the service department to make a profit while getting things done for the used bike department. And you're not selling bikes that fall below your dealership's minimum standards.

Keeping everyone in the loop also applies to used bike advertising and promotion. When you create ad materials, insert comments like "all trade-ins considered" in a prominent location.

Another good ad copy insert is, "If you have a payoff on your bike, no problem! Trade it in, and we'll pay it off for you." Many riders don't understand that even if they owe money on their current motorcycle they use it as a trade for your bike. Even if he or she owes more than the bike is worth, usually you can handle the transaction (depending on the rider's credit standing, of course).

Jay Williams is the owner of Motorcycle Maxx Ltd. in Raleigh, NC. E-mail questions and comments to