Cashing In, One Bolt At A Time

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CALL THEM BOLT-ON parts, accessories, whatever — no matter what you call them they can keep your shop's cash register ringing.

The American V-twin market is a changing place. Gone are the days when hoards of buyers plunked down 30K to 60K for a production custom or one-off creation. Today's buyers are far savvier, and much less impulsive — taking time to research the market place before spending their hard-earned cash. Even buyers new to the market need to be approached differently than in the past.

Rick Fairless, owner of Strokers Dallas, defines a bolt-on part as "something you can buy over the counter and bolt it right on; this can be done by either the dealer or the customer." Strokers sells and installs a good deal of handlebars, grips, pegs, and taillights, as well as side-mount license plate holders. Rick says, "Strokers sells bolt-on parts for not just Harleys, but for American IronHorses, Big Dogs, or whatever." When asked if the Harley rider and the production custom rider view bolt-on parts in the same way, he told us "the Big Dog is already slicked out pretty good, but it's the same in that riders want their bikes better, cooler, or different than the other guys."

It doesn't seem to matter if a buyer is new to motorcycles or an experienced rider: All make bolt-on purchases. This is where a well-thought-out sales plan makes sense. Novice riders might think they know just what types of parts they want installed on their bike. Armed with a list gleaned from magazines, Web sites, catalogs and friends, would-be buyers usually go on a shopping spree before being intercepted by a sales employee.

Shelly Rossmeyer Pepe, general manager of Arlen Ness Motorcycles of Daytona and Bruce Rossmeyer's Daytona Harley- Davidson, tells us how important it is for a prospective motorcycle buyer to sit down with what Rossmeyer calls the "chrominator" before finalizing a bike purchase.

An accessories specialist, the chrominator makes sure buyers are aware of all the options available for their motorcycle. Once they have decided what bolt-on parts they want, it's the job of the chrominator to convince the buyer to have the dealer install the parts prior to taking delivery of the bike. Aside from the desire to roll the cost of the added parts into a small increase in the monthly payment, the soon-to-be-bike-owner has the added confidence of knowing that the parts are being installed by a trained professional. (H-D now warranties parts from the P&A catalog, which are installed by the dealer prior to delivery, just like any other new piece on the motorcycle).

Shelly adds that since 2006 the custom- manufactured bikes they sell have come with their own accessory lines. American IronHorse has a full backrest system, as well as rear passenger pegs and a pillion pad. "It used to be if you were buying a custom bike you didn't even ask for a sissy bar. Now we put them on the floor to let people know that they actually do exist," she notes.

Junior, owner of Lifestyle Cycles in Anaheim, Calif., explains that he urges his parts and sales staff to surf the Internet and look for new and different parts not offered by mainstream U.S. distributors. These parts often show up as offerings from European companies. Once Lifestyle has identified a desirable high-quality part from a particular manufacturer, they check back frequently to see if the manufacturer has anything new he can offer customers. Lifestyle also offers free installation of simple bolt-on parts. Junior realizes if his technicians quickly install parts while the customer remains in the showroom, his sales staff has an excellent opportunity to interest the buyer in other pieces for his bike.

At Harley-Davidson Anaheim-Fullerton, service manager Colby Craddock says that the service department keeps busy installing high-demand bolt-on items on new bikes. A continuous stream of parts such as backrests, seats, handlebars, chrome lower legs, shiny hand controls, and even custom painted parts are routinely installed on bikes before they ever make it to the showroom floor. If a bike buyer still wants to add a part or two to a new motorcycle, the service department will fast-track the installation as the customer is completing the final details with the sales personnel. The dealership finds that installing one or two bolt-on accessories right away for the new motorcycle buyer, greatly increases their score on the ownership experience survey, Craddock adds. No matter what size business you run, whether you sell new or used, Harley's, custom one-offs, or small- volume custom production bikes, look to these extra P&A for additional profits.