Custom market snapshot: Bartels' Harley-Davidson


Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Marina Del Rey, Calif., is a case study in how the Big Twin customization market has changed since 2007. During the customization heyday, the store spent more than $100,000 per year with both a painter and plater, says service manager Ron Bartels. “Today nobody’s doing a lot of extra custom work,” he says. “They’re repairing their older bikes. We buy and sell and recondition a lot of used bikes for the sales department because that’s become a major entity of our business because everything needs to be at a lower price point.” The store now sells 20 to 30 used bikes per month after selling about seven per month in 2007.

Bartels’ Harley-Davidson also felt a sting when banks stopped rolling in as many accessories into bike loans. “We lost pretty much the sales department as a customer,” Bartels says. “We do, like, $4,000 a month now when we used to do $50,000 a month for the sales department.”

Bartels says the dealership is placing more product displays in the service write-up area, to which he also recently added free Wi-Fi. On a positive note, he says sales are picking up. “In the past four months we have really seen a change in spending habits,” he says. “Some people are bored with their world and don’t feel so scared.” — Arlo Redwine

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews June 2011 issue.