IN 2000, INDEPENDENT ART DEALER and club promoter Arun Sharma was a two-day-a-week salesperson at MotoCorsa, a floundering Ducati, Aprilia and MV Agusta dealership in Portland, Ore. Today, that same dealership is a multiple-award-winning retail location, and Sharma is general manager.
Ducati North America says Portland has the highest market share for Ducati in the United States. The fifth-largest Ducati dealership by volume in the country, MotoCorsa is the sole Ducati dealer in the Portland metro area. The closest same-brand dealer is nearly one hour away in Salem. Others are in Bend and Medford, and across state lines in Seattle and Idaho.
Last year, MotoCorsa moved 133 Ducati, 37 Aprilia and 19 MV Agusta units. It also picked up four awards from Ducati corporate: an award as top sales dealer in the Northwest; a silver award as a top apparel dealer; a platinum award as a top multiline dealer; and, for Sharma, a gold award for national best salesperson.
The secret to MotoCorsa's success? "To me, it's a people business," Sharma says. "At the end of the day, you can make a lot of mistakes, but if you're honest, dedicated, a true enthusiast, and have the customer's best interest at heart, people see that and understand that."
EVERYONE GOES DOWN ONCE. MotoCorsa's rise to award-winning retailer didn't happen overnight. Like all three of its vehicle suppliers, the dealership had its low points — very low points, Sharma says. "I remember walking out to customers in the parking lot, as a two-day-a-week part-timer, and apologizing for the bad experience they had," he recalls. "The good employees there hated the managers they worked for, because the managers had no clue, and the customers in return hated everybody."
Let's start with a bit of history. MotoCorsa was founded in 1999 in a 10' x 20' room connected to a Ferrari dealership operated by the Tonkin Auto Group — the owner of 16 automobile dealer franchises in the Portland area.
The Tonkin Auto Group started in 1960 with a Chevrolet dealership founded by Ron Tonkin. The motorcycle operation was the idea of Brad Tonkin, one of Ron's three sons who now run the business. A Ducati owner who needed to travel to Salem for service, Brad Tonkin wanted a local franchise, and he believed he could successfully sell Ducati bikes from within his company's existing Ferrari dealership. A letter-writing campaign to Ducati turned into the eventual opening of Portland's only Ducati retailer.
"The concept worked, but we were struggling with growth," Tonkin says. We became bigger, inventoried more bikes, accessories and apparel, but we didn't have the right management in place." (story continues)