Doghouse Renovation To Yield Dealer Support

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Big Dog Motorcycles is entering its 2008 model year with a hands-on technical and service training program for dealers, a redesigned Pitbull, the brand new Mutt and a fatter tire for the Ridgeback.

On the company's campus in Wichita, Kan., Big Dog's 15,000-sq.-ft. Dealer Support Center will house technical support, parts sales, and customer service teams in addition to the training programs for technicians and other dealership employees. The center is being renovated to hold office space and all the equipment needed to start hosting technical classes this fall.

Big Dog announced the new programs and model changes in September at its annual dealer meeting in La Jolla, Calif. The company said the investments in engineering, testing and dealer programs puts the company in a strong position for when the slumping motorcycle market takes a turn.

Led by education manager Kevin Brunton, the new dealer education program is a highly revamped version of Big Dog's annual Technical Summit training event. Launched in 2002, the program attracted about 200 service technicians in 2006. The expanded efforts feature training in a small-class environment, online training, hands-on repair and maintenance and six separate training modules that target specific motorcycle components.

A three-level certification program rewards attendees with Technician, Certified Technician and Master Certified Technician designations. The latter requires the tech to perform a complete motorcycle rebuild at the factory.

Sales training teaches dealership personnel with product knowledge, communication and customer-service techniques, sales fundamentals and retail financing options.

Perhaps the most striking bike in the company's five-model lineup, the Pitbull was given a complete makeover that resulted in a detailed, retro look. The pro-street cruiser features a spring seat, stretched one-piece gas tank and a taller wheel combination — a 280 rear tire on a 20-inch wheel, and a 23-inch wheel up front.

The Mutt is Big Dog's first entry-level bike at $24,900 and features more rider-friendly geometry. It's the first of a lineup of similar bikes to be introduced over the next two years, the earliest of which could appear this fall.