Don't Leave Them Hanging

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Most dealers are familiar with the hangtags found on used motorcycles. These tags typically offer basic answers to some basic questions — the vehicle's year, make and model. They also usually provide space for basic descriptions of additional equipment and other items. Pretty simple stuff.

Many dealers, however, learn the hard way that there are also pitfalls directly related to how you fill in these tags. These problems involve pricing and implied warranties.

Caveat on Pricing

Any time you display a price, note whether there are going to be additional dollars added to the displayed purchase price.

I display the price with an asterisk (*) following it. Then in the space that is usually on the hangtag, I note that the price indicated is before the applicable state sales tax, title and license fees, the state inspection charge and documentation fees.

The documentation fee can be charged to the customer over and above the other charges. How much you can charge varies by state. In my home state of North Carolina, for example, state law requires only that the same documentary fee be charged on each sale. Check with your state motor vehicle dealers association for specific information on your area.

Implied Warranties

Another important hangtag is the "buyer's guide." This tag typically can be purchased from your form supplier; it has the year, make, model, VIN and stock number on it.

The buyer's guide hangtag also has two boxes, one of which should be checked. One box states that the vehicle is being sold as is with no warranty expressed or implied. The other box states that there is a remaining factory warranty, and gives you ample room to disclose the remaining terms and conditions, if any.

I recommend checking the "as is" box for all pre-owned vehicles. (Let me repeat: I recommend checking "as is" with all pre-owned motorcycles, regardless of condition and/or mileage.)

Checking the "as is" box reminds customers that they are looking at a used item and that you are selling it in its current condition. You're not trying to scare away prospects. But this is one dimension of selling used merchandise — particularly motor vehicles — that can have some damaging after-the-sale results.

When customers ask me about the buyer's guide — maybe 15 percent will ask about the "as is" condition — I answer, "The form is meant to help you so that you will make a 100-percent-informed decision. Although we understand that getting your bike is a fun and exciting event, we don't want you — not that you would — to get caught up in the moment and not stop to ask all the necessary questions."

We want our customers to purchase with their eyes wide open and minds actively engaged.

Plus, it prevents salespeople from shying away from the answer, and saying things like "Don't worry about that. We'll take care of you." No, no, no! When you sell the bike as is, you typically cannot "take care" of the rider after the fact.

If a salesperson says something like that, he or she exposes the dealership to what is called an implied warranty, which some attorney might interpret to include the most bizarre remedies.

If a customer is concerned about the lack of a warranty, the F&I manager should review your store's extended service contract options. If you don't offer any options, then try to sell that customer a new bike with a full factory warranty. These are important technicalities.

My experience is that most potential customers view these types of conversations in a positive way. They see them as part of the up-front candor and professionalism of your dealership and staff.

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