History of the Brand: MOTION PRO

Publish Date: 
Sep 17, 2012
By Mike Vaughan


The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." We're all familiar with brands, and every product we buy or use represents some kind of brand. Brands are like the job-seeker's elevator speech; hearing or seeing the brand name of a product paints an instantaneous picture in our minds about the brand's quality, reputation and position in the marketplace.

Successful brands are built upon a foundation of quality, innovation, and consumer service. The Motion Pro brand meets all of these requirements.

This is Motion Pro's story, courtesy Dealernews' Mike Vaughan.

NEED A FIVE-NINTHS-INCH, water-cooled four-stroke sparkplug tool? Maybe something more mundane: a chain breaker, or a fork seal driver, or something as pedestrian as tire irons? For years the go-to for any of these items and hundreds more, including cables for virtually any motorcycle, has been Motion Pro.

Motion Pro was started in 1984 by ISDT Gold Medal winner Chris Carter. Carter has spent his entire working life in the motorcycle industry, starting as a teenage “gunk brush” at a local dealership, A & A Motors, at the same time Kenny Roberts, Jim Odom and Mark Brelsford were launching their careers out of the same shop.

In 1974 Carter landed a job with Rocky Cycle Co., at the time a regional distributor for parts and accessories. He worked his way up and was eventually promoted to assistant parts manager.

One of his responsibilities was to dispose of distressed merchandise; cables were a particular problem. They had to order more cables than market demand, and dealers would frequently remove the cable from the original bag to compare it to one brought in by a customer who wasn’t sure of the proper part number. The bag and its ID would be lost, and the cable would become unsellable.

Then, OEMs would change a part number for something as simple as the next year’s model, thereby making the existing part number obsolete, even though it would probably fit the most recent model and several years prior, but no longer matched the old part number. Rocky Cycle's approach to the problem was simply to mark them down and blow them out, sometimes for as little as 50 cents.

Carter felt that if they could revise the part identification system to allow them to easily identify a specific cable and application over several model years it would reduce costs and make the organization more efficient. No one at Rocky was interested.

In 1984 a Taiwan-based cable company asked Carter (right) whether he would be interested in representing its brand in the United States. Initially he declined but eventually reconsidered, deciding that if he were ever to start his own business, this was his opportunity. He contacted the company, and suggested he become their exclusive distributor rather than agent. They agreed, and Motion Pro was born.

These days Taiwanese products are widely accepted in the U.S. market; however, back in 1984 Japanese products were the gold standard, and parts from Taiwan were considered inferior. The cable company had lots of experience making cables, and had been doing so for Taiwanese OEs as well as the country's aftermarket for years. Its products were excellent and equal to anything coming out of Japan, Carter felt. It was now his job to convince distributors and dealers that this company's product was not only as good as Japanese product, but also easier to stock and sell. He was also determined to design the packaging and identification of his product to make it easier for distributors and dealers to inventory, use and determine correct application.

His first step was to change the way cables were packaged. At Rocky, cables were received in packages of 500 minimum per part number with no individual cable identification. They were placed, coiled, in bags; part numbers were displayed on the packaging and the product was shipped to the ordering distributor. Carter was able to bring the changes he’d originally hoped for to his new company. His cables were received from the manufacturer imprinted with their part number, packed individually into long bags, with the appropriate part number on the packaging, and color coded to identify the OE for which the cable was intended, e.g. red for Honda, green for Kawasaki, and so on.  (continued)