Turns out the revamp would help improve efficiency once the market picked back up, Odwarka said. The next step was moving Husky headquarters to a new building in Corona, Calif., smack in the heart of the big Southern California powersports market.
“That was a big sea-change for them. You’ve got Rolls Royce, Mini, BMW motorcycles and BMW [automobiles] in one location, and you take your smallest business case, the one that most justifies staying the same place, and move it out to the West Coast,” Odwarka said. It was an important move, he added, one that put the brand in the middle of the market -- and where it immediately started attracting top industry talent.
The new team includes Odwarka, a lifelong rider who spent 11 years in Munich with BMW and Alpina; marketing manager Corey Eastman, formerly Cycle World’s vice president of brand development; national sales manager Revelle Harrison, who served as KTM’s national sales manager; and national after sales manager Andy Jefferson, the motocross and Supercross professional who raced for Pro Circuit Husqvarna in the 1980s.
“That’s a pretty good team,” Odwarka told Dealernews. “I come with more than 20 years [total] of BMW background. … I can build that bridge to the BMW corporate world and leverage all the good things that BMW can offer, a little like American Honda can.”
The crew has since launched a multi-pronged approach to rebuilding the Husqvarna brand, an effort that includes improved parts fulfillment — the No. 1 complaint under previous ownership — strong marketing and grassroots racing support and new, technologically advanced motorcycles that are accessible to more riders. All of these, Odwarka noted, will help with growing the dealer network.
Great after-sales support is paramount to firming up trust in the brand for dealers and buyers alike, said Eastman. Through BMW’s shipping infrastructure, Husky can now ship bikes and parts via two-day air to anywhere in the country. And for rush deliveries, dealers can order by 6 p.m., pay a surcharge and get the part by noon the next day.
The manufacturer also retooled its parts pricing to include shipping in the cost of the part. This way there’s no question as to what the final bill is going to be.
“It’s what makes you relevant in the marketplace. There’s no question. Now it’s a matter of your customers are not going to miss this weekend’s ride, this weekend’s race, whatever it is,” Eastman said. “Nobody likes to own a motorcycle and feel like they’re being held hostage to it.”
The move also helps restore the confidence of those dealers who had backed away from the brand. “They could feel safe selling a Husky again to someone who’s been in their doors for 20 years,” Odwarka said. “It wasn’t because the bike wasn’t good. I was about being able to get parts at a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame.”
As a Husky dealer for eight years, Balz Renggli says that the product coming out of Italy has always been good since it was revamped in 2004; it was the infrastructure that was lacking. Renggli, the GM of Moto Forza in Escondido, Calif., said all this changed under BMW’s stewardship.
“The reality is, it wasn’t an unreliable product back then, but it’s even better now,” Renggli said. “From our dealer experiences, what we see with BMW so far is it’s mostly behind-the-scenes stuff. Parts availability is a million times better than it has been, and the team they’ve assembled here in the U.S., they’re all true riders.
Not only can the U.S. management talk on a technical level with the factory, it can explain all the quirks, needs and demands of the North American market — one that is decidedly different than those in Europe, added Renggli, whose dealership also carries Ducati and MV Agusta.
Another perk of BMW ownership, he noted, is the financial services backing. “BMW Financial Services is a very highly regarded finance company,” he added. “There’s the fact that we can offer very competitive rates, and BMW Financing is very easy to get approved.”
Add to this list a price-point and quality level that makes it tough competition to KTM’s lineup of off-road bikes — Husky’s most natural competitor in the marketplace — and you have a formidable brand on the rise.
But, there is one thing, Renggli said, and he wants to see Husqvarna ramp up its marketing efforts to increase brand awareness with the next generation of bike buyers. Sure, the old-guy crowd knows the company but there’s a whole new demographic that didn’t grow up with the Husky mystique, he noted.
FOCUS ON PROFITABILITY. With the infrastructure in place, Husqvarna wants to expand its network of profitable, healthy dealerships. Husky’s dealer count is currently at a bit more than 100. Don’t look for Japanese OEM-style numbers here — more something on par with BMW’s automobile side. The car division counts 340 dealers, which will sell about 300,000 vehicles this year, or about 1,000 per location. (continued)