IF MOVING TARGETS are harder to hit, Kate Ribar has nothing to worry about.
By her own admission, she doesn’t do marketing any better than anyone else; she just does it relentlessly. Ribar eats, sleeps and breathes Renegade Harley-Davidson. Every waking moment, and even some of her sleeping ones, is dedicated to building the business.
“I don’t think I do anything differently than anyone else. There’s times I will set the tone for an event in the dealership and punt it with marketing,” she said. But, “what other people don’t see as opportunities, or the challenge is too great, I just look at as a pebble in the road.”
Ribar knows a lot about what can go wrong in a business. Before moving to Alexandria, La., with her partner and (now ex-) husband Eddy Soberon to take over the dealership in 2003, she had a career doing mergers, acquisitions -- and liquidations -- for a New York consulting firm. She’s adamant about not making any of the mistakes that she saw take down some businesses.
Photos by Gary Rohman
As fixed operations director at Renegade H-D, Ribar wears a lot of hats, from day-to-day management to market outreach. She has participated in business improvement groups at MMI in Phoenix, Ariz., as well as the local chamber of commerce and other community organizations. She’s the business manager, event planner, newsletter editor, ambassador, boss and general adventurer, all the while being a triathlon competitor and, last but not least, a veteran rider.
“I’ve ridden 44 years now and still get the jitters of excitement when I roll my bike out for a spin,” she said. “This is why I do what I do.”
Primarily, Ribar uses the dealership to engage other parts of the community. “I like to use the business as an opportunity for high school or other local races to pick up their race packets. It shows them that we are the same, we just have a different hobby,” she noted.
I can get it for you wholesale…
Ribar is the human embodiment of the dealership’s name. She has pioneered approaches in the region to making the dealership a success. Take auctions, for example. Renegade held its first pre-owned vehicle auction at the dealership last August and is planning a second one May 21, which is paired with a Bubba Blackwell stunt show. Two other dealers are following suit: Mike Bruno’s Bayou Country Harley-Davidson in Houma held an auction March 22, and Cowboy Harley-Davidson in Beaumont, Texas, was planning one for mid-May (see sidebar).
Instead of sending trade-ins and other slow-moving inventory to one of the major auction houses for a dealer-only sale, Ribar contacted a local auctioneer international champion Barbara Bonnette to hold a public auction on the Renegade H-D lot.
Onsite public auctions aren’t unusual in the auto industry but they are in the two-wheeled world, said Black Book Managing Editor Rickey Beggs. And that has certain advantages.
“The advantage of doing it onsite is if you have enough inventory, you might sell something to a retail customer that you would struggle to sell at a dealer auction. It might sell at wholesale price, but by doing it [at the dealership] you might sell clothing and accessories to the buyer. You might gain a customer longer term who is going to get service or come back and trade that bike in.”
The August auction at Renegade not only moved bikes out ahead of new model shipments, but brought hordes of people through the doors that day. Many had pre-qualified for financing when they registered for the auction, so even those who didn’t buy that day became qualified leads. Bonnette estimated there were 300 people onsite for the auction and another 150 registered to bid online.
Renegade’s plan started with 75 vehicles, but when the tent opened on a steaming hot auction day there were 115 bikes on the block. About half of those were sold at auction that afternoon.