KYMCO 2014 rollout: Brand endurance, margins building dealer loyalty

Publish Date: 
Jun 24, 2013
By Dennis Johnson

'EASY PLUG-AND-PLAY BRAND' 
KYMCO, however, still finds itself fighting the perception that it's a Chinese brand -- this from years of being lumped in with the machines imported into the U.S. market during the Great New Asian Flood of Inferior Products from the early- to mid-2000s. 

Pawelka said it's often a case of educating consumers about the brand's history, including that of KYMCO Taiwan, which got its start as a long-term supplier with Honda Motor Corp. Ltd. The main company still private-labels engines and other products for a number of companies, including the 649cc motor that goes into BMW's C-class maxi-scooters.

This combination of price point and good dealer margins as well as KYMCO USA's overall reputation for supporting the product lineup is one of the reasons the brand sells well at Lynwood Cycle Barn, in Lynwood, Wash, according to store manager Garrett Johnson. Johnson uses the brand as a price leader and as a  choice for customers who either don't want to spend more on a higher priced vehicle or who don't qualify for a taller MSRP.

"The nice thing about KYMCO is that they have that reputation and the name's been around; all the traditional finance [companies] will finance them," Johnson said. "It's been an easy plug-and-play brand. It's great to have an entry-level choice in the shop."

Out on the scooter rallies and runs in the Pacific Northwest, you'll see KYMCOs dicing along with iconic Vespas and more modern Genuine Scooters, Johnson said.

As a KYMCO-only dealer for 10 years, Dustin Sweeten says he still has some issues with brand-recognition with some customers. But in the time that he's been selling KYMCO machines, his dealership, Powerhouse Motorsports in Pleasant Grove, Utah, has developed brand loyalty.

The former franchised Arctic Cat dealer-turned-independent operation found it difficult to source pre-owned vehicles and children's ATVs; this started Sweeten's search for another line. He said he came to a Dealer Expo adamant about not signing on with one of the ubiquitous Chinese brands, but while there met with STR and liked the build and quality. He soon took on the KYMCO line.

"It's been fun growing with KYMCO and seeing them introduce new models," said Sweeten, who was in Colorado at the press launch, helping the OEM with tech and logistics support.

Powerhouse Motorsports is close to riding areas in Utah, and does good business with the side-by-sides. It also sells a number of small- to medium-displacement scooters. But it's models like the UXV that perform well on the nearby mountain trails and rock formations of Moab, Sweeten said. He predicts that the new 700cc model will attract those looking to upgrade to a larger engine and more grunt. The UXV is not a sport-class machine like a Polaris RZR, but it does what it needs to do out on the trails, and does it well, he added.

In selling the side-by-sides, Sweeten says he appreciates the broad selection of trim packages — five in all — and accessories that KYMCO offers. Rarely, he points out, does a unit leave his showroom in stock condition.

When the U.S. economy tanked, taking the powersports market with it, KYMCO didn't change its game plan, Sweeten said. KYMCO's work to deliver new products and reinvest in its efforts during this time impressed dealesr like Sweeten. The decision by the headquarters in Taiwan to purchase the U.S. operations outright was key.  "I actually like the fact that I was jumping in with an underdog," Sweeten said.

Press photography by Bryan J. Nelson; submitted courtesy KYMCO