New challenges, new gains for Triumph Motorcycles

Publish Date: 
Dec 22, 2010
By Bruce Steever

WE SAT DOWN WITH Triumph North America’s new CEO Greg Heichelbech and former marketing manager Jim Callahan at the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows Long Beach, Calif., stop. Heichelbech comes from Harley-Davidson with 20 years of sales and strategy development experience, including sales and marketing positions with Buell. We discuss Triumph’s return to the Motorcycle Shows with a strong 2011 lineup and find out how he plans to guide Triumph and its dealers through the coming years.

Dealernews: For 2011 you have the biggest model range (20) in Triumph’s history. How are you going to keep that momentum going into 2012 and beyond?
Greg Heichelbech: John Bloor’s grand vision is that product is king, and that we need to keep it fresh. He has a plan to stage new products and upgrades so there always seems to be something new from Triumph. So next year, you will see some nice new evolutions and improvements of existing models, and you may see a special or anniversary edition because it will be the 110 anniversary. And then, two years from now, you’ll maybe see a major upgrade or change on a model or two. John certainly has a vision and a plan. I think we have a pretty good product development cycle.
We have 185-ish engineers in our R&D department, and John is hiring quite a few additional folks in that area. Out of the 800 or so employees in U.K., it’s one of the largest development teams in the industry.

DN: A product range this large must mean a change in your dealer network support. With the initial success of the Triumph 360 program, will you continue to offer it for each new model?
Jim Callahan: February 1, Tiger 360. It will be twice as big for the Tiger as it was for the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird 360 [program] was so successful that we had to schedule many more events for the bike. The response has been overwhelming. Some 92 percent of dealers felt that they were better prepared to sell Thunderbirds. 100 percent felt it was an absolute value for the time and money.

DN: Did you see an attendant spike in sales afterwards?
JC: Yeah, there was a spike in sales after the 360 event. After the event in Temecula [Calif.], we took video were shot there and brought it to the dealer meeting and had a seminar about what the 360 programs would be. Then we had to schedule another Thunderbird 360 due to demand being so high. And now that we’re going out with the Tiger 360, dealers are saying it works.

DN: What are plans for the current dealer network?
GH: Currently there are about 180 dealers in U.S. We’re growing, but are trying to be very smart about it. We don’t need to have 1,000 dealers. What we need to have are good quality dealers in the right points that can service our customers and give them reasonable convenience. That way it’s good for customers and good for dealers. We also have about between 30 and 35 dealers that are single-line Triumph. Is the goal 250 dealers, is it 300? It’s going to depend on where we grow.

DN: What kind of dealer education programs — sales training, service programs, etc. — are in place?
GH: We just had the Tiger service folks give the technical seminar. We have a new online system where the tech can perform diagnostic and performance procedures online. The tool is very quick and easy and allows the technician to diagnose potential issues with a support staff available back in Atlanta. Service is very important. Sales may sell the first one but service will sell the next two or three.
JC: We have a couple of guys who are just absolutely fantastic trainers. They’re master technicians who excel in the classroom environment. We’re running classes on both the East Coast and the West Coast that occupy space inside Wyotech so that dealers aren’t forced to [travel] across country to stay current. We run classes for new dealers to cover the entire current product as well as refresher programs and the new product launch seminars. Before we put a product into a dealership to sell to a customer, we want to make sure that dealer can service the customer properly.