That the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of European motorcycling is not lost on Jim Boltz, the man behind the Cycle Barn.
Motorsports Group north of Seattle. But the collective group of Euro motos have been under-represented at regional motorcycle shows, he says. For dealers like Boltz, whose group includes a Triumph/Vespa/Piaggio store, this means losing the opportunity to put such brands before a wide swath of the motorcycling community.
Boltz and Garrett Johnson, the general manager at his Euro store, started brainstorming ways to broadcast their products — and the community of Euro-centric dealers — to the waiting public. What they came up with is Euro Moto 2012, an OEM and vendor showcase that launched in early March.
The show featured a collection of seven dealers from the greater Seattle area representing Aprilia, BMW, Christini, Ducati, GasGas, Husaberg, Husqvarna, KTM, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Piaggio, Triumph, Vespa and Ural. It also hosted more than 38 aftermarket vendors, each one chosen because of its appeal to European bike enthusiasts. The seven dealers split the cost of holding the event — with the goal of simply breaking even.
“We wanted to create an excitement about the European motorcycle brands as a viable option in the market,” says Boltz, who also is the longtime director of Washington state’s Motorsports Dealers Association. “We wanted to share the enthusiasm that these dealers generate because they live, eat and breathe their brands — much more than, say, the Japanese brands.”
According to Boltz and Johnson, the show attracted more than 3,000 attendees to the Lynnwood Convention Center for a day of perusing Euro bikes, meeting fellow Euro-philes, checking out such vendors as Dainese, Rizoma, Schuberth and Sidi, and attending seminars covering topics like packing tips for long road trips, suspension and brakes, and taking better photos while on the road. Aprilia reportedly even used the show as the opportunity to unveil its new Tuono V4 R.
“We are ecstatic about it. I think the show could have been called a success with half [the attendance] because of the quality of the attendee,” Johnson says. “These were Euro motorsport enthusiasts and people who were interested in becoming owners of the vehicles. It was a tight-knit group of people.”
Since the show, some of the exhibiting dealers have reported a measurable, positive response from customers, Johnson says. And his own store has seen a bump in bike and PG&A sales, along with an increase in service customers. They even got a new employee out of the deal, he adds.
ALL BY DESIGN
In organizing Euro Moto, Johnson and Boltz set out to create an environment that would lead to sales. They required each aftermarket vendor to be represented by the brand itself or its distributor. The idea was to highlight a broad range of products from each of the brands — far more products than a dealer could stock — and then funnel the sales to the dealers in attendance. “We also provided space for vendors to fully accessorize vehicles from one of the dealerships and put them on display in the main hallways,” Johnson says.
This gave attendees the chance to check out all the products away from a sales-type environment and then go find the vendor to get more information. The setup also gave the dealers real-time market intelligence on what products they might consider stocking.
Knowing that most European bike enthusiasts are mega-mileage riders, Johnson launched an aggressive marketing campaign via TV, radio and social networks that stretched as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, and south to Portland, Ore. He also reached out to like-minded local businesses such as coffee shops and restaurant to post fliers. Each of the dealers that exhibited reached out to their customer bases through in-store advertising and through social media.
They also contacted a few high-end European car dealerships — Mercedes of Lynnwood, University Audi, and Jaguar-Land Rover of Lynnwood — to provide a new C63 AMG, a G550 SUV, an Audi R8 and an XKR. The vehicles, all of them in white, were parked at the entrance of the convention center.
Johnson says they wanted to create a thoroughly European feel at the show and the cars added to this element. “It got people pumped,” he adds.
Boltz and Johnson then lined up Riders for Health as the show’s designated charity. They raised more than $3,500 for the organization through T-shirt sales and a raffle that included a grand prize of two tickets to the 2012 Laguna Seca MotoGP Day of Stars, two all-access passes to the race weekend, access to Dunlop Tires’ hospitality suite, a new set of Dunlop tires, $1,000 in travel expenses and a five-night hotel stay. The prize was arranged by Mike Buckley and Brent Durfee from Dunlop.
Plans are underway for Euro Moto 2013, when Boltz and Johnson want to double the exhibit space and add seminars. They’re also hoping to bring on a title sponsor to add some cache to the show and to help bump up the advertising budget.
“European brands are no longer the niche brands that are hit or miss on whether you’re going to find support and availability,” Johnson says. “These are well-supported brands producing some of the, if not most of the, best options in motorcycling right now for the U.S. market.”
For more information on Euro Moto, check out www.euromoto2012.com.
This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2012 issue.