Visitors to the dealership see a full line of KYMCO and Piaggio/Vespa models in the store’s international scooter “store within a store.” It also has check-out models from Keeway, Hyosung, Yamaha and Suzuki.
The key for any dealer thinking about building a scooter line is to do your homework. In particular, determine where the scooters are coming from — are they from an OEM or distributor, or are they just container purchases? “If you look on the Internet, you’ll see scooters for $499, and you might say, ‘I can’t compete with that,’ and stop there,” Mechling says. “But if you order one, you’ll see what you get, and that’s what I did.” What he found back then wasn’t very attractive.
“It came in a box that took a technician three or four hours to get running. No support when you call the website. It didn’t run. It didn’t have a battery. We had to rebuild the carb, and we found there were no parts in the U.S. to fix this scooter. A Walmart mountain bike costs almost that much, so how can a scooter be any good at that price?”
The final quality check: “Look to GE to see which brands they will floor plan and retail finance.”
Mechling markets his scooter business just as aggressively as his PWC business. His employees can ride a nifty Vespa home from work — but they have to stop at Starbucks, buy coffee and a bakery item, and hang out near the Vespa for a while. As browsers stop by, the riders answer questions and thus begin building relationships with prospects, and all it costs is an employee-expensed snack.
Here’s an even better campaign: Moped Mondays, which won the Top 100 Merit Award for best event. It’s a co-op program with tie-ins to a campus radio station and restaurant. “It’s the best simple marketing event that I have done in my life,” Mechling says.
Moped Mondays was based on the question: What do college kids like or need? Answer: free stuff, especially free food. So, for eight straight weeks, Mechling hosted the Moped Monday Mexican Meltdown at Clemson’s popular ESSO Club. Mechling bought the first taco or beer, gave away a $25 bar tab, and the station gave away T-shirts. Students also could register for a chance to win a scooter.
“It was a huge success. KYMCO became our leading product, and we had to re-order three times and buy all the warehouse scratch-and-dent units they had left. Scooter sales went from zero to 100,” Mechling says. Not bad for a promotion that takes very little prep time, only about four hours of staff time and $300 out of pocket each month.
Interestingly, Mechling wants to emphasize that “we’re not a scooter store, but we love scooters because they ring the cash register with quick sales and often are the daily ice-breaker that makes things happen. If you ignore scooters, and don’t make the scooter customer feel welcome, someone down the street will start selling them, and you will miss out. The margins are excellent,” at 30 to 50 percent gross profit, he says, “the investment is low, and the service is surprisingly loyal for tires, oil changes and accident repair.”
Plus, the scooter sales cycle can be as short as 20 minutes, which salespeople love, and practically every scooter owner is a prospect for a motorcycle.
This story appeared in the Dealernews June 2012 issue. Photography by Brett Flashnick.