Sacramento dealer builds 'mini-empire' on Chinese vehicles

Publish Date: 
Jun 11, 2012

You can’t keep a good entrepreneur down, even in the face of daunting industry odds.

Doug Stabler defied the odds in 2007, as the industry was contracting, to open ATV Wholesale Outlet in Sacramento, Calif., selling ATVs, scooters and motorcycles imported from China.

"I had people tell me I was crazy … even before things got really bad," Stabler told the Sacramento Bee.

But he made a go of it, in a big way. Earlier this year, he moved the business to add nearly 4,000 additional square feet of space. And when he sunk $165,000 into renovations for the new store, he paid cash.

"People ask, 'How are you doing this?' " Stabler says. "We did beat the odds, but I always knew we would." Stabler's business sells to consumers; the ATV Wholesale Outlet name is an homage to the original business, a strictly wholesale operation begun in 2003 in Loomis, Calif. ATV Wholesale Outlet carries brands like Taotao, SSR, Coolster, Jonway, Meiduo, Hensim and Znen.

Stabler makes regular trips to China, visiting 30 to 40 manufacturers on visits of three to four weeks. He meets with plant owners/managers and takes note of product design, cleanliness, organization and working conditions.

He’s also been carving out a niche selling parts for Chinese makes. "We've become the go-to place for parts, because people can't find a selection of Chinese parts for their (vehicles),” he says. “Even our competition sends customers our way."

The niche has been profitable based on high volume, low-cost rides and overhead that’s lower than he’d have with a franchise agreement from a major OEM.

"If I was working with Honda, there was no way I could do this. There, you have to work with marketing costs and all the other costs that go with a company of that size. That raises the price of the product,” he says. But he still looks to the OEM for inspiration: "I look at what I'm doing now like the beginning of what Honda was doing years ago. If you look back and think, 'What if I had the first five Honda dealerships in the United States?' Can you imagine what those would be worth now? Well, that's how I think about what I'm doing here."

Posted by Holly Wagner

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