The Secret to More Sales in Tough Times

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used vehicle used motorcycle used ATV previously owned pre-owned

Before we talk about his secret to more sales, I should preface this answer with a warning: If you are a franchised dealer and you act upon this answer, you could be in trouble with your supplier or suppliers. This is no joke — the answer to more sales could also be your enemy. And I have repeatedly talked about how this answer has been an enemy of franchised dealers. So what is this magic answer? How could this answer be so close that it is under your nose almost every day?

The answer is used motorcycles! "Are you crazy?" you're probably asking. I don't think so. When the market for bikes was great, used bikes were a nemesis. Because used motorcycles were being bought and sold through the newspapers and between enthusiasts, this kept too many potential buyers out of your store. But now that the new bike market has gone south, used bikes have become a secret weapon.

Remember when I and other editors at Dealernews were preaching to franchised dealers to concentrate on improving how they merchandise used bikes? "Merchandise?" you ask. Sure! Now, it's time to put those tools to work. Buyers today are looking for used bikes and suppliers of seats, handlebars and other new bits and pieces that can help to make that used bike look newer — these are in demand, or so a friend tells me.

I was discussing with this friend today's downward pressure on sales when he mentioned that his aftermarket seat and leather business was just fine, and he expected to carve an increase in his record sales of last year. At least this one "tooler" of seats and other bits made of leather for new and used bikes is having a really good year.

So how are new bike sales doing? We expect motorcycles will end up at about 827,000 units, a decline of nearly 8 percent, assuming our forecast holds. We expect streetbikes will come in at 624,000 units, down 4 percent.

So what categories are up? We forecast the dual category to be up 22 percent on retail volume of 46,000 units. We also forecast standards to be up 15 percent on volume of about 17,000 units. And don't forget scooters, which are still increasing despite the fact that gasoline prices are coming down. The question remains whether or not scooter sales will continue to increase.

Dirtbikes and ATVs are both down in multidigits, making the new market for these not very promising now and, we expect, for some time even after the recovery of the general market.

In the end, we weren't kidding about the two sides of the used bike market. Those who have learned how to deal in used bikes have got the best of both worlds. I'm not suggesting that used bikes will cure what has happened, but when I heard my friend talk about what he was seeing in the market for his leather goods, I became convinced that there was indeed a way to improve profits, and that way is in fact right under your noses!

It's not magic per se, but it could put more dollars in the bank when that has become a very difficult thing to do. Also, it's right around the corner if not in another part of your dealership. But take care — your OEM supplier is in the new bike market, not used! — DJB