Top 100 Dealers Sound Off on Military Sales

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For this issue, Dealernews surveyed its Top 100 dealers on how they work with their military clientele. What we heard back was not surprising. Just about all of them offered some kind of discount or perk for service men and women, even if their OEMs didn't have any special program.

Kat Johnson, the marketing and special events assistant for Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson/Buell in Maryville, Tenn., and Wildcat Harley-Davidson in London, Ky., says the stores offer 10 percent off of everything excluding motorcycles and service.

Every Veteran's Day, all veterans in the surrounding area are invited to a free lunch at Stinkers, the dealership's on-site restaurant. At the town's flag parade this year, Smoky Mountain H-D provided decorations for a float and candy for children, she adds. A military I.D. will also get its holder a discounted ticket for the summer concert series held at The Shed, the store's outdoor music venue.

Johnson says that in July, the store sponsored a "family day" in conjunction with Maryville's Family Readiness Group and invited the troops and their families out for music, food, and kid's games. Though the same soldiers will be overseas next year, the store plans to hold an event for their families anyways.

"Here at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson/Buell and Wildcat Harley-Davidson we are so thankful for all our troops do to ensure our freedom and anything we can do for them is small in comparison to what they do for us," Johnson says.

Although Billings, Mont., is not located near a large military population, Beartooth Harley-Davidson holds a special event each Armed Forces Day honoring service men and women. Local branches of the Army National Guard, U.S. Army, Montana Air National Guard, Patriot Guard Riders, Montana Upward Bound, and the local Disabled American Veterans are invited to attend.

"We usually have live music and have each branch bring out whatever they can for display, such as Hummers, water trucks, flags and literature," says Kelly Emineth, Beartooth's marketing and event manager. "We have a color guard presentation as well."

Mike Kozda, GM at Ridenow Tucson, says his store has a large military customer base. "It mostly consists of Air Force; however, we do see Marines, Navy, Army and Coast Guard in here at times. We have the military flags of each branch hung in our store along with our front windows being painted with a U.S. flag stating 'We Support Our Troops,'" he says.

The dealership offers a year-round 10 percent discount on service and P&A, and sometimes bumps it up to 15 percent. Additionally, the store will freeze a customer's maintenance plan while that person is deployed, Kozda says.

A Kawasaki franchise, Kozda says the dealership is offering the OEM's $250 gift card program to any armed forces personnel who purchases a new Kawi.

Ducati Omaha's GM, Jarel Jensen says that the store is located near Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb. "We have an advertising presence at the base, with banners up in the fitness center, and we partner on a few events every year with print advertising and put bikes on display in the commons area," Jensen says.

The GM adds that in addition to discounts for PG&A, the dealership gives away a few Icon reflective vests to service members who purchase a motorcycle. "The base rules require motorcyclists to wear a reflective vest while riding," Jensen notes.

Powersports of Joplin's VP and GM, Eric Slagle, is a Navy veteran, as is the owner of the store. And about a third of the staff are veterans. "We have a very strong tie with our military community," Slagle says.

How strong? The dealership gives instant 10 percent discounts on all PG&A and a 15 percent discount for labor. Soldiers on deployment can get their bikes stored for free.

"We even hold units, with deposits, until members return. We dress, modify their bikes while they are deployed so they are ride-ready when they return," Slagle says. We have also worked deals via the Internet and Skype with deployed members. This way, their unit is ready when they return."

And our friend to the North, Dan Witmer, co-owner and manager of Gear Head in Ottawa, Canada, says his store is 100 miles away from a Canadian Armed Forces Base and three miles away from a reserve facility. As such, they offer special pricing on new units, a deal that usually works out to about 10 percent off MSRP, Witmer explains.

The shop also gives military personnel priority service bookings and offers a 15 percent discount off P&A to all service members, firefighters, law enforcement officers and paramedic personnel.

And finally, Kathy Jo Porter, co-owner and GM of Bend Euro Moto in Bend, Ore., says there is not a military population in her slice of Central Oregon. "We have had military personnel come through from time to time and we generally do our best to give them a discount in appreciation for their service to our country," Porter says. "Also, if they're thinking of getting a Ducati after a tour of service, we have them drop us a note with their mailing address so that we can send brochures and other printed material to them overseas."