What's the Big Secret?

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Ever wonder why there's such a paucity of information in our industry about retail sales? Why is it such a secret? What difference would it make if Honda knew exactly how many FJ1300s Yamaha sold in a given month, or if Kawasaki knew that Honda sold X number of CBR600s in June? If BMW sells 100 GSes in Pennsylvania, is it going to cause Triumph to somehow change its marketing plan, short-circuiting BMW? I don't think so.

The entire industry would benefit from more transparent sales data. It would enable everyone in the retail chain to plan better. Take the aftermarket. The exhaust people, for example, would have a better idea of how many systems to build (or not build) for a specific model. The same would hold true for other suppliers.

While model-specific information broken down by state would be a huge step forward, information by county would allow you to plan your inventory and sales strategies even better. With more detailed information, the industry would be able to avoid, or certainly lessen, the impact of today's growing dealer inventories.

When I was on the OEM side, the industry suffered from the same lack of information. When asked why, OEMs always cited nonspecific "competitive" reasons. If the Honda folks were to learn that Triumph is selling X thousand Bonnevilles a year, would they really jump in and resurrect the 1966 CB305? I don't think so. (Even if they did and were successful, more power to them.)

I find it amazing that you can get automotive information by brand, model, state and county, but can't get the same information from the motorcycle industry. Just think of how much more efficiently you could run your business if you knew how many motorcycles, by make and model, were were being sold in your DMA.

On a similar note, most of you are dealing with two or more OEM vendors, some with 10 or more. That's a lot of programs to take care of. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to turn to the pages of Dealernews and see a matrix that tells you what the programs are, what products are involved and when they expire? Car dealers can find that sort of information within the pages of Automotive News. Somehow it's a secret with the OEMs. I know it's competitive out there, but it's not really a secret. A dealer's knowledge is only limited by how many brands he's carrying, and I know that as soon as a manufacturer releases a new program, some area manager at a competing OEM will get it from one of his multiline dealers and forward it to the corporate sales department.

With the market apparently stalled, it's more important than ever for everyone within the marketing chain to do a better job of managing their inventories. Transparency and availability of detailed retail statistics would sure go a long way in helping everyone along the line.

With all this secrecy, perhaps the Bush Administration should put our industry in charge of Homeland Security ... maybe not.

Mike Vaughan, Publisher mvaughan@dealernews.com