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Johnson’s retirement to include saddle time

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
October 5, 2012
Filed under Columns

“We stopped by their place one time on a ride in the Texas Hill Country one time just to say hello, see if we could do business with them,” Tucker Rocky Distributing president and COO Steve Johnson was telling me about one of the attendees at the company’s Dealer Show this summer in Fort Worth. “In 2002 they had opened a little store that was all parts and accessories, and I can’t tell how enjoyable it’s been to see them grow with us. They’re in a town of 200, and now it’s a destination for riders.”

It doesn’t take long to recognize Johnson’s appreciation for the dealerships that count Tucker Rocky/Biker’s Choice as business partners. He’s also eager to learn more about the innovations being brought on by the company’s vendor partners, which is why he’s often seen at the Dealer Show conversing with dealers on one trip down the aisle, and vendors the next.

Add it all up, and while Johnson plans to retire at age 67 near the end of the year, he won’t stray too far from the industry. He’s built too many relationships that he wants to continue. But he might miss a phone call or two while he’s on the road.

Steve Johnson, 67, enjoyed talking to dealers as part of his 12-year run at Tucker Rocky Distributing. His pending retirement won’t keep him far from the industry, or from his motorcycles.

“I’ve got a 2002 Gold Wing with 10,000 miles on it. That’s a crime. I’ve got a 2010 Road Glide with less than 4,000 miles on it. I have some work to do in retirement, yes,” Johnson laughed. “I also have a farm and kids and grandkids that I want to spend more time with. And I’ll probably do some consulting. I don’t want to leave this industry. If I can help a manufacturer or whatever, I have a lot of passion for the industry and I don’t want to get too far from it. I have a lot of friends in the industry and it’s been a great ride.”

Johnson’s final Dealer Show has head honcho comes after a wildly successful tenure.

“It’s been a long-term plan. I talked to [parent company] LDI, Ltd. well over a year ago about it. Tucker is a wonderful company that’s doing very well, and I want to make sure that when I leave, they’re on a good path,” Johnson said. “We’ve had great growth — double-digit growth from this time last year. The economy is still stressed, but the people who are passionate about this industry are still passionate.

“The stock market has bounced back nicely, and I think people are starting to wake up and say ‘We only have so many days left — we have to live.’ The V-twin market is robust, doing very well. The metric market is coming back, maybe slower, but coming back, so we’re really excited about the industry.”

All’s good with UTV
And, as everyone knows, the side-by-side market is the place to be in powersports at the moment. It’s no wonder that Steve Shankin, founder/president/CEO of Seizmik Advanced Utility Systems, had a smile on his face throughout the weekend in Fort Worth. Seizmik manufactures side-by-side aftermarket accessories for the Polaris Ranger and RZR brands, among a host of others. And while consumers are gobbling up their products, Seizmik’s manufacturing process keeps the dealership in mind.

The company’s latest product, a double-folding windshield for the RZR, goes from full to half to fully folded in seconds, from inside the unit. A loosening of Velcro straps makes it a simple conversion, and a smaller shipping package than most windshields gives dealers a leg up.

“It’s an innovative windshield that ships in a small box,” Shankin said. “Everything stays on the vehicle — there’s nothing to lose, nothing to store, nothing to deal with. It’s all right there. You can do it quick it easy from right inside the vehicle. And the shipping cost on a full-size windshield, because the box is so big, they have to go UPS oversized. On our folding windshields or on our Versa-Shield, they’re regular UPS.”

That means that instead of a potential $90 delivery cost, Seizmik dealers can be in the $12-$15 range, “a significantly lower delivery cost for the dealer,” Shankin said.

Two years after introducing the Versa-Shield to the side-by-side market, Shankin said his company has “grown tremendously.” A new line of mirrors and an adjustable strap light are two other innovative products for the market.

“We’re making things that people expect to have on their vehicles, and quite honestly are disappointed when they’re not on them,” Shankin said. “The penetration rate for mirrors, roofs and windshields are shockingly high — about 90 percent high. For $100, you can have three really good mirrors on your vehicle, and you need them.”

For Shankin, whose approach to business was so intriguing that I him asked to join the Powersports Business lineup of industry bloggers, the side-by-side market allows a forward-thinking company like his to thrive.

“Our growth in the powersports segment has been fantastic in the last nine months — up a lot, a lot. We do a lot of OEM work and a lot of work on the farm and ag side. The powersports side for us has been growing like crazy.”

Dealers upbeat
One dealer at the show was counting on the Eagle Ford Shale oil play to bring more customers to Dale’s Fun Center in Victoria, Texas. Instead, the oil basin brought a different variety of customer.

“We thought we would be getting business from the oil field guys, but most of the business has been coming from the land owners that get the big checks,” dealership owner Dale Stubbs said.

Joe Reif, general manager of Polaris of Palestine in Texas, reports that “RZRs are booming. We sell about 10 a week, and we’re a small store. We sell a lot of 26-, 28-inch tires, mostly Kenda Bear Claws.”

Even better, Reif said that while most of his customers “in oil country come in and pay cash, financing is great. I don’t remember turning anyone down for financing yet. We’ve gotten everyone financed.”

Dave McMahon is Senior Editor of Powersports Business. Reach him at dmcmahon@powersportsbusiness.com or 763/383-4411.

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