September 14, 2004
Filed under Features
562 West King Street
Cocoa, FL 32922
The Mealey Family Limited Partnership
17,500-sq.-ft. dealership (two buildings, 13,000 and 4,500 sq. ft.) founded in 2001 upon an existing dealership of 25 years. “We completed significant facility upgrades in December 2002,” says Mike Marconi, general manager of the Cocoa store. Three other dealerships: Champions Yamaha in Oakland (just west of Orlando), Champions Honda of Leesburg, and Champions Yamaha of Leesburg. Carries Honda and Kawasaki (full lines). Largest-selling segments are cruiser motorcycle and ATV. 19 employees.
“My main concern is that the technology in our industry keeps pace with other industries, like automobile, so we can continue to employee upstanding professionals — not just run-of-the-mill employees — and we can have professionalism in dealerships,” says Marconi. “We want to be able to compete for employees with other industries, such as automobile and marine, by offering competitive pay and benefits.”
On the podium at Champions: in watercraft, the Honda three-seater Aquatrax Turbo and the new Kawasaki STX 12F four-stroke; in ATVs, the Kawasaki Brute Force 750 utility model and the Honda TRX 450R sport model; in cruisers, the Honda VTX 1300 and the Kawasaki Nomad; and in sporbikes, “the new liter bikes — the Kawasaki ZX-10R and the Honda CBR1000 have been big hits,” says Marconi.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Champions’ typical customer is a 30- to 45-year-old professional male. “We’re adjacent to Kennedy Space Center, so those employees tend to be engineer-type professional males,” explains Marconi. The GM, who has been in the industry since 1989, thinks ‘with the Internet and information that’s easier to grasp, consumers are much better educated about what products they’re shopping for and the price they’re willing to pay. And consumers are more savvy about financing than ever. “Percentage rate” is a key buzzword for consumers, and the manufacturers and financiers have responded with lower rates, just as they’ve done in the automobile industry.”
“Being right on the Intracoastal Waterway, we face anti-boating or anti-personal watercraft issues with the implementation of no-wake zones for protection of the Florida manatee,” says Marconi of the slow-moving sea creature. “Certain segments outside of the Indian River Estuary, which we’re on, are all no-wake. So it’s very difficult to get anywhere at any type of speed.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
“We call parts and service the “fixed” end of our business, whereas sales is “variable,” explains Marconi. “Parts and service really don’t see as much seasonality as the sales department, so they are the backbone of the dealership. We know what they can contribute month in and month out. We dedicate a lot of square footage to apparel and accessories. I view that as one of the big metamorphoses in our industry. When I started, parts departments predominantly sold batteries, clutch cables, and OEM hard parts. As bikes continue to improve in design and build quality, those sales are less and less. The emphasis has shifted to accessories and add-ons — chrome for cruisers, motocross apparel, not necessarily “needs” but “wants.” Marconi has seen more people buying accessories at the time of vehicle sale. “They can finance that, rather than come up with $1,000 or $1,500 out of pocket to customize their bike. $15 per month is a lot easier to swallow.” The dealership is about to break ground on a brand-new, 4,500-sq.-ft. service facility. “About 40% will be dedicated to service, and 60% will be a warehouse behind service for additional new-bike storage. This will double our current service area and allow each technician to operate two
bays for a more efficient transition from
job to job.” There are four service technicians — three full-time and one part-time — plus
one person devoted to assembly and pre-delivery services.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“It’s all too common for dealers to cocoon themselves in their own dealership,” notes Marconi. “We miss the boat when we do that.” Marconi says with four dealerships just within his corporation, “being able to compare notes is an extremely big benefit. I would strongly recommend that dealers get involved in a 20 Group to compare market trends and financials — to see what works for other dealers. That’s the only way we can educate ourselves in real-world situations.” A Lemco 20 Group, or an OEM? “I don’t think it’s important, as long as you’re talking with a good group of dealers who are operating at the same size and volume. Certainly I wouldn’t compare our business to Chaparral in California — there would be gross differences in the way we do business. But another business that’s doing about $10 million in sales per year would be good for us. What is the predominant part of their sales? How much service work are they doing? What kind of money are they making on their finance department? Answers to questions like those are important.” psb
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