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March 12, 2007 – Managing a shift in focus

March 12, 2007
Filed under Features

CINCINNATI — A year ago, the new owners of Custom Chrome spent the bulk of the V-Twin Expo trying to assure their customers that things would improve.
Discussion primarily revolved around fill rates and inventory and how the latest ownership change in the parent company, Global Motorsports Group, would result in the improvement in both of those areas.
Spin forward 12 months to the 2007 V-Twin Expo and that conversation has changed to primarily focus on product.
Holger Mohr, president of Custom Chrome, and his staff introduced a new catalog that featured roughly 2,000 new products. Those new products, what Mohr believes to be twice the number of new products that Custom Chrome had in previous years, comes from in-house projects as well as new outside suppliers, including established aftermarket companies such as Brembo and Corbin.
“2006 was more like a transition year where we looked at the whole company, and Cerberus was very involved,” Mohr said of Cerberus Capital Management, the private investment firm that became majority owners of Global in January 2006. “They said from day one they wanted to give the company back to the people that are in the motorcycle business and love motorcycles.”
Mohr is part of that equation, having previously led Custom Chrome Europe before recently having his job title and place of residence moved primarily to the United States.
Mohr’s new position is just one of several in-house moves Global announced in connection with Custom Chrome. Global has created a new position — vice president of category management — as well as designated a Custom Chrome veteran to lead the company’s newly established Asia Pacific business. It’s also added three new outside sales reps.
All of that staff growth follows a year in which Cerberus made moves to streamline operations, from closing down half of Global’s U.S. warehouses to reducing its executive staff.
Besides closely looking at existing operations, Global’s new majority owners said they would work to improve fill rates. Mohr said those have improved substantially during the past year, reaching the mid-80s percentage. Mohr said the company is striving to reach 90 percent or above, something the industry’s largest distributors maintain.
Besides improving fill rate, Custom Chrome also has worked to improve its product line.
Mohr said previously Custom Chrome was “having so many engineers just focusing on transmissions or engines instead of really looking at the market’s wants or requires.
“People just want to make their bikes look cooler and go faster on the Twin Cam platform, and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”
Mohr notes that Custom Chrome will still have some of the big-ticket items, like engines, but will concentrate on the bolt-on parts.
Custom Chrome’s staff has teamed up with designers in the industry and developed parts specifically for Twin Cam bikes, including wheels, gas tanks, oil tank covers and other bolt-on parts.
“What really made the company strong in the 1990s was having their own proprietary designs, having the right product portfolio and working with the big names of the industry,” Mohr said.
The latter is something the company is currently working on.
“Our idea is to have a designer community or designer academy, where you have group of people who always come up with new stuff,” he said.
“We definitely think we have the right product portfolio right now. But we just have to make sure that before the season starts the dealer really learns about it.”
How dealers will learn about Custom Chrome’s new products, if it’s through a dealer showcase that the company has held previously but did not hold last year, is still under review.
“There’s a ton of things we want to do,” Mohr said, noting the company is looking at a variety of different possible training outlets.
Now that the company has unveiled their new product, Mohr said Custom Chrome will spend the next several weeks identifying what’s the best way to bring that information to dealers.

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