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May 25, 2009 – Dealer-sponsored riding groups remain a rarity, study finds

May 25, 2009
Filed under Features

By Neil Pascale
Editor
The riding group mentality is so engrained at Cascade Moto Classics that if a club member doesn’t show on a specific Saturday morning at the Beaverton, Ore., dealership, they’ll get a call from one of the dealer principals.
“If they don’t come, I call their home to make sure they’re OK,” said Janice McCarthy, who along with her husband Kelly owns the European motorcycle shop.
That passion for dealership-sponsored riding groups, however, remains more the exception than the rule, according to new bike buyer data. Only one of every seven cruiser buyers has a membership in a dealer-sponsored riding group, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study. That number has remained largely unchanged for the past five years.
Dealers contacted by Powersports Business who run such clubs cite several benefits
from them, including the resulting increase
in store traffic, PG&A sales and improved
referral business.
“The biggest benefit we have is the word of mouth, the referrals,” said McCarthy, whose dealership sells Triumph and Moto Guzzi bikes. “I think that’s one reason why we’ve done so well in this economy is because when I look at people who have bought bikes from us this year, almost to a ‘T’ it is repeat people or referrals. It’s been a big boon to our business.”
McCarthy’s store runs a RAT (Riders Association of Triumph) group that meets the first Saturday of each month for breakfast. “They enjoy the camaraderie of having breakfast together,” she said, “and what we love as a business is, almost as a mass, they come back to our shop.”
The Beaverton, Ore., RAT group includes about 50 riders. They stay connected to the store through the breakfasts and a monthly newsletter that Cascade Moto Classics oversees. The dealership promotes the group to each new bike buyer.
“When they’re buying the bike, I present the newsletter to them and say, ‘Hey we have this club and this monthly newsletter. Would you care to receive it by e-mail or in the mail?’” McCarthy said. “And gosh, 99.9 percent of the people say, ‘Oh yeah.’”

‘if you feed them’
At Honda of Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., about
60 riders get together for a meeting on the fourth Thursday of every month plus the dealership provides coffee and doughnuts every Saturday morning for club riders who will use the dealership as the ride meeting place.
“If you feed them, they will come,” Dave Hunter, the store’s general manager, said, laughing.
Besides the promise of caffeine and sugar, Hunter says the dealership makes it easy for consumers to become part of the riding group. Hunter says the dealership does not require any monetary sum, like a certain amount of PG&A purchases, from the consumer to become part of the group.
“Basically what we encourage is participation more than anything,” he said, although he noted consumers have to be a member of the Honda Riders Club to be part of the group.
Besides that requirement, Hunter notes the other crucial element of a riders group involves the dealership staff and their willingness to help set up chairs and tables to accommodate the rider meetings. “You need the cooperation of the crew,” he said. “People have to pitch in to do this or it’s not going to work.”
Although Hunter doesn’t track what the dealership receives in return, he does believe the effort and money spent on the riding group is more than justified.
“I think it’s money much better spent than in a TV ad or a radio ad or in a newspaper because you’re putting the money toward the people who are spending money there,” he said. “As television, radio and newspapers have gotten so expensive, this is a bargain.”
Mark Allen, owner of two metric dealerships in St. Augustine, Fla., has used rides together with promotional events. These rides have drawn hundreds of riders from around the area.
To orchestrate these rides, the dealerships use e-mail blasts — the store did seven such blasts for a recent event — and the events also are mentioned in radio and newspaper ads.
Allen says he has three employees who,
along with their other duties, serve as ride
coordinators.

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