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February 7, 2011-New leader, new programs at Triumph

February 8, 2011
Filed under Features

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The industry’s lone American CEO of a European manufacturer put his own American touch on his official arrival as the new leader of Triumph’s North American operations.

Baseball cap spun backwards, a gray Triumph T-shirt sported under a black-branded jacket, even jeans sporting the British manufacturer’s familiar logo, Greg Heichelbech’s rider attire spoke as loud as his entrance.

The former longtime Harley-Davidson official and new CEO of Triumph Motorcycles (America) rode into his new leadership spot — quite literally — in a memorable way during the brand’s recent North American dealer meeting. Heichelbech’s first introduction at a Triumph North American network event began with his arrival on a Speed Triple and ended after rolling out a series of brand initiatives, including a new consumer program aimed at the entry-level rider and some considerably different marketing objectives and policies.

Triumph executives also outlined the brand’s 2011 lineup, which features seven new or updated models, including a product in a whole new segment, and their continued investment in the brand, which will total in the millions in R&D and manufacturing development in the next few years.

“We need to evolve our thinking,” Heichelbech told an audience of dealers, which included close to 90 percent of the company’s North American dealer network. “We need to increase awareness, we know that. We need to hone our messaging and our promotions and everything has to elicit a call-to-action to the consumer.”

Among the first call-to-actions: An aggressive promotion aimed at luring the entry-level rider. The program, set to roll out this spring, will guarantee buyers of 2011 America or Speedmaster models the full value of the price of their unit up to a year after their purchase if they then place that value toward a new Triumph model that is aimed at a more experienced rider.

For the dealer, the program is aimed at driving store traffic with hopefully a new clientele, the entry-level rider. But it also gives them a chance at selling three bikes because of the one deal — the original entry-level, 2011 model, the future, more expensive model purchase and the year-old trade-in that will result from the original agreement.

Equally important, Heichelbech stressed the program can result in a powerful change of conversation on the showroom floor. “It will give you and your customers more positive things to talk about rather than discounts,” he told dealers.

Later, in an interview with Powersports Business, Heichelbech explained the rationale behind the new program.

“We know from experience that (the program) is a great motivator for consumers to come in and give the brand a try and experience the brand,” he said. “Once they experience it and realize the quality, then we can start developing that long-term relationship and hopefully develop a customer for life.”

Other significant changes are coming, especially in the brand’s marketing arena.

This spring, Heichelbech said Triumph will adopt a policy that will forbid dealers to advertise the price of new units under their stated MSRP.

“Our brand reputation, your brand reputation, is all at stake,” he told dealers, citing the reasoning behind the new policy.

Heichelbech discussed the policy change, referred to as MAP or a Minimum Advertising Price program, more with Powersports Business. “We have very specific consequences, and we’ve worked with our legal staff to go over that and make sure, No. 1, it’s fair and equitable, and No. 2, it can be enforced,” he said of the program.

“We’re going to consult with our dealers and work with them,” he said. “It’s a unifying message. It’s locking arms together to protect the brand.”

Another significant policy change announced by the former Buell executive at the Scottsdale, Ariz., meeting: The end of selling units over the Internet.

“We’re going to prohibit all e-commerce bike transactions,” he told dealers, most of who loudly applauded the decision. “First of all, our customers deserve better than that. Our past customers deserve better than that. Our bikes and our brand have more value than to be auctioned off in some flea market-type atmosphere.”

Another change, at least for 2011, is a result of Heichelbech’s first weeks on the job. After being hired in November, he spent time with a number of dealers, including the OEM’s relatively new dealer council. Among the issues tackled by the council with Heichelbech: the use of marketing funds and specifically, how best to use the brand’s co-op funds.

Through those discussions, Triumph has decided to take the co-op funds and concentrate them on national campaigns to drive traffic to dealer stores and websites rather than intersperse those funds among dealers for their local events.

“This is a great example of working with your network,” Heichelbech said. “This is not the OEM coming and saying, ‘We’re taking co-op.’ This was a suggestion from the dealer council.”

The move, Heichelbech said, allows Triumph to have a stronger, national marketing presence.

“Quite honestly,” he told Powersports Business, “we believe it’s our responsibility as an OEM to create that overarching brand awareness and demand.”

The latter also figures to be helped by Triumph’s 2011 lineup, which features a dual purpose motorcycle in the Tiger 800/800XC that gives the brand a whole new market. Other significant 2011 lineup announcements included key upgrades to some of Triumph’s entry-level units, including the America and the Speedmaster.

“The market is ready. Dealers are ready. They’re ready for a brand to step up and show leadership in the market and say, ‘You know what? We can grow,’” Heichelbech said, “We have the product to do that right now.”

Paul Stroud, Triumph’s global sales and marketing director, told dealers the OEM is investing millions in not only R&D, but also in its manufacturing platforms to ensure it has the ability and facilities to deliver that growth.

“We as a business are absolutely planning on growth. We have a product plan to deliver growth,” he said, hinting that Triumph will enter another significant new market segment in the next 18 months. “We are expanding our regions of international coverage and from that, we absolutely see the need to expand our manufacturing capability.” PSB

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