Montgomery County Harley-Davidson/Buell – Norristown, PA – Sept. 27, 2004
October 1, 2004
Filed under Power Profiles
1217 South Trooper Road
Norristown, PA 19403
John and Jacquelyn D'Arcy
25,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1977 at the present location. Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. Five-time Gold Bar and Shield winner (number one among the top 25 dealers in the country), consecutively from 1998 to 2002. 34 employees.
John D’Arcy’s greatest concern is that Harley-Davidson “continues to build a great motorcycle. It’s probably one of the best-built motorcycles in the world today. I don’t want them to build so many motorcycles that quality suffers. There’s a good bunch of people running the company, and they do a fine job.”
Movin’ out at Montgomery: the new Softail Deluxe and the Softail Springer Classic (formerly known as the Heritage Springer), and the other Softails — especially the Fat Boy and the Deuce. “Buell introduced a model that’s going over well — the 1200cc Lightning XB12S ‘street fighter.’ We really try to sell mostly Harley-Davidson parts and accessories due to the fitment — usually the very best — and thus the ease of installation.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
The average Montgomery County customer is between 30 and 45 years of age, at least a high school graduate or with two or more years of college. “We also have professionals — doctors and lawyers,” says D’Arcy. “Pretty much it runs the gamut. When we first started, most of the people were blue-collar workers. A couple of steel mills in this area have long since gone away. Now a lot of our customers work for computer companies — this King of Prussia/Valley Forge area is a hub for offices.”
D’Arcy says more people are accessorizing their bikes at time of sale. “And we try to push Harley-Davidson financing. Probably 50% of buyers choose Harley-Davidson financing, and 50% provide their own financing.”
D’Arcy’s greatest concern is the “pocket bikes” that are sweeping the nation. “They’re capable of 35 to 40 mph, and you can pick them up because they weigh just 40 pounds. In Pennsylvania we must go through a lot of state bureaucracy to become a dealer. These pocket bikes are being sold at the supermarket, at the chain drugstore, and at Pep Boys. We need to have some state control. They are unsafe and too small for other drivers to see. Of course, they’re not built for the highway — so they say — but the first thing kids do is take them on the road.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Montgomery County has eight parts salespeople and 10 folks in service — two service writers, one service manager, six techs, and two motorcycle cleaners.
“We’ve been in this building six years and are getting ready to expand again, as soon as we complete approval from the township,” says D’Arcy. “We’ll expand another 10,000 to 15,000 sq. ft., but that is the largest we can be at this location.”
He adds, “We concentrate on allowing the managers to run their own departments. We look at how they’re doing, but don’t necessarily interfere with the day-to-day operations. I’m getting a bit more hands-off and letting these fellows run their ends of the business.
“It’s not hard to get good people, but it is (difficult) to get people who are good and qualified. We spend a lot of money on training. All our technicians are factory-trained. We send them to classes every winter to learn more about the bikes and how to do their job better and more efficiently. We make a profit in service. One big reason people buy from us is that they know we can service their bikes well.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Montgomery County H-D uses yellow pages, local magazine, and newspaper advertising — especially newspapers in areas “where we don’t feel we have enough penetration,” says D’Arcy. They also use direct mail from the Motor Company. “Every once in a while we'll do some TV ads, but we wonder how these actually benefit us. Every Sunday we feed people — hamburgers, hotdogs, and free sodas. We grill in the summer, then in winter we service hoagies from a terrific Italian market up the street. It’s nice when our customers are out riding, it’s getting close to noon, and they say, ‘I sure could use a hamburger to give my body a little more fuel.’ They stop in here — and hopefully do some shopping.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“We have a great, healthy industry,” says D’Arcy. “There’s a lot of interest in motorcycles right now and hopefully that will continue. Just service your customers the best that you can — keep in the forefront that your customer really is the reason that you’re in business — and I think we’ll all do well.”
— Julie Filatoff
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