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Expanding the experience

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
December 3, 2012
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Parsons targets customers with simulators, test track

Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons predicts his GO AZ Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale stores are lined up for continued growth. In fact, when he says “I think we’re going to rock ’n roll into the future,” he means it.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers and .38 Special made sure of it in October, when a crowd of 10,000 gathered on the dealership grounds to celebrate Bob’s Biker Blast.

“I don’t have a number for you, but I can tell you that all the brands that we acquire and operate, when we acquired the brand it was dead last or close to it in the region,” Parsons said. “In most of the cases, we’re number one in the region, or number two. I look for that to continue, and I look for us to continue to be the flagship dealership for every brand we represent. That’s what we do.”

And if his latest undertaking is any indication, the dealerships will be expanding the motorcycling experience for new riders. The bash also celebrated the opening of a new three-acre facility that includes a one-fifth of a mile training track and two motorcycle simulators. A 70,000 square-foot storage facility sits beneath it all, and Parsons estimates he can fit about 25,000 bikes in it, “if we don’t stack ’em.”

It all adds up to catering to customers.

“We installed the sport bike and cruiser simulators to help acclimate new riders and also to sharpen the skills of existing riders,” Parsons said. “Motorcycles are associated with skulls for a reason. What we wanted to do was use the technology that was used to train pilots and make new pilots more successful, and to bring the accident rate way down. We wanted to try to bring that to motorcycling. When it comes to flying an airplane, all good pilots learn on a simulator. Then they go to the next step — an actual plane.

The motorcycle simulators at GO AZ Motorcycles in Scottsdale, Ariz., are the first two commercial units of their kind. (Photo by Davis Berry)

“We’ve not done that with motorcycles. We wanted to see if that could work here, and have our riders become much safer.”

The motorcycle simulators are the first two commercial applications of their kind anywhere.

“They were developed by a company that does simulators for jumbo jets, C-130s,” Parsons said. “They were commissioned to do a motorcycle simulator about 10 years ago by the U.S. military, because young soldiers were buying sport bikes and weren’t taking the time to learn to ride them the way they should. They needed to do something to make them safer on their motorcycles. This company installed about 100 simulators at various military bases. We reached out to them, and now we have two here. We like to say you can have all of the thrills, but none of the spills.”

The simulators not only introduce new riders to riding concepts via virtual feedback, but veterans find them equally effective.
“You would think because it’s a simulator it’s easy, right? The simulator is more difficult than riding a motorcycle,” said Parsons, who took a spill on one during a live TV news broadcast. “The reason is a motorcycle is very forgiving in many respects. A simulator is intended to flush out and magnify any flaws the rider has, so when the rider does something that doesn’t make sense — whereas they may get away with that on a motorcycle — they won’t on the simulator. It’s been very interesting to put some experienced riders on the simulator and see them go down.”

In addition to being used for inventory and as a service queue, the new underground storage space is already showing signs of being a popular place for winter storage. “We put it on a Battery Tender, cover it up and secure it. It’s out of the sun, and nobody’s going to fool around with it down there.”

The track is yet another way for the dealers to cater to customers, both experienced and new to motorcycling. Team Arizona, a motorcycling rider training organization, administers its classes on the track.

Controller Scott Paullin, owner Bob Parsons and general manager Gina Marra had reason to smile during Bob’s Biker Blast in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“If you’re going to buy a bike at the dealership, it would be nice to learn how to ride it right here,” Parsons said.

As with the track training, the simulators won’t be mistaken as props. They each have a motorcycle chassis and are operated by certified trainers.

If it sounds like a recipe for growth, Parsons agrees that providing an experience that appeals to the market is the goal.

“What we are doing is what I’ve always realized needed to be done in the business — first and foremost, if you want to boil it down to one sentence: give the people what they want,” Parsons said. “When you go to buy something, do you want to go to where they have three of what you want to buy, or where they have 50? Do you want to go where it’s presented correctly, or where it’s all strewn on top of each other? Do you want to go where the people understand the product inside and out and they’re also enthusiasts, or do you want to go where nobody understands a damn thing about it? People who step in and make purchases here, they’re looking for some excitement in their life. They’re looking for a lifestyle change and they want to become part of another community. We understand that we make that happen.”

 

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