Dealer’s OEM partner ‘like family’
DeLand Motorsports capitalizes on Suzuki offerings
Nate Stickney was in full “go” mode when Powersports Business caught up with him in early February. With Bike Week just around the corner, the general manager at DeLand Motorsports in Florida was juggling a rise in showroom traffic and phones that were ringing at a steady pace.
And the orders of jackets, gloves, helmets, T-shirts — “any P&A you can imagine” — were making their way into the dealership. It’s all part of a routine at this extra-important time of year at the store, which was selected a Power 50 dealership in 2013 and ultimately ranked No. 4 among all 50 dealers selected. Stickney is no doubt the driving force behind the success.
He came on board in 2006, two years after the store had opened, as F&I manager. He was fast-tracked to GM shortly thereafter, and now is seeking another major OEM to join the likes of Suzuki, Arctic Cat, Yamaha and KYMCO at his store. As the dealership prepares for spring, the Suzuki relationship will once again help the store separate itself from the vast competition along the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Daytona Beach.
“We’ve had an unbelievable partnership with Suzuki,” he said. “We built the store around them in 2004. Coming out of the economic collapse, we’ve really been able to take advantage of their noncurrent programs. We’ve also done well with their 0 percent financing campaign, and we’ve been very successful selling their F&I products, Suzuki extended protection.”
Stickney says the 0 percent financing program that Suzuki has offered intermittently for the last two years has been especially helpful at bringing in floor traffic to the dealership, located 34 miles north of Orlando and 23 miles west of Daytona Beach.
“People look at those finance promotions and it helps get people in here, and we’ve done really well with it,” he said.
DeLand has acquired extensive aged inventory from other Suzuki dealers that have closed or liquidated over the past few years, providing customers with another buying option.
“We remarket them and get them out the door,” Stickney said. “We’ve been the place to come for a good deal for awhile now. You can get noncurrent bikes here and save money.”
Sales of Suzuki F&I products have been especially strong in recent years, with DeLand ranking as the No. 3 seller of the OEM’s extended protection service contracts. Sales of Suzuki-exclusive tire and wheel and GAP products also have moved well, Stickney said.
F&I manager Robert Stacy is tasked with handling those sales, and Stickney credits his approach for the success. “You have to a good guy in place to move that stuff, and Robert’s that guy,” Stickney said. “He packages it with the 0 percent financing, and people see value in that. They can put it all in the deal and not pay interest on it. He has his menus like all the other guys out there, but he sells it very well. He believes in it. Being a Suzuki-only store as far as road bikes go, we see these people come back and use these products and benefit from them, so it’s an easy sell. There’s a trust factor.”
Big quarter ahead
The relationship between DeLand and Suzuki is further enhanced by the store’s status as the brand’s exclusive vendor for Bike Week, Biketoberfest and AIMExpo. Now in it’s fourth year, the partnership, for instance, allows DeLand to set up a retail operation in the Suzuki area at Daytona International Speedway. Alas, the store had plenty of P&A arriving weeks before the event.
“It’s been a great revenue source for us,” he said. “We sell our P&A there, and market to people there to come back to the store and buy bikes and get their service work done. It’s a very unique setup compared to other OEMs, who sell their own P&A. Having that partnership has really helped us. It’s something different. They’re like family to us. They value that partnership just as much as we do.”
Stickney estimates that he sold “five or six” Suzuki motorcycles last year simply from converting Bike Week prospects.
“It’s a huge boost for us in March,” he said of the Bike Week sales. “We do about 67 percent of our business in the first quarter of the year. So this our time to shine.”
Now in its second year as an Arctic Cat ATV dealer, DeLand has become the No. 1 Wildcat dealer in the district, which includes all of Florida and the southern half of Georgia. Stickney says the brand’s ATV market share has grown by 500 percent in the area since DeLand took over sales. It’s all a sign of things to come, Stickney says.
“We’re really seeking another major OEM, and hopefully we can get one of them to dance,” he said.
A staff of 12 full-time employees has a wealth of opportunities, with about 150 units on the showroom at the 9,500 square-foot store. DeLand has increased its pre-owned inventory in recent years, and includes about 40 used bikes as part of its inventory at all times.
“We’ve cut back a little bit on our new bike orders, because we’ve bought heavier on the used side,” he said. “Our used sales have been very good. We’ve embraced the used market. You make a higher margin on it and people are asking for those types of bikes.”
At DeLand, sales of Suzuki Burgman 400 and 650 scooters have been outstanding, according to Stickney. “We have seen a spike on the scooter side. People who buy those are constantly coming back and praising them,” he said. “Of course, the Boulevard M109 B.O.S.S. and the GSXR and Hayabusa sport bikes are our bread and butter.”
And while the typical scooter buyer at DeLand is older and paying cash, sport bike buyers are seeing somewhat better retail financing success.
“It’s hit and miss,” Stickney said. “We’ve really embraced some of the sub-prime lenders and credit unions that are working with first-time buyers. We’ve found a niche group of credit unions that are taking a little more risk on the younger guy. As long as they’re employed and they’re coming to the table with some cash, we can get those people bought. That’s helping out, for sure.”
Unit sales via a variety of sources on the Internet continue to bring rewards to the dealership. Craigslist, eBay, Amazon and CycleTrader.com bring the dealership business on a daily basis.
“Our guys know they have to grind everyday and they understand that the Internet is a major sales tool,” Stickney said. “It’s a major sales tool and you have to be on top of it daily. They understand it and embrace it.”
DeLand has already seen the benefits of Stickney’s membership in a 20 Group facilitated by Spader Business Management. And while he’s the youngest member age 33 and one of only a handful members who don’t actually own the dealership, he’s finding it an enormous tool for the store.
“It’s been a mindblowing experience, really, as far as digging into the nuts and bolts of the business, every square inch of the dealership beyond just selling,” Stickney said. “And I’m a salesperson at heart. I love to get out there and sell, sell sell. I pump my guys up and train the hell out of them. But at the end of the day you have to make sound decisions and look at the internal components of the business.
“There are a couple of us who just getting our feet wet who want to be owners at some point. It’s good to get in there and find out what it’s all about.”