May 12, 2003
Filed under Uncategorized
475 Main Street
Lancaster, NH 03584
Dean Walts, Jr.
Founded as a used-car dealership/horse barn in Dalton, N.H., in 1988. Evolved into a GMC truck franchise dealer in 1994, then picked up 13 powersports franchises in January 2002. “The new 12,000 sq. ft. recreational-products building is 50 feet from our truck store,” says Walts. Carries full lines of Bombardier and Suzuki, plus Destiny Powered Parachute aircraft, Stingray and Sylvan boats, and trailers. Named Bombardier Dealer of the Year for the nine northeastern states and Suzuki National Dealer Merchandiser of the Year. “During our first year we exceeded sales projections by 231%. We didn’t anticipate that kind of volume and had to do a bit of scrambling to absorb it.” 40 employees.
Walts’ greatest concern is air-pollution regulation. “The EPA standards continue to jump, and the OEMs have to keep meeting those. They are responding with four-stroke engines. The entire industry is reaching a new level of maturity and growth, and I’m very proud of that.”
In ATVs, “the Suzuki LTZ 400 has been red-hot since last year when it came out,” notes Walts. “The Bombardier Outlander is ATV of the Year, so that’s cranking. On the snowmobile end, Bombardier just took over the top spot nationally with the new Rev. That’s appropriately named; it’s revolutionary and our sales are phenomenal.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Walts estimates that his customer base is 50% tourists, 50% locals. “We live in the White Mountains and the Great North Woods, a big-time recreational area,” notes Walts. “Folks come from the metro areas, like Boston and New York. We’re open seven days per week — parts, sales, service, the whole show. I’m here myself on Sundays.”
Walts says there are “a lot” of environmental extremists in the area. “One trail that crosses the Kilkenny Range is on the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 1963 map as a snowmobile trail,” he explains. “Several years later the federal forest people kicked us off our own trail, and (now) it’s for hiking only. Geographically the Kilkenny Range divides the upper and lower portions of the state. The only viable way across is that trail.” Of course, powersports riders are renowned for maintaining trails. “There needs to be some balance.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
“Some time ago an individual in marketing put something in my mind that really stuck,” says Walts. “We are diluting the franchise system by selling aftermarket accessories. The more our customers are out there wearing Suzuki, Bombardier, Sylvan, or Stingray gear, the more it promotes that franchise. Most people will take superior quality over low cost, but not always. So we must also have aftermarket lines.”
Dalton Mountain has 11 service technicians, three gofers, and two reconditioners. “Some also work in the truck store,” notes Walts. “We have eight salespeople and three parts/service counterpeople.”
To promote environmental friendliness and
save money, the entire building uses radiant heat (through the floor). The system uses the largest waste-oil boiler/furnace in the state of New Hampshire — 500,000 BTUs. “We don’t pay anything for heat.” Walts says the dealership has “gobs” of parts storage, and the reinforced second floor holds bulk items (like oil) on pallets.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
When a customer walks into Dalton Mountain, he sees ATVs hung from the 20-ft. cathedral ceiling. “If someone likes a particular unit, we take a remote out of our pocket, click a button, and lower it to the ground. It’s all about fun — so we designed the building ourselves.”
Dalton Mountain’s next project: a 20,000-seat motocross, snowcross, and ATV racetrack with a high-bank oval for ice racing. The grandstands will have radiant heat in winter, with cooling water running through the lines in summer.
“There will be sky boxes, and the second year out we’re planning a restaurant placed in the side of a mountain, with a 300-ft. glass front,” says Walts. He also plan to add a 22-ft.-high waterfall into a mini-gorge on the building’s north side and a 141-ft.-long footbridge, all to make the dealership even more of a destination.
WORDS OF ADVICE
Walts sat on GM’s National Dealer Council until the new powersports dealership took all his time. “One council member said to me, ‘You sell a lot of cars for a rural destination, and your CSI scores are really high, too.’ Respectfully I said, “You don’t understand — we sell so many vehicles because our customer satisfaction index scores are very high.’ Our best CSI scores are in friendliness and courtesy. And don’t forget to have fun. People get so caught up in the dollars, but I started with nothing. We’re here to live, not to work.”