In a recent vlog* I posited the question: What do you expect and want from the motorcycle dealership? I then rambled on for a while, offering a vague sense of my own expectations, all of which seem to boil down to this: I want to feel special.
I guess we all do.
It occurred to me this morning that I won’t really see people’s answers to the questions I posed in the video because too many You Tube commenters are toxic and generally refuse to pay attention as a result. So, I’ve brought the question to The Motorcycle Obsession, where I have the power to delete and block the comments of Nazi sympathizers (It’s hard to believe I’ve had to do that in 2019 but I actually have) and other irredeemable trolls.
I started thinking about dealerships when I bought a Triumph Bonneville T120 back in March. The Bonnie was something of a surprise decision, even for me (the bike had not even been on my initial list of potential replacements for my Triumph Tiger Explorer). Indeed, had I been observing myself, I would have thought for certain the bike I’d choose would be an Indian FTR 1200. But, along with having no idea when the bike would actually arrive at UK dealerships, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of having to deal with my local Indian dealership.
Part and parcel with the roll-out of a more Europe-friendly motorcycle in the form of the FTR 1200, Indian has been rapidly expanding its European dealership coverage. That’s awesome from the perspective of an Indian fanboy. And, on the surface, I’m happy the brand finally has a home near me. Previously, a Cardiff resident had to travel 75 miles east to Swindon; the idea of clocking a 150-mile round trip for servicing can spoil a fella’s enthusiasm for a brand.
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Indian’s dealership in South Wales is a multi-brand entity that’s been around for 23 years but, unfortunately, I’m not a fan of that entity. I’ve dropped by a few times over the years and never been particularly happy with the experience – to the extent that even though it was my nearest Suzuki dealership I used to travel all the way to Bristol to get my V-Strom 1000 serviced. In a nutshell, I don’t think the dealership has the right mindset to treat Indian customers as they should be treated. It is more geared toward selling clapped-out Bandits at bold mark-up.
My local Triumph dealership (Robert Bevan and Son Motorcycles), however – I’ve always liked them. They treat me in a friendly, respectful way; they don’t do the “hard-sell” thing; the service department is easy to get in touch with and deal with. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re within walking distance of a train station (meaning you have a way home if you have to drop your bike off), although that’s something of a moot point since they also offer service bikes. And so on and so on. In considering replacements for my Tiger Explorer I found myself again and again gravitating to Triumph and Harley-Davidson** models because I’ve had positive experiences with those brands’ local dealerships.
It almost feels unfair that dealership experience can so definitively make or break the success of a brand in a given area but such is the way of things. A company can make the greatest motorcycle in the world but if the folks selling it don’t understand the product, or are rude to potential customers, or are guilty of other service industry sins, then it’s all for nought.
KEEP READING: That Time I Almost Bought a Honda VFR800X
Personally, my minimum expectation of a dealership is that it is respectful of me as a rider and of how I want to ride. If I come in wanting “just” a 500cc bike, sell me a 500cc bike – don’t tell me that I’ll outgrow it and should instead by a 1000cc monster. Equally test rides are a must; I will not budge on this.
I’m pretty firm on service bikes, as well, but would be willing to give if a dealership were close to a train station. I need to be able to get home if a service department is going to have my bike for any extended period of time. Meanwhile, Bevan doesn’t offer a valeting but I really wish they would. A number of higher-end dealerships will return a bike to you all sparkly clean after a service.
I think there’s potential for upsell in doing such a thing. If you clean a person’s bike well, you’ll probably thereafter be able to sell to him or her the products that you used. And as increasingly fewer riders come from a background where they might have grown up helping a parent work on cars or bikes, I think there’s real scope for dealerships to offer courses that teach basic skills. Teach people how to clean their bikes, how to clean and lube their chains, how to change brake pads and bulbs and tires and so on.
I suspect most dealerships would think that teaching such things would be self-defeating, taking work away from their own service department, but I believe such courses would actually instill a greater sense of trust in said service department, making them more willing to commit to paying for bigger jobs they can’t handle themselves.
What about you? What do you expect, what do you want, and what do you think could really improve the dealership experience?
* I’m not sure how committed I am to this whole vlogging thing but back in February I started recording my Friday rides home from work, pontificating on this or that moto thing that’s caught my interest in the past week. I’ve been inconsistent in terms of posting, and piss poor in terms of quality, but, hey, you get what you pay for. One aspect that amuses me is that my Texas accent grows stronger the more lost I get inside my head.
** If Harley made any bike (other than the Street Rod) that actually fit in my shed I’d probably be riding that now.