New Milford Cycles depicts exactly what the industry is all about – the love of riding. Co-owner Jimmy Castelot was a parts guy at a different dealership and Carl Kaffeman was a diehard rider and a loyal customer of Jimmy’s because of his honesty and fairness. “I’ve been riding since 1972. In ’74-’79, I had no other means of transportation other than my bike,” Kaffeman explained. “(Jimmy) didn’t sell you anything you didn’t need. I became a loyal and trustworthy customer.” When the opportunity presented itself, the two bought the dealership, which was about five years ago. In the busy season, the Honda and Kawasaki dealership has about 10 employees.
“The tightening credit conditions and the escalating cost of entry for young riders in off-road and on-road,” Kaffeman said. “For instance, when I was getting into motorcycles, when it came to off road, you could get into it for less than $2,500. Now a 250 motocross bike is $7,000.” Another concern of Kaffeman’s is the decreasing land availability for off-road riding. “There are less and less places to ride, whether that’s dirt bikes or ATVs,” he said. “It’s very short sighted. The industry needs to address it. People will even pay to ride their ATV if you provide the land.”
Saying any unit is “hot” right now is an oxymoron, says Kaffeman, because of the economy. “Honda and Kawasaki sell almost right down the middle,” he noted. “Kawasaki, it’s a toss up between the dual purpose bikes, KLR 650 or their Vulcan 900 line. For Honda, it’s their cruiser 750 line and their CBR 600.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
There has been a dramatic change in consumers focusing on preowned units rather than new, says Kaffeman. “That always was a good part of our business, but now it’s more of a focus,” he said in regards to preowned sales. “In addition, I’d say there’s a focus on mid-displacement transportation, 750s, 600s. Anything above the Vulcan 900s has had a significant decline. People are looking to buy mid-level displacement. The Honda Shadow Spirit and Aero and the Kawasaki Vulcan 900, they have maintained their market share, more or less.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
“We absolutely have the best parts department. They are off-road and on-road experts,” Kaffeman said of the staff. “We have invested in them. I’ve sent my guys to classes, for instance, a five-hour class to learn all about Arai helmets. They’ll never sell you anything you don’t need or require. They can find you a less expensive alternative.” He adds that with the dealership’s new Web site, customers can purchase parts and accessories online. The service department staff is equally as trained. Kaffeman says the technicians are factory trained in all four metric lines as well as Ducati, Aprilla, BMW and Harley-Davidson.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
The dealership hosts five customer appreciation days a year. Kaffeman says their biggest one drew more than 1,000 people. In addition to the events, the dealership does print advertising, including direct mail, as well as radio. New Milford Cycles also completely revamped its Web site last June. Kaffeman says he outsources a Webmaster to keep the site current. It lists all of the dealership’s preowned units, using both photos and descriptions. The vehicles are on the site about 48 hours after the dealership gets them.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“I have a sign up in my shop that’s a quote from Henry Ford. ‘The only foundation of real business is service,’” Kaffeman said. “You have to provide the customer real service. I think our industry has a bright future if we can focus on the customer and listen to your customer. If you listen to your customer, they’ll tell you what they want.”