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The secret to zero-risk test rides

By Chris Clovis

Chris Clovis BlogIn the powersports industry, symbiosis can be a beautiful thing. Advertisers, Vendors, Dealers, Manufacturers and even Columnists work together toward mutual benefit.

So allow me this shameless plug: If you’re a dealer who sells Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Triumph, Honda, Slingshot or Yamaha products, you should pay attention. You want to sell bikes. But to comfortably part with $10,000-30,000, customers need to experience the product. That’s where the symbiosis comes in. Because where I work, EXPERIENCE is our stock and trade.

Unlike automotive, the motorcycle industry has a love/hate relationship with test rides: Manufacturers love them, dealers hate them and customers are indifferent toward them. They’re the key to a sale but usually aren’t worth the risk.

OEMs love test rides because they understand how riding a bike creates excitement. It transforms the machine from simply a cool widget into something magical; placing the customer in the “ether” – the intangible feeling that sparked interest in the first place. Motorcycle manufacturers know: Test rides sell bikes.

Dealers hate test rides because they are forced to assume all the risk and pain: Inventory is degraded and devalued, time is consumed and – most importantly – dealers risk losing everything if something goes wrong. Test rides are a liability dice roll wherein the slightest error can cause a lawsuit with potential to destroy your life’s work. Bottom line, it’s just not worth it unless the buyer is committed and ready to sign. Dealers understand the theoretical value of test rides but they just don’t ROI.

As for customers, they’re somewhat indifferent. Though appealing, buyers know that following a salesperson around the block doesn’t amount to much. By the time you’ve figured out how the turn signals work, the test ride is over. Customers also understand that a dealer won’t give them a test ride unless they’ve already committed to buying a specific model. It’s just pointless for the average consumer.

In order for a test ride program to have significant, measurable affect upon buyers, it would need the following characteristics. It would need to be:

  1. Unattached: Riding solo or 2Up, without a dealership employee chaperone.
  2. Free: Taking the bike anywhere, anyhow, with unlimited miles.
  3. An Extended Experience: Keeping it for an entire day, to become familiar and comfortable.
  4. A Sleepover: Parking the bike in their garage for a night to stare and mentally become an owner.
  5. A Swap-Out: Ability to try different bikes, to compare and make an informed decision.
  6. Fearless: Understanding that if the bike tips over they will have some sort of coverage.
  7. No Strings Attached: Ability to walk away from the test ride without obligation to buy.

There is no way a dealership could provide test rides of this magnitude. It’d be a full-time service requiring thousands of bikes, hundreds of employees and specialized insurances. That’s why you should outsource it.

EagleRider recently announced an innovative club program where someone can ride any bike in our fleet, at any of our nationwide locations, every month, for 29 bucks.*

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This provides dealers with an unlimited supply of open, extended test rides on Harley, Indian, BMW, Honda, Triumph, Yamaha and Slingshot models. Customers sign up for Club EagleRider, and get to ride any bike in our fleet, everywhere we are, with no questions asked**. They only pay $29 per month, and get one free day every month. If they don’t use their ride credit, that free day rolls over into the next month. Then they either take a bike for two days, or try two different bikes each day. They can even save up several credits and take a bike for a week.

Have someone tire-kicking a new Street Glide Special? Send them over, we’ll let them take one out. They get to ride anywhere, anyway. They’ll show off to the neighbors and stare at it in their garage. By the next day, they’ve transformed into a Biker; foaming at the mouth to take that new one off your hands. Ditto for potential BMW GS, Yamaha WR250, Triumph Bonneville, Indian Scout or Honda GoldWing buyers.

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Once that Club Member purchases his new bike from you, his EagleRider membership will provide a bike for his buddy to ride once a month. Or, perhaps he bought a Bonneville but occasionally needs a GoldWing for a day trip with the wife. Ultimately, he gets to own the bike he wants, while still having access to a nationwide fleet.

Club EagleRider isn’t just a game-changing product for us, it’s a game-changing product for all of us. Send customers and prospects to EagleRider.com, and we’ll do what we’re best at: Putting butts on bikes and creating memorable experiences. These experiences encourage more bike purchases, more riding, more miles and to more destinations. In the end, it will drive riders to upgrade their machine quicker, and grow their personal stable. Dealers win, EagleRider wins, manufacturers win, customers win, motorcycling wins and our industry wins.

I call that a win-win-win-win-win-win. 

Ride On,

-CC

Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of EagleRider Motorcycles [www.eaglerider.com]. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, or clients.

*Not a solicitation. Article is for informational purposes only. No product or service is advertised or endorsed by PowersportsBusiness.com or its’ affiliates. Author is a current employee of EagleRider Motorcycles and does not claim to be unbiased source.   **Restrictions apply. Please see www.eaglerider.com for program details, terms, and conditions.

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