It was a chance cell phone call that Michael O’Brien almost didn’t return that could help Saxon Motorcycles diversify its sales in the coming years.
The unsolicited call and later meetings led O’Brien, a part owner of the Arizona V-twin custom cruiser manufacturer, and his partners to enter a new marketplace: Europe. Saxon is expecting to begin selling its line of motorcycles through a distributor in Europe in early 2007.
“We had really no intention, at least in the near term, of going to Europe,” O’Brien said in an interview with Powersports Business. “We had our hands full with building the business domestically, working on penetrating the U.S.”
Saxon, which started in 2004, has 36 dealers currently in the United States and expects to grow that number by several more this year and at least 10 more in 2007. Accomplishing that, plus introducing a new 2007 model and plans on introducing perhaps two others in the next year seemed like enough.
Until the unsolicited phone call changed that.
“I almost didn’t pursue this,” O’Brien said of returning the call that led to a distribution deal with New Rebels Motorcycles, a Netherlands company. “But the more we talked, the more interested we became.”
Saxon and New Rebel officials later met in Phoenix and discussed a plan that would have Saxon build the motorcycles at its 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Casa Grande, Ariz., and have New Rebel distribute the product.
“We just really connected with them,” O’Brien said of the New Rebels officials. “They presented what we felt to be a very comprehensive, very thought-out business plan.”
O’Brien said he expects two models of Saxon motorcycles will be EU-approved during the first quarter of 2007. At that time, New Rebels will begin building a dealer network, a practice they don’t expect to be difficult considering the warm reception the bikes have received at European shows.
O’Brien said Saxon has no current intention of building bikes in Europe. “At some point in the future if the demand got great enough, would we consider that? Sure,” he said. “But it’s one step at a time right now.”
Besides Europe, O’Brien said Saxon in 2007 would look overseas at Australia and even Asia as possible additional markets.
Despite a U.S. custom cruiser market described as flat or soft by industry officials, Saxon did grow its manufacturing output this year. O’Brien said Saxon built 350 motorcycles in 2005 and hopes to end this year between 475-500. Looking ahead, Saxon is hoping to increase its output to 550-600 in ’07.
“We want to continue to grow, but we want to do it the right way,” said O’Brien, meaning bringing on dealers that are “running good, sound businesses,” continuing to provide support systems for dealers and building quality product.
Saxon dealers in the United States can look forward to seeing a prototype of a new motorcycle at the V-Twin Expo. The new bike, called the Mad Jack, will be a bobber that is designed by Gard Hollinger, who previously designed the company’s Black Crown model. O’Brien said the new bike will “look very different than anything that we’ve got out there and probably even some of our competitors.”
Saxon also is planning on having Hollinger redesign one of its current models, which could come out in the ’08 lineup.
The company also introduced a new pro-street bike, the Villain, as part of its ’07 lineup. The Villain features a 300 mm rear tire and like all ’07 models, has a 96 or 111 S&S engine that is EPA and CARB certified.
Other changes to the ’07 lineup include Brembo brakes and two-piece rotors for more stopping power, Progressive Suspension for a smoother ride and better handling, sculpted custom seats and an improved electrical harness, which will lend added reliability. The new 2007 Saxon Motorcycle base models start at $23,995 MSRP and go to $28,595 .
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business