There’s at least one V-twin custom motorcycle company that is attempting to grow its operations in what appears to be a largely down market.
That’s Big Bear Choppers (BBC), a California-based company that’s headquarters are in a mountainous resort area east of Los Angeles.
The company changed its business approach last year when it went from building primarily kit bikes to complete motorcycles. Until that time, BBC had been manufacturing about 30-40 kits per month along with perhaps a half dozen complete bikes. A year later, that’s all changed, or as BBC founder and owner Kevin Alsop says, the company did a 180-degree turnaround, “three times over.”
Today, BBC is building 70-80 bikes and 10-15 kits per month.
With its production change, BBC also began developing a dealer network. Today, that network is nearing 50 dealers, with stores located across the United States.
How does BBC believe it can grow in an industry segment that surveys and sources point to being at least 20 percent off last year’s sales totals?
Alsop said BBC is doing “what the car industry is just now beginning to do, which is to be very aggressive on design work and keep it there.
“The bottom line is this, when a guy walks into a showroom and sees a bike 20 feet away and says, ‘Oh my god, that’s badass,’” Alsop said. “If you’re not going to get that reaction, then you’re not going to sell anything. And that’s pretty much the way it is.
“I feel that my competitors have not changed the designs of their vehicles in the last 5-10 years.”
BBC unveiled a prototype of a stretched prostreet motorcycle earlier this spring that will include touring features. The Grand Touring X-Wedge or GTX, according to the company, features a unique characteristic in that it positions the passenger seating in front of the rear wheel, allowing for better handling and increased comfort for the operator and passenger.
The company also earlier this year debuted a custom bike designed especially for women. The motorcycle, dubbed Miss Behavin, features a lower seat, shortened wheelbase and a more conservative rake to improve handling.
Those and other 2008 models were recently shown at the company’s inaugural Dealer Summit Expo July 13-15 in Big Bear Lake, where the company has three facilities.
Approaching H-D Dealers
Alsop said the company continues to aggressively work to build its dealer network, with the hope of doubling its number by next March. That is “not an easy thing when dealers are so nervous now,” Alsop said “Dealers are just really scared about what’s happening in the economy.”
Alsop has been approaching Harley-Davidson dealers, noting many BBC owners are bikers who started with Harley-Davidsons before venturing into a more custom product for their second purchase. That means prospective BBC buyers could be consumers that H-D stores would not otherwise see without BBC’s custom presence, Alsop said.
To entice H-D dealers and future consumers, Alsop said BBC will continue to be aggressive with its bike designs.
“Consumers want more bang for their buck,” he said. psb
Copyright 2007 Powersports Business