Experts have been saying for years that demo rides sell bikes, and many dealers echo the sentiment.
Some OEMs have bitten into the idea, offering demo motorcycles to their dealers, while some dealers have ventured into the terrain themselves, financing their own test ride vehicles.
Despite all this, many dealers still don’t offer test rides and even fewer offer extended demos. The primary reason dealers are reluctant is liability, but other factors also weigh heavily on the decision. And how does a dealer make sure the rider turning the key on a demo is a capable, qualified and ready to buy?
Reserve My Ride is a new company created to help dealers solve the test ride dilemma. It’s a Web-based test ride and rental reservation system designed by dealer Phil Zegarek with the goal of bringing more qualified riders into dealerships for demos.
The site, ReserveMyRide.com, serves as a scheduling system for dealers. Those who buy into the program can post their demo and rental bikes online with their dealership logos and allow customers to reserve the bike for short 30-60 minute demos or longer extended test ride or rental periods.
“This allows the dealer to facilitate the demonstration through the web,” Zegarek, president of Reserve My Ride, said.
The program for customers
Once a prospective customer enters the site, he or she can choose to set up a demo or rental ride. Each option will require a date and time for pick up, with the rental option asking for a drop off time as well. The customer will also choose which city and state the rental or demo will be in, and a make and model can be selected.
A list of bikes matching the options selected will then appear. The customer will see a photo of the bikes, if they’re available for the time selected and the names and locations of the dealerships that are offering the bikes for rental or demo.
In the reservation screen, the customer will enter a variety of information, including a name, address,
email address, phone number, motorcycle license information and years of riding experience. Customers will need at least one year of riding experience to qualify.
The third step asks the customer to enter credit card information. For demo purposes, credit card information is secured to guarantee a customer is seriously interested in buying. No fee will be charged if the customer shows up for the demo or cancels two hours or more ahead of time. However, a no-show will be charged a cancellation fee of less than $20. Extended test rides and rentals will be charged to the customer on that credit card or with another form of payment.
The final portion of the reservation is a questionnaire that asks customers how they found out about the demo or rental program, if they’ve previously purchased a motorcycle from the participating dealer, if they own a motorcycle, brand and models owned, interest in purchasing and expected time of purchase.
Within minutes, the customer receives an email confirming the reservation, and with a rental or extended test ride, instructions for returning the bike are given. Then a customer simply shows up at the scheduled time and picks up the bike.
The program for dealers
Motorcycle dealers can post any of their bikes onto the site once they’ve joined Reserve My Ride. Each dealer has the option of using the program as a demo-only business, a rental/extended test ride-only business, or both.
Reserve My Ride comes with no franchise fees, and the bikes are provided by the dealer. Each can use as many bikes for Reserve My Ride as is necessary. Some may only carry three or four demo bikes, while others might use upwards of 20, Zegarek said.
Reserve My Ride dealers’ bikes will be posted on the national site, and customers will be referred to their local dealers. Also, dealers can place the Reserve My Ride logo and link on their sites, and each dealership’s logo can appear on the dealer’s specific Reserve My Ride page.
For demos, Zegarek suggests a 30-60 minute time limit. Extended test rides or rentals can go as long as the dealer allows and the customer wishes.
Participating dealers have access to a backend system that provides a schedule of reserved rides and each rider’s contact and questionnaire information.
The benefits of joining Reserve My Ride include referrals from the national site, dealer logos imbedded on the Reserve My Ride website and in confirmation emails, the ability to flip a demo into an extended test ride, a rental program without franchise fees, national promotion, a web-based reservation system and reservations made by more quality customers, Zegarek said.
“It drives more traffic into a dealership is what it does,” he added.
Customers also have the option of choosing a dealer that offers demos in advance and picking the ride they would like.
“They can make a reservation without going through the scrutiny of a salesperson,” Zegarek said, adding that the option might entice more timid customers.
Available with the program is Rider Rescue roadside assistance for extended test rides and rentals and the option for the dealer to purchase rental insurance through Zurich.
“We made it pretty much turnkey, so the dealer doesn’t have to do much to get into the program,” Zegarek explained.
Dealers who join by the end of the year receive free demo services until 2012. A licensing fee and a monthly dealer support fee will be charged for those using the rental or extended test ride option.
A few dealers, including Zegarek, are already using the site, and Reserve My Ride hopes to have about 60 dealers signed on by the end of 2011.
“We don’t want to roll it out too fast,” Zegarek said. “We want to make sure we roll it out slowly and train the dealers correctly.”
The program is open to authorized dealers only.
Launching the site
Zegarek, who owns Yamaha, Suzuki, Can-Am, Victory of Mineola, N.Y., started the site to help dealers expand their buying audience and also offer an alternative for those looking to get into the extended test ride or rental business. He’s found over the years that offering test rides has increased his business, especially with large cruisers.
“Customers have to spend a lot of money. He’s just not going to do that unless he rides a motorcycle,” Zegarek said. “They’re not going to make a $300 or $400 monthly payment on a motorcycle without knowing it’s going to do what he wants it to do.”
In Mineola, Zegarek also offers extended test rides to customers who enjoyed the first 30-60 minutes but want a little more time on the bike before purchasing.
“It does give the customer the ability to take the vehicle out for two to three days if he wants,” he explained.
Extended test rides, just like rentals, are charged to the customer, but dealers can shave the cost off an eventual purchase.
For dealers interested in getting into the rental business, Reserve My Ride’s system works just like it would with an extended test ride. Customers reserve the rental online and pick up and return the bike at the dealership. Dealers set their own prices and can vary charges depending on when the rental is taking place, if a service customer is renting or for other reasons.
Rentals have been a strong source for profit at Zegarek’s dealership, so he recommends others look into offering the program.
Even though rentals aren’t intended to directly sell bikes, a longer ride could convince a rental customer to buy. Plus, the program gets renters into the dealership looking at other bikes and PG&A. Some dealerships might also use service to promote the rental program to any rider having service work done that will take an extended period of time.
The aim through the whole program is to get riders on bikes, so they will hopefully consider buying.
“Dealers that are test riding are the dealers that are selling more bikes and higher priced bikes,” Zegarek said. psb