With production motorcycles not even off the line yet, Motus Motorcycles is already looking to build its dealer network.
The company has designed an American sport touring bike and has just recently completed a tour of the southern half of the United States, visiting dealers and customers from Alabama to California and back.
The purpose of the tour, which ran July 11-30, was twofold. It gave the company the opportunity to complete additional testing on the bikes, while at the same time allowing for promotional visits.
Now the company is back at its Birmingham, Ala., headquarters analyzing its research and looking forward to production kickoff in early 2012.
Motus Motorcycles was started by Lee Conn, an admitted “serial entrepreneur” who grew up in an aircraft manufacturing family, and designer Brian Case. The two were riding buddies who were looking for something more out of the American motorcycle market.
“We just kind of sat down with a group of friends and riders and started envisioning … what a dream motorcycle would be,” Conn recalled.
The group discussed how they would like a sporty but comfortable touring bike with a great engine, a big fuel tank, the opportunity to sit straight up, hard bags and a windscreen.
“We kind of scratched our heads, and we said, ‘OK, well nobody really makes anything like this in this country,’” Conn said.
The two looked at American manufacturers and realized they all make V-twin cruisers or touring bikes. But Conn and Case wanted something sportier, so they decided if they wanted something like that, they would have to design it themselves.
The heart of the MST and MST-R is Motus’ proprietary V-4 engine, which Conn says has a lot of torque and power with the smoothness of the V engine. He says it’s the first V-4 designed for any engine in any industry.
“It’s sort of the guts of the whole project,” he said.
The MST is the base model, while the MST-R is the premium version, which will feature high-level components, lighter weight and higher performance. Both with have trim/feature and upgrade options available.
The bikes will be assembled at Motus’ headquarters in Birmingham, with most of the parts coming from Alabama or Michigan. The MSRP is yet to be determined.
Touring the country
Though Motus has yet to release a bike to the public, it already has gathered a following. The company’s Facebook page had nearly 2,500 fans toward the end of July, and many are anxiously awaiting a ride.
Marketing to future customers was one reason the company wanted to take the tour, which stopped in 13 locations over 20 days. But with 10 of those stops at dealerships, it was also a time to promote the bikes to prospective dealers.
“It’s just a way for us to kind of meet the dealers, shape them up and see what kind of store would be good for us,” Conn said. “You just can’t do some of that over the phone.”
Conn and Case went to the stores to talk to sales managers, sales staff and even the employees sweeping the floors. They wanted to see who would show up at a stop, from Motus’ fans to the dealers’ customers.
Ed Cook, president of AF1 Racing in New Braunfels, Texas, saw Motus’ July 12 visit to his dealership as a success.
“It went really well. We had probably maybe 40 different people here looking at them, sitting on the bikes, checking them out,” he said, adding that he had never had so many people in his dealership on a Tuesday.
Cook was intrigued by the bikes, especially with their engineering. Customers were also excited, commenting most about the seating position.
“I’d have no problem selling this stuff,” Cook said, adding that he would be interested in becoming a Motus dealer, depending on how the production bikes come out and what the customer and parts support programs look like.
AF1 was chosen for a visit because Motus fans in the area had indicated that they would like to purchase a Motus from AF1 in the future. Conn was also familiar with the dealership’s popular Aprilia forum.
Some dealerships on the tour, like AF1, were chosen by dealership customers, while others were chosen by Motus as a possible connection in a key market, and a third group requested the visit.
“Some of the dealers have contacted us and said, ‘Man, that product that you’ve got and you’re showing, that’s the kind of product that we can sell,’” Conn explained.
Motus is looking to start with 25-30 dealers in the United States. The company doesn’t plan on producing a mass number of bikes — with only about 500 planned for the first year — so dealer numbers have to stay low for now. The OEM is looking to cover key markets with ideal dealers.
“The kind of dealer that seems to really want it are high-end dealers that carry uniquely interesting cool brands, usually the ones that seem like they’re having the most luck with their enthusiast-oriented, family-type dealership,” Conn said.
Each dealer will be required to at least carry one each of the two models — they won’t have to carry each color in each model. Dealers have to offer test rides and serve their customers aggressively. They will also have the opportunity to sell Motus’ V-4 engine technology for track cars, side-by-sides, aircraft or other vehicles as an addition to their Motus sales.
Now is an ideal time to build a dealer network for Motus because once dealers are chosen, the company can make more decisions about its product.
“All the bikes and the engines will be sold through dealers, so we have to come to some sort of determination of how many dealers we’re going to have right off the bat, which affects how many units we’re going to produce, which affects the cost structure of the bike,” Conn said. “There’s no better time to identify who our dealer network is going to be than while we’re going around the country testing the bikes.”
The testing element is important to the tour. Conn said the prototypes are about halfway through the testing period, but the long nationwide trip allowed the bikes to be tested on long-distances in real-world conditions in a variety of weather conditions, over different surfaces and at different elevations.
“They’re outfitted with all types of different sensors and data logging systems on them,” Conn explained.
He and Case were watching for problems that may come up, solutions to issues and checking to see if safeguards have been successful. A van of engineers and monitoring equipment followed the two bikes throughout the tour to analyze the progress.
The company is hoping to have the bikes in full production by early 2012.