2649 Randleman Road
Greensboro, NC 27406
Oliver and Jason Emmert
The father-and-son team owns three North Carolina dealerships: Carolina BMW/Triumph (8,400 sq. ft., founded in 2001), Capitol BMW/Triumph in Raleigh (6,000 sq. ft., founded in 2002) and Cape Fear BMW in Wilmington (4,000 sq. ft., opened in 2004). Oliver Emmert rode motorcycles until son Jason was a teenager. “I always wanted a motorcycle growing up, but my parents forbade me to get one,” explains Jason, now 34 years old. “When I got out of college, I told my dad, ‘I’m going to buy a bike.’ He said, ‘All right, I’m going with you.’” The two have been enthusiasts since. 10 employees in Greensboro, eight in Raleigh, three in Wilmington.
Emmert’s greatest concern is attracting young beginning riders. “No motorcycle is cheap these days. You really have to want to ride, because cars are so inexpensive and roads are more car-friendly. The USA is just not a motorcycling country, the way European countries are. It’s not socially frowned upon, but it’s looked at here as a pastime, like boats are. Yet most of my customers use these for daily transportation. BMW has less than 4% of the market, and that’s not good.” What’s the solution? “Education and the correct pricing of entry-level motorcycles.”
Kickin’ it at Carolina: the K 1200 LT luxury touring model and the R 1200 GS dual-sport. “There just aren’t that many accessories for BMWs,” says Emmert. “We sell a fair number of Marsei tankbags and Gerbing electrically heated clothing, plus a lot of BMW saddlebags and tankbags. The Triumphs are more ‘accessory-ready,’ so people have accessorized theirs with different chrome pieces, exhausts, and windshields. Since you can no longer get BMW modular helmets, our customers buy the HJC Symax and the Shuberth Concept, and we sell Arai, also.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Emmert says his typical customer is in his 40s or 50s, “but more than age, it’s an attitude — a free spirit. The trend I see is that everybody’s waiting for the next great discount program from the manufacturers — 0.9% or cash back — so there’s no urgency to buy right now. Also, BMW has so many new products coming out next year that we and our customers have heard about — but have not been confirmed. BMW owners are not impulse purchasers. They already have a motorcycle and take their time. That’s not a bad thing. They’re going to get what they want.” Consequently, Emmert believes that his dealership has a much closer relationship to customers than, say, a multi-line Japanese-marque dealership. “We get to be good friends with a lot of these customers. Our business is based on customer service, not numbers. Many customers have my cell phone number and can e-mail me on days we’re closed to meet them at the store.”
Emmert says there are no anti-motorcycle issues in his part of North Carolina.
PARTS AND SERVICE
“Sales, parts, and service are all equal,” says Emmert. “Service keeps the customer happy and keeps up the goodwill. We would not have high sales if we didn’t have the service department that we do. It keeps the customers coming back. Word-of-mouth is our biggest salesperson. When somebody is happy, they come back and bring two friends. The parts department is the nucleus of the whole store. We’ve enlarged parts, but we can’t expand any on the property. In this split-level building, parts is on the upper level and service is on the mid-level, and that cuts down on accessibility.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Every other month, Carolina BMW hosts a small open house with a cookout. Larger events include a Spring open house and one near the year-end holidays. “We use our e-mail list to promote those, plus billboards, local magazines, and the newspaper’s classified section. I’ve been trying to work with car dealers on joint events, but that’s a whole other world. They don’t want to mess with motorcycles, the redheaded stepchild. We looked at sponsoring a Boxer Cup bike, but that’s $50,000. BMW doesn’t have a competitive dirtbike, which would be a smaller investment.” A year ago, Jason’s sister learned she had breast cancer. “She’s okay now, but at the time my dad wanted to do something. So we sponsor Ride for the Cure at the Raleigh store. About 600 people show up, and the money goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation via the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation. At the Greensboro store we bought a half-barrel of Jack Daniel’s single-barrel whiskey, then they bottled it and Jimmy Bedford, the master distiller, came to our dealership and signed all the bottles. The stores ate the cost of the barrel, and all money raised went to breast cancer research.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“I see a lot of dealers get burned out by the few customers who are more of a pain,” says Emmert. “They lose sight of the 98% of the customers who are really good and fun to be around. It’s easy to get jaded by the one or two people who always have problems, but you have to overlook those. Yes, they’re the ones who talk bad about you on the Internet, but you just can’t let that bother you.”