Bob Dron Harley-Davidson Motorcycles
151 Hegenberger Road
Oakland, Calif. 94621
Bob and Tracey Dron
As owner Bob Dron puts it, he’s been Harley-Davidson’s guinea pig since he became a dealer. It doesn’t sound very pleasing, but in his nearly 40 years of business, he’s turned that unofficial title into numerous significant accomplishments both as a dealer and for Harley. Among them in 1993, he built the first Harley-Davidson super store, which at the time was the largest Harley-Davidson shop in the world. He still owns the dealership, but they’ve recently moved. To celebrate their 25th year as a Harley-Davidson dealer, they opened a new 45,000-square-feet complex just across from their previous facility. The comprehensive facility is northern California's largest full-service dealership, according to their Web site. Store design is Dron’s forte, and he says efficiency is everything in a dealership in today’s environment. “It’s so cost cutting. You have to be efficient to be able to compete.” Dron believes his new store will be more efficient than previous stores resulting in more profit.
On their way to being fully overstocked, overproduction and discounting are two of Dron’s greatest concerns for his dealership and the industry. Harley and other companies need to manage their inventory better and so do dealers, he said. Overproduction encourages dumping and discounting. It also stops the manufacturer from giving deals on quantity buys, which puts the small dealer at a disadvantage. He said nothing is ever Dooms Day though. Dealerships survive and thrive in the business by making adjustments accordingly.
Without hesitation, Dron said baggers are the hot product for Harley-Davidson and other manufacturers right now, and they have been for the past couple of years. Also, the FL series of Harley in general is what consumers are looking for and buying now.
Customer Buying Trends
Dron explained there has been an increase in inventory with H-D, and because of that increase, the consumer is more of a shopper now. “What I call the panic is over,” he said. “It used to be the customer would walk into the store and didn’t need the bike until April, but they’d buy it in December because it was there, and it wouldn’t be there in April.” The customer doesn’t have to have what they want picked out way ahead of time any more.
Parts and Service
One of the reasons Bob Dron Harley-Davidson moved into a bigger facility was to make room for additional clothing and accessory lines. The more options a dealer provides, the better. Dron doesn’t believe in discounting clothing and accessories because it lowers the value of the product. “You’re better off giving something away to everyone like food and drinks. Plus, it’s much cheaper than taking 40 percent off of a coat,” he said. The new building also gives them room to continue to adapt their business to the latest motorcycle service accommodations. Dron is keen on being flexible and quickly adjusting his business to adapt to the latest needs and wants of his customers.
Promotional Home runs
Unlike many dealers around the nation, Bob Dron H-D has pulled back on promotional events that hand out free music and food. He said the problem with those events is so many dealerships are doing it now that it’s an old hat. It was good three or four years ago, but now customers are looking for something different, with more variety. He said in response to their feedback he’s made some changes and his customers have noticed. His dealership has switched it up by participating in the police rodeos that the city of Oakland puts on. They have created a huge stir in front of the dealership, which recently blocked off a main drag going to the airport. By working with the city, they are able to accomplish more than putting on an event by themselves, and it’s definitely something different than just free hot dogs and beverages.
Words of Advice
“It’s a business, always remember that. It’s much cheaper to hire a professional and train him to be an enthusiast than it is to hire an enthusiast and train him to be a professional,” Dron said. “Some old guys think race on Sunday and sell on Monday, but that doesn’t work any more. Those days are over. It’s sad, but it’s true. You just have to adjust to it.”
— Karin Gelschus
Bob Dron Harley-Davidson Motorcycles – Oakland, CA – Sept. 3, 2007