House of Kawasaki
7900 NW 10th St.
Oklahoma City, Okla. 73127
Even though this dealership has grown about 400 percent since it opened in 1970, it has stuck adamantly to its motto, “We’ll treat you just like family.” House of Kawasaki takes pride in taking care of both its employees and customers, and it obviously has paid off: As of June 30, it’s the No. 1 Kawasaki dealership in the Central Region. Doug Monson, store manager, remembers wandering the dealership when he was no bigger than the motorcycles. Monson’s step father, and current owner Bill Schramm, opened the dealership when Monson was 6. What began as a 5,000-square-foot facility is now about 20,000 square feet. “We’ve always been here,” Monson said. “We’ve continued to expand at opportune times, and 38 years later this is what we have.” The most recent expansion happened last year when the dealership expanded its showroom about 2,800 square feet. House of Kawasaki obviously carries Kawasaki, but it also has a line of KYMCO scooters that is doing extremely well. Monson says the most profitable part of the business is probably its preowned segment. “The biggest challenge to that is, of course, capital, the money to invest in inventory,” he noted. “Preowned is about 25-28 percent of our total motorcycle sales.”
Monson has two concerns, the first being Chinese product. He says they seem to be the same quality at a significantly reduced price but don’t have the parts or service to back up the product. “We’ve tried to initiate legislation and the state to require ATV dealers to be licensed with the motor vehicle commission, but we’ve really hit a couple walls,” Monson said. A second concern of Monson’s is declining new motorcycle margins. The Internet has opened a whole new realm for dealers to market, but it has also made it easier for consumers to price compare. “You really have to be strategic to hold the margins the manufacturers offer,” Monson said. “By strategic I mean you really have to watch your inventory and do your best homework before you order new products.”
“Everybody knows this already,” Monson said, “but the Kawasaki Ninja 250s are our best seller. We ordered 40 models last September, not knowing of course we were going to be in this gas price situation. Every one of them was sold before they even arrived at our dealership, and people are giving us deposits on ’09 models that we won’t order until September.” He adds KYMCO scooters sales also have increased significantly. Second to the Ninja 250s and scooters is the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 cruiser. “We ordered the same amount we sold all of last year, and we were out of them by about May 1 of this year,” Monson said. “We’ve been scrambling trying to get more.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Throughout the last year, the combination of gas prices and a slightly depressed economy has consumers looking for smaller motorcycles, both for mpg and price. “By smaller I mean everything from the 900 Vulcan cruiser and down; everything that’s in the lower half of the displacement category and about $8,000 and below. We have increased sales on all that,” Monson said. “On the other hand, the economy has hurt the sales of our larger units, the big 1,600cc and 2,000cc cruisers and some of our larger sport bikes. Kawasaki also makes a top-of-the-line touring bike, the Concours 14. It’s doing mildly well, but we expected it to do better than it has. But I think the economy has affected that as well.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
House of Kawasaki relies on its two experienced technicians to provide quality service to its customers. “The best promotion for a service department is word of mouth,” Monson said. “People talk about how they were treated and how their bike was repaired out on the street. We do really well though.” The dealership’s senior service technician has been at House of Kawasaki for roughly 34 years. The dealership’s other service technician has been with them 5-6 years and has about 12-15 years experience.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Last year, House of Kawasaki hosted its first open house, drawing more than 1,000 visitors. “We were absolutely packed; it was almost too many people to sell anything,” Monson said. “We did sell a lot of parts and accessories though. As far as exposure and publicity, we never would have guessed we’d have more than 1,000 people here.” The dealership had four superbike stunt shows, and Monster Energy donated 48 cases of its drink. Monson adds they also had a BBQ and giveaways. “It’s a great way to kick off the season in the spring.” The dealership intends it to be an annual event, but next year, Monson says they’ll plan for about 1,500 people rather than the 600 they initially thought. Another promotional event that works well for the dealership is its HOK Free Ride. For two years now, every Thursday night when the weather is warm, the dealership hosts a ride of about 20-40 bikes. They typically take a 30-40-minute scenic ride to a neighboring town for dinner. Monson says at the restaurant they draw names and the rider or couple will get their dinner paid for by House of Kawasaki. “It’s a way to pay back our customers,” he said.
WORDS OF ADVICE
There are three things Monson believes every dealer should remember. The first: Take care of your customers. “Service is still key in this industry, and the word-of-mouth aspect of marketing is the strongest,” he said. No. 2 is take care of your employees. “Make it a fun atmosphere, and provide a fair salary for an honest day’s work,” Monson noted. Lastly, he says watch and manage your inventory. “Not just your major unit inventory but also your parts and accessories, the whole bit,” he said. “Make sure you’re utilizing the tools dealership management systems provide as far as ordering things that should be ordered.”
— Karin Gelschus
House of Kawasaki – Oklahoma City, OK – Aug. 11, 2008