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‘There’s no better way to support the industry’

By Liz Keener

Three years after its launch, MIC dealer membership reaches all 50 states

Within days of the Motorcycle Industry Council opening up its membership base to dealers in February 2013, dealers from 34 states had signed on. Since then, membership has grown slowly, but steadily, as 436 dealerships and counting are now dues-paying members of the MIC.

Recently, the group reached a new milestone, as it now has members in all 50 U.S. states.

Pre-2013, the MIC was composed OEMs, aftermarket companies, media and related companies, but dealership membership was prohibited. The switch came as the MIC looked to expand its reach within the industry.

“We were getting requests from time to time from dealers inquiring whether or not membership was open to them. And the board felt that by adding dealers to the membership mix, it was going to improve the industry overall. So it really was closing the loop in terms of manufacturing, aftermarket, allied trade and then the retail component, so that would help us strengthen our membership overall,” said Renée Tuzee, director of marketing and aftermarket programs for the MIC.

One of the goals of adding dealer membership was to have the MIC reach all 435 Congressional Districts through its total membership. So far, the addition of dealers has allowed for the MIC to cover 60 percent of the districts.

“I knew it would help the MIC if they could say to the Washington elite that we have members in every single Congressional District,” said Bob Althoff, principal of A.D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson in Ohio. “It helps them and the work that they do, and in that regard, it helps us.”

Participants of the Motorcycle Industry Council’s annual D.C. fly-in have included representatives from manufacturers, distributors, dealers and retailers, allied trades and others with a commercial interest in the industry.

Participants of the Motorcycle Industry Council’s annual D.C. fly-in have included representatives from manufacturers, distributors, dealers and retailers, allied trades and others with a commercial interest in the industry.

A.D. Farrow joined the MIC as soon as dealership membership was opened, and shortly after Althoff became a member of the Dealer Advisory Council. He was among the early adopters because he thought it was important to add dealers to the organization that had been missing the dealer perspective.

“I think when our industry has the opportunity to come together that it’s important to try to do that,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of the issues that concern OEMs and dealers and the aftermarket, everyone in the industry, we’re all on the same page. There’s always going to be a few issues that we don’t see eye-to-eye on, but the vast majority of the issues, well over 90 percent of them, we will.”

Having constituents throughout the country as members of the MIC gives the organization clout when they’re fighting for or against legislation on Capitol Hill.

Kim Harrison, general manager of MIC member Coleman PowerSports in Virginia, has also been on the Dealer Advisory Council since the early stages of the program, and she has learned during her tenure that the MIC works hard behind the scenes to prevent legislation that negatively affects the industry.

“I think the MIC does a really good job at getting ahead of issues before they even affect the dealer,” she said.

Joining the MIC

Dealers who join the MIC not only have the opportunity to get involved with the MIC’s legislative efforts, but a slew of amenities are also  afforded to them.

MIC dealer members can receive the MIC Executive Brief e-newsletter, along with access to MIC.org. On the website, they can find the MIC member directory, government relations and technical bulletins and MIC research and statistics, including the Statistical Annual, the Retail Sales Report, the MC/ATV Owner Survey and much more.

The members also have access to the invite-only AIMExpo Top Dealer Lounge, along with other top performing dealers. As the MIC dealer membership is increasing, AIMExpo plans to expand the Top Dealer Lounge for 2016.

MIC dealer members are also encouraged to attend the annual Communications Symposium, which occurs in California each fall, and the annual Washington, D.C., fly-in, which is scheduled for each May. The D.C. fly-in is in its third year in 2016, and is set for May 25-26, with more dealers joining the event each year.

Harrison has gone to the fly-in each of the first two years. The first year she observed and didn’t meet with any representatives from her area, but in 2015 she set meetings to speak with her local legislators in person.

“They really do seem to take an interest,” she said of the legislators whom she met. “I had some really good meetings, and I think it brings awareness that it affects real businesses and real people.”

Tuzee added, “[Dealers] have a different perspective, so when we sit in a room — in a Senator’s office or a Representative’s office — and we not only have OE representation, aftermarket representation, but also dealer representation there, it really strengthens our case relative to particular issues that we might be discussing at the time.”

Dealers who participate in the various events or the Dealer Advisory Council also have the opportunity to network with other MIC members, including those representing OEMs and aftermarket companies.

“What I’ve seen over the three years is there’s become relationship building. That takes time, but certainly as you participate as a dealer member and you become involved in some of these activities, there are opportunities to be building those relationships as you expanded your networking through this membership base,” Tuzee said.

Althoff has also enjoyed metting other dealers through the MIC. “I’ve learned over the years there’s great work being done by dealers in small towns and in large cities, and we can all learn from each other, and we can all be inspired by each other,” he said.

MIC dealership membership dues run $300-$3,000 and are based on a dealership’s revenue. However, new for 2016, dealerships that participate in the MIC BankCard program, which offers credit card processing for Visa and MasterCard, will have their dues covered by the BankCard program.

“We want every dealer to have the chance to participate and not let dues be the thing that might hold them back, so we have a way for them to have that comped, if they elect to participate in the BankCard program,” Tuzee said.

Harrison said being a part of the MIC affords her access to data that she can use in her dealership, as well as insight into the MIC and how it helps her business.

“There’s no better way to support the industry, get good, valid communication on issues, and I’d say, have a voice within the industry,” she said.

Dealer Advisory Council

Leading the dealership membership is the Dealership Advisory Council. The eight-member council, of which Althoff and Harrison are a part, is appointed by the MIC board, however any member dealer can raise a hand to show interest, if he or she is willing to participate.

The council provides insight to the full MIC Board. The council meets twice per year in person and participates in about two conference calls per year as well. Council members have also made themselves available to the board via phone and email at any time.

“It’s just adding to the conversation and creating an opportunity for us to be looking at things holistically for the industry, and without that dealer voice component, not that we wouldn’t still move forward on issues, but it feels like there’s just a lot of momentum around these issues because the dealers are also saying, ‘Yeah, these are the kinds of things that we’d like our MIC to be working on for us,’” Tuzee said.

She added, “It’s clear that our board is not only delighted to have our dealer members be as active as they are, but they’re really engaged with them,” Tuzee said. “The purpose of the Dealer Advisory Council has been all along to advise the board on key issues, and we’re realizing that, and so it’s exciting to watch and to see that. In my opinion, it’s accelerating the pace at which we’re able to affect change because of their involvement.”

The council has already volunteered to help with a number of initiatives that the MIC will be working on this year.

Looking forward

Among the MIC’s goals for its dealership membership in the future is to increase the number of members.

“We definitely would like to have 100 percent coverage of the Congressional Districts, so as issues arise we’re able to work with our members and have somebody right there that would have possibly more influence with legislators because they’re a constituent,” Tuzee said.

To qualify to be a member, dealers simply have to have to have one brick and mortar location. Current members include large Harley-Davidson dealerships, other single-line shops, multi-line stores, P&A-only chains, off-road-only dealerships and more.

Althoff said he understands if dealers can’t afford the membership dues, but if they can make the commitment, they should join because each member adds to the strength of the group as a whole. “You’re going to see more and more cooperation that’s going to develop in our industry in things like this,” he said. “It’s important work. Someone has to do it; it has to be done.”

 

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