Tim Buche’s entrance in the motorcycle industry can be traced to the memorable sound created by the Briggs & Stratton motor on a friend’s mini bike. That progressed to a steady interest in being around bikes, which landed Buche a job as a retail sales person at a local dealership.
Fast forward a handful or so years, and Buche finds himself steering the highly impactful Motorcycle Industry Council. Under Buche’s guidance, the MIC has continued to be a pillar for the industry. From its rock-solid Fall Symposium to its ever-growing Washington, D.C., Fly-In, at which industry members get a firsthand look at how motorcycling is presented to the country’s lawmakers, the MIC under Buche’s guidance is as effective as it’s ever been. Combine the fact that dealers can now become members of the MIC, along with the association’s recent purchase of AIMExpo, and there’s apparently plenty to keep Buche busy in the years ahead. Take, for example, the investment that MIC members have made into market research in the last four years. From 2012 to 2016, MIC member companies have tripled their investment in such MIC data.
What’s more is that Buche has concurrently managed the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (since 1996) and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (since 2008) as president and CEO. It’s Buche’s belief that if he and his teams are doing the right thing, the industry will be the ultimate benefactor. It’s an approach that’s proven fruitful over Buche’s two decades at the helm.
PSB: What is the biggest opportunity for the industry, and how can the industry take advantage of it?
Tim Buche: The significant demographic shifts we have been talking about for the past 10 years at the Annual Communications Symposium and elsewhere represent a tremendous opportunity. I’ll refer to a few facts from MIC’s research and statistics:
- The average age of the motorcyclist has increased.
- The millennial population has just surpassed the boomers and is now the largest generation.
- Manufacturers are introducing new and highly updated models while capitalizing on the strong interest in the adventure category, and offer various bikes with enticing affordability.
How have these observations played out in our market? Boomers are retiring and have the resources and confidence to invest in new motorcycles. In many instances boomers are trading in or selling one of their current bikes, thus increasing the number of used bikes. Still other boomers are finally getting around to their first experience, realizing that they have missed out on the excitement for far too long. The ratio of used-to-new motorcycle sales has increased. Companies specializing in remarketing used motorcycles make it much easier for dealers to acquire and offer used motorcycles for the younger, or new entrant to motorcycling.
The millennial generation is becoming more established as consumers; they are sophisticated, well-informed and do a lot of research before making a purchase. Competitive retail finance offers and good credit are the perfect combination for a growing number of buyers. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and dealers should seek to add more to their team and advance those currently on their team into key positions in sales and marketing. If you expect to pull this generation into your store, start by empowering your staff to present motorcycling to these new entrants through their favored channels.
While millennials represent a great opportunity, Gen X and centennials are not to be left out. Gen Xers represent more than
25 percent of all motorcyclists and are the fastest-growing generation for female ridership. Centennials are just coming of age and starting to enter the market.
Another observation from MIC’s research is that most of the nearly 19 million non-owners who rode a motorcycle in 2014 borrowed a friend’s motorcycle for their ride. Therefore, your current customers may possess the hottest leads. Also note that buyers studied by MIC claimed that test rides were one of the top two factors influencing their decision to purchase their bike.
Motorcycle dealers are responsible and committed to great user experiences, and that includes encouraging new and experienced riders to take motorcycle safety training courses. The MSF Basic RiderCourse is the very best first ride. The course helps people determine if motorcycling is right for them, and you can help novices start their adventure the right way. The MSF also offers a variety of courses for current riders of all skill levels.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?
Some have remarked that it must be tough having to report to so many bosses, but I just don’t find that to be the case. The Board of Directors of the MIC and our other industry associations stay sharply focused on the needs and desires of our consumers and fellow riders. There is strong support to strategically grow our sport and form of transportation by continuously improving the rider experience.
It has long been obvious that the term “industry” should include all those who connect with the consumer, and our Dealer Advisory Council members have proven to be great advocates and invaluable partners. MIC added a membership category for dealers and retailers in 2013. This helps us shape a regulatory environment in which our members can make the kinds of vehicles, products and services customers seek. We all win.
When MIC is on-point and we all pull in the right direction, there are no challenges, only opportunities.
What is the best advice you can give to others in the industry?
Remember that we are promoting the fun and adventure of real experiences. Make sure that you are having fun. Be a lifelong learner. Assess the market you have and define the market you seek. Align your team with the market you seek.
How will the MIC’s purchase of AIMExpo help elevate the various elements of the industry?
I am grateful for the market confidence the MIC Board has shown in its acquisition of AIMExpo. The show is on a great trajectory, and it addresses our entire membership including OEMs, aftermarket, dealers and services providers. And equally important, AIMExpo brings thousands of consumers into the largest trade show in the Americas, letting them see everything that’s new
in-person, right now, and not in a few months. In only three show seasons, AIMExpo has grown to nearly 600 exhibitors, 300 members of the press and more than 11,000 consumers, and remains poised for continued growth with its acquisition by the Motorcycle Industry Council. Now a part of the industry’s trade association, AIMExpo is also poised to leverage the power of MIC’s combined membership to increase dealer and consumer attendance and overall value.
The MIC Events team is working diligently to bring components of the AIMExpo platform to new venues and to increase the value of show participation for all. Because MIC focuses on consumer experiences and member services, our ROI is measured in industry growth. While net contribution is important as we recover our investment, we count member, exhibitor and consumer satisfaction with the show as even more important.
As further testament to the growth and value it delivers to the motorcycle and greater powersports industry, AIMExpo was recently honored for the second consecutive year in Trade Show Executive magazine’s Fastest 50, recognizing the fastest-growing trade shows in the U.S. I wish I could say more about our coming plans, but know that we will keep you up-to-date as we chart our future.