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Dealership expansion pays dividends for sales, service

By Jimmy Gilligan

Power 50 dealership Pioneer Motorsport uses space to benefit customers, employees

One of the most important — but often overlooked — aspects of dealership management is how the physical space is divided between the different segments of the showroom and the dealership’s other departments. In terms of space allotment, Pioneer Motorsport of Chaffee, New York, has found the perfect mix, and employees and customers alike are reaping the benefits. 

Just over two years removed from an 18,000 square-foot expansion, which expanded the store’s footprint by 64 percent, Pioneer Motorsport has increased its product offerings for customers, from additional aftermarket and apparel products to two new lines: CFMOTO and Yamaha WaveRunners. These are in addition to the dealership’s already numerous offerings, which include Can-Am, GEM, Kawasaki, Polaris, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo, Slingshot, Suzuki and Yamaha. 

Pioneer Motorsport’s second- and third-generation workers: (from left) Michelle Armstrong, Terry Armstrong (owners), Kyle Armstrong (sales and finance manager) and Chad Armstrong (parts manager). Photo courtesy of Pioneer Motorsport.

It all added up to Pioneer Motorsports securing a spot on the 2017 Powersports Business Power 50 list of the top performing dealerships in North America. Deadline for applications for 2018 is April 15.

The biggest beneficiary of the new space, proportionally speaking, is the dealership’s side-by-side units and pre-owned inventory, which occupy the new spaces that bracket either side of the storefront. With the growing size and variety of UTVs, Kyle Armstrong, Pioneer Motorsport’s Accounting and Finance manager, noted that the expansion allowed the dealership to not only house more units, but also to present them to customers in a more appealing way. 

“The product that we’re selling is getting bigger, and there are more and more models, so with the large model mix and the amount of manufacturers, we were running out of space,” Armstrong told Powersports Business. “Plus, they call it a showroom for a reason — to show stuff off. We take a lot of pride in that, and also the education process of having different models side-by-side to show the differences to customers.”

Show floor expansion has allowed Pioneer Motorsport to carry a more extensive lineup of side-by-sides. Photos courtesy of Pioneer Motorsport

In addition, Armstrong said that his pre-owned inventory, which previously occupied a cramped, difficult-to-find space in the back of the dealership, now has a new and prominent space on one side of the dealership, which also allows them to take on more used units.

But that’s not all. With the expansion, Pioneer Motorsports also grew the footprint of its apparel area, and added a specific counter for those sales, which helps to relieve congestion at the parts counter. Armstrong noted that the dealership wants to become a “one-stop shop” to fulfill all of the needs of powersports consumers. 

The expansion wasn’t entirely focused on the products, however. As part of the new space, a customer lounge and kitchenette was added, along with a second set of bathrooms. Armstrong said that they have received very positive feedback from the amenities — which were desired by his mother (and store owner), Michelle — in order to create a supreme customer experience.

But that’s not all — another way the expansion is better-serving customers is in the service department. To keep up with demand, Pioneer Motorsport added four new service bays. Technician efficiency hasn’t been as high as desired recently, but the additional space, the hire of another technician and an renewed diligence with signing in and out for every job has grown the figure, which they track through LightspeedEVO dealer management system. Down the road, Armstrong hopes to implement service scheduling in order to maximize their efficiency. 

As part of Pioneer Motorsport’s expansion, a lounge and kitchenette was built to improve customer experience.

With nearly double-digit percentage growth in 2017 and CSI scores of over 92 percent from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki, BRP and CFMOTO buyers, the expansion has no doubt paid dividends and provided stability for Pioneer Motorsport. But the energy and effort required for such an expansion isn’t something that every dealer has the time for. 

Armstrong and his family have been able to turn their attention to expansion and revenue growth with such clarity, partly due to the fact they hardly have to spend any time on hiring and training new employees. 

Unlike many dealerships, that struggle with employee retention due to the fact that the industry demand outsizes the talent pool, Pioneer Motorsport has an impressive rate of employee retention. On average, their employees have been around for nearly 12 years, with their longest-tenured employee putting in 35 consecutive years with the dealership in some capacity. 

The key to this employee loyalty is simple, and it’s a philosophy that has been implemented since Armstrong’s grandfather, Ken, started the business in 1964, and carried over when his parents, Terry and Michelle, took over ownership of the business in 1997: treat employees like family, and they’ll stick around.

Pioneer Motorsport’s new home for apparel is a clean and inviting space for customers.

“It seems like a lot of dealers are always hiring, and I’m thankful that we don’t have to do that,” Armstrong said. “With six manufacturers, it’s a lot of training and time to get new guys up to speed. But one hand washes the other — they work hard and we treat them well. That is the standard that’s been set.”

Beyond the competitive pay, extra incentives, 401k contribution and full health benefits offered to employees, Armstrong said that he believes the family atmosphere established within the 28-year-old company helps retain employees. Every single Saturday, Armstrong’s mother and grandmother make lunch for the employees. The home-cooked meals take a number of forms: from hotdogs and pizza to a full-on turkey dinner. But ultimately, the most important part of the gesture is the camaraderie the lunch creates between the employees on what is typically the busiest, and most stressful, day of the week. 

Pioneer Motorsport places a strong emphasis on employee training, designating nearly a nearly five-digit investment each year toward making sure its 25 employees have the tools to succeed. Armstrong said that the dealership requires all departments — not just the service department — to complete all available manufacturer training. Employees are also sent to off-site events such as classes or seminars to keep up with the latest products, services and sales techniques.

Pioneer Motorsport has received rave reviews from its customers following its expansion.

Given the support of customers and employees alike, Pioneer Motorsport certainly exemplifies part of the goal of its mission statement, which states, “Our goal is treating everyone who walks through the door as family.”

From the increased revenue to the impressive employee retention rate, it’s clear to see that this strategy has worked out. No, it isn’t a revolutionary, cutting-edge new tactic, but it’s a philosophy that has allowed the business to expand by 64 percent, and continue to thrive in an increasingly difficult environment. 

 

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