By Jimmy Gilligan
It goes without saying that dealer meetings have the underlying goal of selling units and educating dealers on best practices and new products. But the first-ever dealer meeting for recently formed Sportsman Country was about far more than just placing orders. For Sportsman Country CEO Johnny Tai, the meeting was about transparency, and showing dealers how the Garland, Texas-based operation works.
“The purpose of this event is that we wanted dealers to see what we have. Most people don’t realize what we’re doing here at our facility, so we need to let people know,” said Tai, who added that he wants to host a meeting for dealers twice each year — in the spring and fall.
Attending dealers hailed from across the U.S.— from the surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth area to upstate New York. Some were already selling units from Bennche, Massimo and Linhai — the three brands Sportsman Country distributes — while others were prospective dealers who had yet to stock any of the brands.
Sportsman Country extended an invitation to potential dealers and media members in the spirit of transparency — to show them how significant of a physical presence the OEM importer has in the U.S., and to differentiate Sportsman Country from past China-based OEMs, which have historically struggled to have strong parts support for dealerships.
“We just want to let people know who we are and what we do here, so that people have a better understanding. People want to see our operation, because they are always very skeptical,” Tai told Powersports Business. “When we fly dealers and potential dealers to our facility and give them the tours, pretty much everyone will get signed up because then they know we’re not just a fly-by-night company.”
After a cordial welcome dinner at the hotel Sunday night, dealers and media members traveled to Sportsman Country headquarters in Garland early Monday to take a tour of the assembly plant and test out new models.
The full day of test riding, touring and making orders, broken up by a lunch of quintessential Texas barbeque, was eye-opening in terms of understanding how the three-year-old company’s assembly plant and parts department functions.
All in attendance were impressed with the shear number of units at the plant — close to 4,500 — according to Thai, as well as the extensive parts area that overlooked the massive assembly floor. In terms of units, Massimo’s Warrior 800 side-by-side wowed dealers. The UTV drew a crowd inside the factory and on the two-acre test track behind the building, where it smoothly overcame all of the obstacles with plenty of nimbleness.
With an MSRP of $12,999, it’s one of Massimo’s more expensive units. But for many, the potential that the 70-inch wide UTV has for a variety of work applications makes the unit a hot commodity. Dan Hudon of Hudon’s Sled Salvage, based in Barneveld, New York, became a Sportsman Country dealer for the first time when he stocked this unit, as well as the Warrior 700 and Bighorn 850x, in his dealership.
“It’s more like a work utility vehicle — these guys that deer hunt and work on dairy farms and stuff, you can put a lot of tools in that and they have tie-downs all over the place,” said Hudson, who also carries KYMCO products. “We have a lot of dairy farmers and Christmas tree growers where we are.”
Christopher Henderson, of the Armuchee, Georgia-based Buy Direct Motorsports, was particularly interested in the Massimo 800 and 550 models. Henderson noted that he sold 88 Massimo units last year, and carries units from all three Sportsman Country brands.
“The 800? I like it. And I love the 550, those two things stood out to me. I like the 800, the power’s good, but that little 550’s like a golden ticket, that’s going to be a golden mover, it’s going to be for just about everybody — I’m going to get as many as I can. Overall, I’m impressed with the people, and the whole facility,” Henderson said.
After tours concluded and orders were placed, the dealer meeting wrapped up with a dinner at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, the famous restaurant developed by the Gas Monkey Garage, the subject of the hit cable television show “Fast N’ Loud.”
The outdoor dinner in the warm Texas air was a fitting juxtaposition for Sportsman Country, a relatively new company quickly establishing itself as a respectable, reputable brand, and Gas Monkey Garage, a well-established brand that has over the past several years taken its first successful steps into the restaurant industry.