From the Editors

The value of a demo ride

Liz KeenerLast fall I was invited to a PWC demo. I’ll admit I was a little nervous about keeping up with well-known PWC media on the lake, as I have much less experience aboard the craft compared to most. But within minutes of me boarding the machine and receiving an instructional, I was flying around the lake with the guys. 

I was on an entry-level machine, and I thought I couldn’t get much better. But the next day I hopped on the flagship model, and I quickly realized the difference. The flagship, with its bigger engine, was actually curing my almost insatiable desire for speed. When I got back on the value-priced craft, I was surprised how easily I buried the throttle only to get nowhere near the speeds I wanted to go.

And then it dawned on me. What if instead of a media rider at an OEM demo event, I was a customer on a dealership’s test ride? Sure, I enjoyed the value-priced model, but the flagship really hit the spot. Can demo rides not only convert a sale, but also draw a customer to a higher-priced and more desirable vehicle in the long run?

Sure, if I were a customer, I probably wouldn’t be willing to go from a model under $10,000 to a flagship over $15,000. However, there might be a sweet spot in between, especially if you could show me how little my monthly payments would increase if I spent slightly more on a vehicle closer to what I want.

Now of course I’m not saying you should covert a beginner looking at a 250cc bike into a 1,000cc model. That could be dangerous. But what are the chances that 250cc buyer could handle a 500cc or 650cc? Probably, more likely. I know a guy, for example, who bought his first bike just last year. Already he’s saying he wishes he would’ve gone with something bigger because after a few months of getting the hang of riding, he wants a little more power and comfort, and he’s almost growing bored with what he bought. And no one wants customers to get bored.

We want happy customers, and we want to make a profit. Offering demo rides on various models to serious buyers might just be the trick. After all, a few Indian Motorcycle dealers I talked to recently (see the March issue of PSB) said demo rides are what closed sales for them and converted — gasp! — Harley riders into Indian buyers.

Liz Keener is the managing editor of Powersports Business, a trade magazine for the powersports industry. She reports on the powersports industry through Powersports Business’ varied media, including in the magazine and online. She assembles the brand’s twice-a-week e-news and handles a variety of assignments for the magazine. Powersports Business is known for its exclusive national dealer surveys, in-depth industry analysis and dealership conference, Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo.


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