Oct. 4, 2010 – Trends, risks, rewards … and the perfect gadget

To my fellow channel-surfers, a column that only you could truly appreciate. Five topics, in less time than it takes to watch a lizard-with-an-English-accent.
Get your thumb poised …
Here’s a question — a very relevant one in these times — I’ve answered quite a bit recently from dealers: “What advice would you give to a dealership that is known for not pushing certain F&I products? Over the past 15 years we have definitely missed the boat on a large amount of revenue, but we have a high rate of repeat buyers who express how much they appreciate the anti-car dealership sales process. We understand it (F&I) is a credible service to our customer, but I’m just concerned that if we push the typical menu style of F&I, although making more gross, we will lose a lot of customers in the process.”
Like I said, this is a common question and if you re-read it carefully, you’ll understand why the vast, vast majority of dealers see so little revenue from F&I. So re-reading the question, you’ll notice the dealership official notes F&I is a “credible service to consumers,” but yet one that may result in “losing customers.” How is such a thing possible with a credible service?
Easy: Many dealership officials do not consider F&I products a valuable or credible service. They haven’t accepted that. And until they do — and specifically you do — then the issue of whether they should be selling such products is null and void. Selling something we admire and long for is challenging enough in this economy. Selling something we have little regard for is, well, highly improbable.
Discover its value, then try to sell it.
Name that job
It’s an employee’s first day on the job. They’re entering a position where they’ll be consistently busy, but also challenged technically by their surroundings. It’s a busy place. Lots of noise to distract them. Lots of distractions, period.
They’ll need to know quite a bit about a particular vehicle, in fact several models.
On this, their first day of the job, they’re taught a whole slew of things, including different safety issues. But nothing is probably more important than one issue on that first day: learning inventory control.
Where is that employee starting? At a Kawasaki dealership or a Kawasaki manufacturing plant?
It’s definitely the latter, and hopefully the former.
Is that allowed?
Jim Foster, owner of multibrand dealership Killeen Powersports, is a season ticket holder at Texas A&M. His Aggies were scheduled to play host to the FIU Golden Panthers a day after we visited his central Texas dealership. So of course I asked him if he was excited for the upcoming game. Turns out, Foster was going to miss the game to get ready for a big, upcoming motorcycle ride.
All of which begs the question for any Texas football fan: “Is that allowed?”
A day later, the Aggies trailed 21-6 heading into the final quarter before coming back for an improbable 27-21 victory.
Can you imagine the grief Foster will get on his next trip to Aggieland for missing that?
Risk & opportunity
One of the frequent questions I get asked during this time of the year is from aftermarket executives looking ahead to the new year. “What trends/risks/opportunities do you see facing the powersports industry?” they ask.
This year, two issues — preowned and e-commerce — fit into all three of those categories: trends, risks and opportunities.
For preowned, specifically on-road sales, it’s a huge opportunity if dealers can get their hands into a larger percentage of used transactions that are occurring between private parties. This is an incredibly large number, both nationally and locally. Can you imagine how much better overall dealer revenue would be if they could play a role in just 5-10 percent more of the used business happening in their back yards?
The preowned business is also a risk because without good information, poorly constructed trade-ins can seriously erode margins and tie up critical cash flow.
For e-commerce, it’s a risk because industry providers tell us only half of the dealer population is even opening an online storefront. That’s scary when you consider how many impulse buys are happening online everyday, every hour.
Bottom line: No risk, no reward.
The end-all, be-all gadget
Tour a modern production facility and any number of robotic devices will stop you in your tracks. Robotic devices, like the ones found throughout the Kawasaki Lincoln, Neb., plant, can take an assignment that looks incredibly intricate and turn it into almost a ho-hum spectacle. They are, simply, amazing.
And then there’s a robotic device that Kawasaki workers have dubbed “Mad Max,” something that looks like a bulky vacuum cleaner. The robot, a prototype, is used to move devices from one side of the warehouse to another. In doing so, it follows a grounded yellow strip that guides its course, from one side of a plant to another.
I’m thinking Kawasaki might not know it yet, but it’s discovered the end-all, be-all gadget: Something that will take out the trash.
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at

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