Nifty 50 winners show aftermarket innovation

It’s always a blast to sort through the growing number of applications each year for our Nifty 50 contest. The selection is the culmination of hours of preparation by Managing Editor and Nifty 50 guru Liz Hochstedler, and the PowerPoint presentation of each nominated aftermarket product aprovides our editorial staff with a closer look at the hows and whys of the product: how would this product help a dealership’s growth and why would the dealership want to carry it?

You’ll find all sorts of interesting products with the announcement of the first 25 winners in this edition, with a range of price points. Look for the second batch of 25 winners in the February Indy edition. Many companies represented have years of history and millions of dollars in sales. Cycle Wipes doesn’t. It does have an owner with the entrepreneurial spirit that drives this industry, from the engineers who design the units themselves to the small business owners who find ways to make the products even better to the dealership owners who provide their own personal stamp on their stores. Make sure you read Liz’s story on Cycle Wipes founder David Swezey. Anyone who’s ever dreamed of creating their own consumer product — while maintaining his job as general manager of dealership, in David’s case — will appreciate the passion that it takes to become a success. So if you are setting the alarm clock at 3:30 a.m. like David to get a jump on your Next Big Idea, always know — your idea might just become a Nifty 50 product someday.

Senior Editor Tom Kaiser, meanwhile, went searching for a story about ATV colors and came away with news that Yamaha could be on the verge of adding an all-new side-by-side to its lineup, joining the Rhino. In another of Tom’s stories, it’s on to the successful world of event marketing at a Harley-Davidson dealership. Bad Santa, it appears, was good for this business. Encourage someone at your dealership to come up with such a crazy — and inexpensive — event for the 2013 holiday season.

Our Power 15 page debuts this month. On it, we’ll provide insight from our Power 15 dealers about the ways they do business, and how and why they find success. The Power 15, launched in December, has been welcomed with rave reviews, and builds on our commitment to bring dealerships ideas that will help them grow their own businesses.

In fact, we’re hosting a Power 15 webinar at 1 p.m. Central on Thursday, Feb. 7. It’s sponsored by GE Capital, and will include several dealer principals and GMs who we selected as Power 15 winners. Among the speakers: John Schaller from House of Harley-Davidson, Michael Guerin from Ducati Newport Beach and Chris Watts from America’s Motor Sports, along with Sam Yourd from GE Capital.

They’ll provide you with even more intelligence about their success as dealers. Sign up for the free webinar on our website at

Special return to Cincy
Jim Betlach’s dedication to the V-Twin industry is undeniable. If there’s an industry event, he’s there. And while knee surgeries limited his travel in 2012, he’s had time to consider the V-twin industry’s health as he prepares for the 13th V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati.

“On the upswing, but it’s very mild. It’s an important time for guys to pay attention and learn what they can. People are still very cautious,” Betlach, 70, said. “There are a scary amount of motorcyclists my age. It’s given a huge boost to the trike market. Ten years ago, the Baby Boomers wanted their last fling, so to speak, and anybody could afford a motorcycle. As that group fades away, you have 30- and 40-year-olds who are pretty pressed for money.”

Liz will be looking for stories in Cincy, so be sure to track her down.

Speaking of Cincy
Charley Anderson, owner of Backroad Cycle Service in Fort Madison, Iowa, has attended the V-Twin Expo since Year 2. And he has no plans to miss the February event in Cincinnati this year, either. He knows his service and repair shop will benefit.

“I do some custom building, and I have a dyno and do performance motor work,” he said. “It’s a chance for me to talk to the vendors and suppliers about product, let them know what you like and don’t like.”

Anderson, whose show trail this year will also take him to Madison, Wis., for the Drag Specialties open house, says service at his shop “was up big.” He did more tire installations than ever in a single year, “and I fix a lot of things that other guys screw up. I opened in January 2007 and I’ve been busy ever since.”

Anderson, 54, spent 13 years at Iowa mainstay Don’s Speed and Custom, but has enjoyed going it alone.

“The biggest advantage is that I can lock the door and go for a ride when I want to, although that’s not often enough,” he said.

You’ll also once again find Mike Correll, owner of Advantage Cycle in East Strouds, Pa., at V-Twin Expo.

“I’m not interested in four-wheelers or scooters. That’s why go to Cincy. I’ve been the last seven years,” he said. “It’s better aimed at me. Here, I know what I’m getting into.”

Correll brings a laundry list of items that his customers are seeking.

“I have three looking for a specific wheel, and if I can get one of the vendors to make it, that’s a deal,” Correll said. “My customers don’t want a me-too bike.”

A tapered wheel spacer for Harley baggers from RC Components has been a hit with Correll’s audience. “I’ve ordered 60 sets of them since I brought them in last year.”

Correll also capitalized by finding headlight bezels for Road Glides, and only moved about 340 of them in 2012.

“I can bring in a buyer at $20-$25 a clip for those items. Wheels are up to 4 grand, and not everybody can do that,” he said. “If I can leave the show with two parts that I know I can sell, I’m happy. If I can sell a Whatchamacallit for under $200, I have a winner that I know will fit my market. And with dealer incentives that they offer at the show, it’s even better.”

Correll got his start as a business owner as a contractor, but has seen steady growth since the shop opened in 2000. “This year [2012] was better than last year. We’re sending out parts like mad.”

Correll is turning more toward Mid-USA for his parts inventory, and sold 100 fuel button push door releases in a recent one-month span.
“I look for lower dollar parts and rely on volume. If someone leaves a $5 bill for you every morning, you take it and stop complaining about not making $100.”

Dave McMahon is Editor in Chief of Powersports Business. Reach him at or 763/383-4411.


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