BMW of Santa Cruz County
1875 Main Street
Watsonville, CA 95076
Bill Plam and Marc Corker
7,400-sq.-ft. dealership built from the ground up in 1985; exclusively BMW. (Adjacent 6,400-sq.-ft. Yamaha-only store carries motorcycles, ATVs, and generators, but not PWC or snowmobiles.) 25 employees between the two dealerships.
Plam’s greatest concern is getting new people excited about motorcycling, whether they’ve ridden in the past or not. “We need to get people out of their cars and those traffic jams, and into riding bikes — a really efficient way to get from point to point and a great way to see our country. Our staff is doing that locally by trying to convey that message to everyone we meet. We’re all really enthusiastic riders, so we’re ‘spreading the word.’ We actually ride what we sell, we love to ride, and we ride frequently. I believe we also portray that excitement on our Web sites.”
“The brand-new R 1200 GS on/off-road adventure bike, the K 1200 GT tourer, and the R 1150 RT tourer are the three hot models,” notes Plam. “We have also been the North American importer for Wunderlich, the largest manufacturer of aftermarket parts and accessories for BMW, since 2000. We sell Wunderlich in our store and online.” Wunderlich manufactures tankbags, soft luggage, hardware, seats, handlebar risers, footpeg-lowering kits, machined-aluminum plug covers (to replace the original plastic pieces), cylinder-protection bars, auxiliary light kits — ”the list is long,” says Plam.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Plam says BMW of Santa Cruz County has “a very broad variety of people who buy and ride the bikes. It’s hard to generalize — we have everything from construction workers to airline pilots, and a fair number of women riders as well. The local Monterey Bay BMW Riders Club members come by a lot.”
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulates the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs). OHVs that meet emission standards receive a green sticker to be applied on the side of the vehicle; OHVs that do not meet the standards receive a red sticker, which limits where and when they can be ridden. Plam says the program is affecting dirtbike sales at the Yamaha dealership. “Even new 2005 models of four-strokes have been red-stickered,” he notes.
PARTS AND SERVICE
Plam says sales, service, and PG&A “all go hand-in-hand. At both of our stores we offer a very complete package. That starts with the sale. We believe it’s important to find the right bike for the person. People don’t always end up with the bike they came in to buy, because we may point them in the right direction. We see ourselves more as matchmakers than as a sales force. Then, of course, having the parts and accessories on-hand is extremely important, and we pride ourselves on having a very large variety in stock in both stores. We have a lot of money invested in our accessory and parts inventory and in our displays, and don’t have to special-order items very often.” Plam started in the industry as a mechanic “many years ago, so service is the most significant thing to me. Properly done service is extremely important to the customers overall, and part of the motorcycling experience. Service is not necessarily the most profitable part of the business, but it’s probably the most essential, because that’s what keeps people coming back.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Plam states that for the BMW dealership he places “a fair amount of print advertising,” while for the Yamaha store the medium of choice is radio plus sponsorship of events like local races and rides. “We also have two very complete Web sites for both stores. The Internet is a big part of what we do. We’re rolling out an e-mail newsletter right now.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Treat the business as a business,” advises Plam, “but always remember that you’re in the motorcycle industry. Never allow yourself to end your love affair with motorcycles. Always remain an enthusiastic rider. That’s the most important thing.” psb
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