MOTORCYCLE – H-D Power Profile, Woodstock Harley-Davidson


Woodstock Harley Davidson
2050 S. Eastwood
Woodstock IL 60098
(815) 337-3511

Diane and Claude Sonday
Ben Wolfe
Doug Jackson, GM

Diane and Claude Sonday have been in the motorcycle business for a long time. What is now Woodstock Harley Davidson started as a chopper and accessories business in the early 70s. It then became a Kawasaki dealer called “On Any Sunday” after the popular motorcycle movie. In 1983, the dealership switched to Honda, which was sold 1998, the same year that the Sonday's opened Woodstock H-D. At the start, the shop was small, only a sixth of the current 66,000 square foot facility. In June of 2000, Woodstock moved into the current location, formerly a lumber store. Besides Harley-Davidson and Buell sales, Woodstock also runs a thriving rental program, with about 90 rental bikes. A 120-bike police fleet program serves 60-70 police departments in southern Wisconsin and Illinois. A unique thing about Woodstock is its strong training program. Marketing manager Ben Wolfe is a police trainer and also teaches police motorcycle skills to civilian riders. Finally, Woodstock sponsors a drill team called the Pylon Raiders that travel the country representing Woodstock H-D.

“The one thing that disturbs me in the industry is that dealers are allowing people to jump on motorcycle without proper training,” says Wolfe. “They're not making a valiant effort to look for better training out there to save their customer's lives. Whatever it takes to get them certified on a motorcycle is more important to them than the safety when they leave the dealership. There are plenty of state classes that are mandatory to go on the road, but they are mandatory minimums.”

“The bikes that I have seen going off the floor are the touring class,” says Wolfe. “The baggers - Ultras, Electra Glides and Road Kings. They seem to be extremely popular, although the Softtail does extremely well as well. In parts, it varies. A few years ago, there were a lot of people doing the gold trim, now we've got a lot of people doing the plain-Jane chrome. I do see a lot of people purchasing high-flow exhaust, aftermarket exhaust, big bore kits and other engine modifications.”

“We get the people off the street who come in looking for a Sportster and end up with an Ultra,” says Wolfe. “We get the T-shirt buyer who comes in and ends up with the big bike. We get some people who come in and just get Motor Clothes. Generally speaking, they are all across the board. All genders, races, we've got them here. From states 100 miles away, 1000 miles away. We've had people come from Britain and France. We get military personnel out here buying bikes.” On the training side, Wolfe says that the “female population of motorcyclists is definitely increasing. They are definitely jumping into the training. They want to get into our training because they want to catch up in the industry as far as motorcycle training and handling. To be honest with you, a lot of the female riders that we train can outride male riders all day long. Because they don't have bad habits and they listen.”

Woodstock ranges between 15 and 20 service technicians, depending on season. There is a service manager and four service advisors. According to general manager Doug Jackson, service makes up about 25 percent of the dealership's bottom line. The majority of customers come from a long distance, so the service department offers a free loaner while their bikes are serviced. A growing piece of the service business is the performance tuning area. “We have a dyno room,” says Jackson. “It's a clear glass dyno, so you can view it from the sales floor. A handful of our technicians are extraordinary at tuning with the dynamometer. We do a lot of engine performance and exhaust performance and we are able to verify how well it's working. We also have a shop that is completely open. Customers are welcome to cruise through the service department. Obviously we don't want them hovering over technicians forever.”

“We do all kinds of things,” says Wolfe. “We do radio media, news media, cable media, network media, Internet media, print media as far as mailers to our customers. We do promotional events at the dealership; we probably average two a month. At these events we get anywhere from 500 to 3000 people coming. We grill out; we bring a lot of specialty things out here; custom bikes, custom cars. We involve the community as much as possible. Those events followed up with good coupons and good incentives, that normally is the draw. It's not necessarily the event itself, but they come out to enjoy the event and get out on their Hog and have some fun. More so, I'd say it is the follow up with coupons, incentives and special offers that are second to none. We have special charity events going all the time. We have live broadcasts and feeds from the dealership all the time. They send my team (Pylon Raiders) and I around to shows to represent Woodstock Harley. I've been out to events in Chicago to hand out flyers and show off the new bikes. We're trying to expand and get out to more special events to get more one-on-one with people to let them know the kind of incentives and deals we have going here. We're a very user-friendly dealership and very customer oriented. It's all about customer service at this dealership. The number one customer for us is a referral.”


“If you put your customers first, not focusing on the money to begin with and do the right thing by them, you'll build a reputable dealership,” says Jackson. “With a service department that people will come from a long way, and then the money will come.”

-Blake Stranz

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