IronHorse unveils bold changes for ’07 – August 14, 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas — American IronHorse on July 24th uncovered its 2007 line-up surprise — a redesigned Slammer that drew rave initial reviews from dealers.
The cruiser was hidden under a black covering as a reported 250 dealers and press representatives filed into the Doral Tesoro Hotel and Golf Club ballroom. Only when smoke was billowing from the stage and two large projection screens began playing did the covering come off.
The unveiled 2007 Slammer slowly circled on a mechanical base, allowing dealers to see, from front to back, a new front-end design, an extended 45-degree rake, a new split-tank design and a larger, 300 mm rear tire.
The revamping of IronHorse’s flagship cruiser model was one of several announcements made at the national dealer meeting. Others included:

  • Production plan change: The company has shifted its production management plan, asking dealers to limit 2007 orders to the number of motorcycles they sold from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. IronHorse officials are counting on the new production plan to protect dealer margins and improve their bike delivery rate.
  • Parts and accessories: Noting it has struggled at times filling parts orders, IronHorse announced a stronger focus in that area, and an even more ambitious PG&A program. National Sales Director Gary Sipes said the company already has more than $1 million in parts accumulated at the facility, ready to be sold. Sipes also said IronHorse, which currently has 62 PG&A offerings, is striving to have 100 available for the 2007 season.
  • Marketing: Co-op money available to dealers for 2007 will be about $1 million, about 35-40 percent more than the prior year.
  • Model upgrades: Two choppers — the Texas Chopper and the Legend — and one cruiser, the Outlaw, now will have air-ride suspension technology as standard.
    Of course, the most visible change is the 2007 Slammer, which will have a first for AIH — an electronic fuel-injection system. Other new features include a belt guard and a foldable license plate frame.
    “It’s gorgeous,” Steve Schaffer, managing partner at Barry Motor Sports, Tampa, Fla., said of the new Slammer. “Nice tank. Two-piece design. Looks good. They did a nice job.”
    “I think it’s cutting edge,” said Frank Lisiak, part owner of Jamie’s Customs, Big Bend, Wis. “It’s what people are looking for in an expensive bike — a drastically different look.”
    That’s especially true with the Slammer’s gas tank, which had been a one-piece stretched design since its debut in 1998. “The gas tank on the Texas Chopper has a very unique shape and we wanted a very unique shape for this gas tank,” said Jeff Long, IronHorse’s vice president of design.
    The Slammer also incorporates a new front-end look that will be mirrored on all of IronHorse’s ’07 models. The front end of the bikes previously weren’t “very distinguishable,” Long said. As a result, the company crafted a new and more powerful headlight and created a “badge”, the company’s logo in an oval shape, to rest on the triple tree.
    Another change coming to IronHorse’s ’07 models is the seat, something that’s been characterized as uncomfortable in the past. “We’ve heard that a million times out there,” Long said. “So we’ve redesigned the seat to actually fit the shape of the butt as opposed to the fender.”
    The new seat also will fit ’06 and ’05 models, except for the Slammer.
    Following in IronHorse’s tradition, there will be plenty of new custom options for consumers. The company added three new base colors, including Crystal Black. The two other new base colors are Race Reddi, which is likened to a Ferrari red, and Mother of Pearl, an off-white.
    More than 30 new graphics are available for ’07, which will mark the return of a program called Unique Two You, referred to as U2U. Through this program, consumers can contact IronHorse designers and painters through dealers and coordinate special paint projects. “If somebody wants to do something unique, then we want to do it for them,” Long said about U2U, which could increase the cost, depending on the amount of work required, but not the production time of the bike.
    Cost increases are scheduled for all six models, Sipes said. The base price of the Slammer is going up nearly 9 percent, to $37,900.
    Besides the higher cost, the new model year also brings the new production plan.
    Dealers previously ordered on a 90-day cycle. Now, dealers are asked to put in their orders for the entire year by Aug. 15. With the new system, dealers will be able to pinpoint what month they receive their new bikes. With the exception of special orders, dealers will be limited to matching their order for ’07s to what sold they between July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006.
    “The dealers’ floors were way too heavy,” Sipes said. “I want to bring their floor stock down to the average I need it to be.
    “I don’t want people giving away our motorcycles anymore. That was the problem. When dealers’ floors were too heavily stocked, it becomes a wholesale. And I don’t want our dealers to be wholesalers.”
    Is the new production plan a sign that IronHorse’s factory inventory is larger than it should be?
    “I don’t think there’s anybody in the country who’s inventory is exactly where they want it be,” Sipes said. “Ours isn’t either. But it’s not as far off as most people’s. We saw the writing on the wall in July and we cut back accordingly.”
    Although sales have declined since last summer, IronHorse continues to add new dealers in the United States and Canada. “I would be OK with sales growing at a smaller percentage for the manufacturer because I’m going to add new dealers (and) a few guys are going to increase their sales anyway,” Sipes said. “I just can’t have our market turning into a wholesale market. It hurts everybody. It devalues our brand.”
    Q&A with AIH CEO?Garland
    FORT WORTH, Texas — American IronHorse’s Wil Garland, in the midst of his second national dealers meeting as company CEO, sat down with Powersports Business to address several issues.
    The issue: Why IronHorse changed its production management plan, a move that largely limits dealers to the number of bikes they sold the prior selling season.
    Garland: “Our company has been around for 11 years now and our dealer base has solidified. When I started with the company, we were in 31 of the top 100 markets. Now, we’re in 67 and we’re also in Canada now. Our dealer base is jelling, and we got better historical data on what our dealers sell … so we can do a better job of forecasting and planning by model (and) paint design. And that allows us to do a better job of telling a dealer, ‘You know what, you’re overbuying. You need to pull back a little bit.’”
    The issue: IronHorse has nearly outgrown its 225,000-square-foot facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Will the company look for a larger facility?
    Garland: “We’re working with the city of Fort Worth and other cities on what the next step would be. Obviously, I have a strong affinity to Texas … but California is a strong bike-building market. So is Arizona. So is Florida. So in representing my shareholders, I have to look at, longer term, where the best location is. … But so far the city (of Fort Worth) has shown some willingness to work with us.”
    The issue: If IronHorse plans to become a publically traded company.
    Garland: “That’s always a consideration, something the company is always looking at. I think, longer term, that is where the company will be. It will be a public company. When we decide to go public has yet to be determined. But certainly it’s not going to be private forever.”

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