Jan. 21, 2008 – Consumer: Past experience with brand key to purchase

By Neil Pascale
Why new bike buyers value their past experience as the deciding factor of whether to purchase a specific brand has much to do with the state of the industry, several metric dealers said.
“I think the average consumer out there is seeing it might be a bit more of a level playing field product-wise,” said Morris Baker, the president of five Texas dealerships.
Baker and other dealers were commenting on the findings of the J.D. Power and Associates’ 2007 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study. Those findings say new bike buyers put “past experience” as the No. 1 reason to purchase a specific brand.
What did not rank so highly were dealership personnel, country of manufacturing — even among Harley-Davidson buyers — or special financing, although some in the industry believe the latter to be a bit misleading.
Special financing was selected as the
No. 1 reason for buying a specific brand less than 2 percent of the time.
However, Mark Blackwell, vice president of Victory Motorcycles, said financing “is very important to people who don’t buy.” He also indicated financing might impact when they buy.
“But for those who qualify” for special financing, Blackwell says other factors are much more important.
Those factors certainly reflect a trend toward more brand loyalty, something all of the metric dealers interviewed for this article agreed with.
“There is significant brand loyalty, yes,” Baker said. “I think you see more of that with Yamaha-Honda than you see with the rest of the metric OEMs.”
Scott Younggren, who does the metric inventory control for Cycle Barn Motorsports Group in Lynnwood, Wash., sees brand loyalty among on-road buyers, but not so much among the off-road crowd.
“In on-road, I think if a guy becomes a Honda guy, he’s going to be a Honda guy for a long time, with the exception of your track-day and race guys,” he said.
Metric dealers believe product reliability across all major metric brands has led to increased brand loyalty.
“If the brand takes care of them,” said Oregon dealer Jerry Lenz, “I think they will keep coming back and buying the same brand because nobody has anything out there that’s anything better than anybody else’s. It’s all about how they’re going to take care of you after the sale.”
Although past experience with brand ranked most important to touring bike buyers, new cruiser riders choose brand image as the No. 1 reason why they selected a particular brand. Not surprisingly, sport bike buyers choose “reputation for performance” as their top reason for siding one brand over another.
What has dropped in concern for the new bike buyer is the country of the manufacturer. Although the survey five years ago asked the “No. 1 reason for purchasing a brand” question somewhat differently, it’s clear the country of origin is a lessening concern.
Less than 2 percent of both European and metric bike buyers choose “country of manufacture” as the No. 1 reason for purchasing a bike. Nearly 12.5 percent of Harley-Davidson and domestic brand buyers did, which is down from five years ago.
“I can see the loyalty factor of a U.S. product dropping,” said Jim Booth, owner of Independence Harley-Davidson/Buell in College Station, Texas. “With the evolution of the Boomer buyer kind of waning, we’re conscious we have to attract a younger generation to the market and with that group they are going to be more global in thinking and more price-minded.”
Price is certainly an issue, the J.D. Power survey found. Nearly 12 percent of bike buyers choose “value for the money” as the No. 1 reason for purchasing a brand. However that number jumped up significantly — to nearly 21 percent — for metric buyers.
— Neil Pascale

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