By Neil Pascale
ORLANDO, Fla. — A highly challenging retail environment that led to a decline in new unit sales last year has not derailed Triumph’s objective to become the No. 1 European bike brand in North America.
Nor has it diminished the company’s new product plans for 2010 or beyond.
The manufacturer’s North American executives repeatedly drove those points home during their national dealer meeting held recently in Orlando, Fla., which also acted as an anniversary for the British brand. Triumph is celebrating its 15th year in its return to the North American market since British homebuilder John Bloor resuscitated the company in the early 1980s.
“While we’ve had our challenges, we’ve also had a lot of good news,” Mark Kennedy, CEO of Triumph’s North American operations, said of the company’s 2009 results.
That good news for 2009 included:
•gaining market share in North America for a fifth consecutive year;
•an optimistic month of December, when U.S. retail new unit sales rose 5 percent over the year-ago month;
•rising sales in Canada, where the company says it is the fastest-growing brand with a 20 percent year-over-year rise in sales.
“We’re very serious about becoming the No. 1 European brand in North America,” Kennedy said.
To achieve that goal, Triumph laid out a strategy that includes adding tremendously to its product portfolio — up to 30 percent more models in less than three years time — while also being more much aggressive in grassroots marketing. The latter includes a sizeable capital investment in an additional North American national demo truck plus a marketing program to support that.
Paul Stroud, Triumph’s global sales and marketing director, gave dealers an overlook of the company’s worldwide business results. Triumph finished the year with a drop in its worldwide sales of 9 percent, which Stroud said is better than its European competitors BMW and Ducati. As a result, Triumph has not had to make any drastic business changes that have been seen throughout the industry in the past year. “At Triumph, while we have seen our volumes fall slightly in 2009 vs. 2008, thanks to the hard work and support of everybody in this room and your dealer colleagues from around the world, we have not had to close down any manufacturing plants and really importantly, did not delay new model investment program,” he told the dealer audience. “In fact, we’re in the middle of our heaviest investment in new product development.”
Between now and the end of 2012, Triumph will bring its product lineup to 23 bike models from its current 16. Stroud also noted that by that time, Triumph will have more than half of its models with ABS capability. Just as importantly, that extended model lineup will drive into additional market areas, including the adventure segment.
However, that’s not to say the retail sales decline seen in 2009 did not impact Triumph’s business. Jim Callahan, the company’s North American marketing director, told dealers the OEM has cut back on the number of national motorcycle shows it will appear at in the coming year. Callahan said Triumph has identified three shows where the company has seen the highest conversion of test riders into actual new unit buyers and will continue to market there.
“If they’re not ready to buy a bike right now, is that really the best use of our money today?” he said during the dealer meeting. “We’ll work back to converting nonriders and building brand awareness later. This year, our targeted customers for marketing dollars are those local motorcyclists already close to your dealerships that are already looking at buying a bike.”
And in fact, Triumph believes those efforts and its new products, including the relatively new Thunderbird cruiser, can lift the company to an increase in North American sales in 2010.
“We ended 2009 feeling good,” Satu Mehta, Triumph North America’s vice president of sales, said to dealers. “Good because through our joint efforts we outperformed the turbulence of the market and good that we were one of three manufacturers (in the United States) with a loss in sales of less than 30 percent.”
Mehta and other Triumph North America officials also outlined new company partnerships and endeavors that have been made in an effort to improve the strength of its dealer network. Those include a partnership with a company that will provide e-mail templates that dealers can personalize for their own consumers and co-op through Triumph and a new arrangement with EagleRider, a leading motorcycle rental franchise company. Additionally, Triumph announced the formation of a new dealer council that includes dealers from nine different regions.
“We’ve really come to realize that close relationships not only make this business fun,” Mehta said, “but make our business grow.”