May 3, 2010: Industry Leaders-Holger Mohr, Custom Chrome

Custom Chrome International CEO Holger Mohr has led the national V-twin distributor back from a couple of challenging years after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Under a new owner and Mohr’s leadership, the U.S. subsidiary recently added an outside sales force after not having one for four years. Custom Chrome also recently held separate U.S. and European dealer meetings and has added to its list of suppliers.

What’s the biggest challenge for the industry and what should be done about it?

I personally see three major challenges. The first one is the overall health of the general economy in 2009. It was obviously a huge challenge for everybody in pretty much any industry. I think why it was such a huge challenge for us in the motorcycle industry is because riding motorcycles is recreation. And if you have to be careful as a consumer about where to spend your money, you really think twice about purchasing a new motorcycle and purchasing parts and accessories for your bike. Obviously we’ve seen a recent change (in sales), which is great. But I think vendors and dealers have to make smart decisions based on their sales histories and on their forecasting methods to make sure you react to that challenge. You want to make sure you don’t overstock on product, but you also want to make sure you have product on your shelves for when the consumer comes in to buy something and that you react to the change, which in my opinion is happening right now. As the economy starts to improve, you want to make sure you’re ready for that. I think another challenge overall for the motorcycle industry and the traditional V-twin motorcycle industry is the aging of our buyers. The average V-twin customer is getting older so you want to make sure you adjust to that fact. However at the same time, it’s very important for us to listen to those younger potential buyers and address their needs. What do they want when it comes to motorcycle models and features and what’s their tastes for motorcycle aftermarket parts? It’s very important for us an industry to get ready for that. I think the third challenge is the EPA/CARB regulations. Those still continue to be tightened and really restrain what you can put on your stock bike. It’s very important for us as an industry to work with those agencies, instead of having an adversarial relationship with them.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?

Two years ago I relocated to the United States and my challenge was to help turnaround a company that was basically moving in the wrong direction for a few years. While I’m giving all my energy to the team to work on Custom Chrome here, I am still the president of Custom Chrome Europe, which is a market leader in Europe. We recently, in October, opened up our Japanese sales and marketing office in Tokyo. So with everything going on, I spend my time being focused and building a very, very strong team to make sure all those three locations are running as smooth as possible. Again, my major focus is the United States. Our goal here is to be the preferred industry partner. What that means is whenever a manufacturer is thinking about a distributor, whenever a dealer is thinking about where to buy a part from or the consumer thinks about when he walks into a dealer shop, I want to make sure they think of Custom Chrome first. That’s our definition of being the preferred industry partner. So the biggest challenge with Custom Chrome is we have so many dealers coming back to work with us, we have to make sure we don’t grow too fast. So it’s making sure while we grow and get our market share back here in the United States that we are able to continuously fulfill the demand. And we’ve done a great job of doing that.

What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?

Like a lot of people, I got into this industry because I love motorcycles and I love the people who are involved in this industry and this sport. I can only tell people who ride to work with passion is to show that passion they have for this industry and let that passion drive you no matter what the economy is like and what problems you have. Show the passion for the industry and show the passion for the motorcycles and you’ll be doing fine. Mix that with listening to your customers more than you talk to your customers and you should be successful.

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