Jan. 17, 2011 – New CEO focuses on brand awareness

It shouldn’t be surprising when an executive with more than 20 years of experience at Harley-Davidson Motor Co. shifts to a different OEM that he would then concentrate on that new manufacturer’s brand image.
And indeed that is one of the new focus areas for Greg Heichelbech, the new CEO of Triumph Motorcycles (America).
“Our biggest issue right now, in my opinion, is our lack of brand awareness, not recognition,” Heichelbech said of his new company, Triumph, in an interview with Powersports Business. “We just don’t have brand awareness and enough customers considering and understanding that Triumph should be in their consideration set.”
Those that have made that consideration, Heichelbech points out, are huge supporters of the brand.
“Besides Harley, it’s one of the brands that has a really strong heritage and has a very positive, emotional connection with the U.S. consumer. When you talk about Triumph with the consumer, everybody has a story about, ‘My dad had a Bonneville …’
“There’s an instant, positive picture of the Triumph brand.”
Heichelbech will be working with his staff at the Newnan, Ga.-based subsidiary of the British manufacturer to ensure a larger portion of the U.S. rider population gets exposed to that positive picture.
Besides improving brand awareness, Heichelbech also plans to look closely at Triumph’s business model and how it impacts dealer profitability as well as help the British manufacturer continue to improve its U.S. product offering.
“When you look at the product lineup, how far they’ve come in such a short period of time, especially with what they had to overcome with the (2002 Hinckley) fire, it’s amazing what that company accomplished,” he said.
“The quality of the product, the range of the product, the pricing of the product is, in my opinion, best in class in a lot of respects.
“They’ve done a lot to address product so it fits the U.S. customer.”
Heichelbech expects further focus on the U.S. models, noting possibilities in further defining what the brand’s touring bikes will feature.
Touring obviously is a segment Heichelbech is well aware of, having spent more than 20 years at Harley-Davidson in various capacities. Heichelbech started in Harley’s sales department in 1990, eventually moved into dealer development before becoming the West Coast regional manager for high-end motor home and trailer manufacturer, Holiday Rambler, which Harley at the time owned. Later Heichelbech worked alongside Eric Buell in developing Harley’s former sport bike line, first as a national sales manager and then director of product development and strategy and sales development. Heichelbech was among the Buell officials who launched the 1125CR and Buell’s race program with GEICO.
“Triumph was always a big competitor for Buell,” Heichelbech said. “We always looked at them as one of our benchmarks, like the Speed Triple or the 675R. When they reached out to me, they had my interest.”
Especially considering Triumph offered him the opportunity to touch a number of different business aspects, something he had done at Harley over the 20-plus years.
“It was very appealing to do it with a brand that had all of the attributes that, in a lot of respects, were very similar to Harley-Davidson,” he said.
Heichelbech started with Triumph in early November and has since gone through a whirlwind of education, almost all of which came outside the company’s Georgia office. He visited a number of dealers that serve on the company’s dealer advisory council, spent a week in England at the Hinckley plants and later some time at the IMS in Long Beach, Calif.
The dealer visits were especially educational for Heichelbech.
“One of the biggest surprises to me was the resourcefulness of some of the dealers and the creativity of some of the dealers,” he said.
“That was really good to see and it’s something we need to help the dealers continue to do and we need then to work with them and leverage it for Triumph’s business.”
The two, Heichelbech views, are absolutely connected.
“I am only going to be strong and profitable if my dealers are strong and my dealers are profitable,” he said. “And I can only expect good customer service and happy retail customers if they (the dealers) are able to invest in their business because our business model was correct for them.
“I think we have a decent business model, but I’m going to learn from them what we need to do to improve it.” PSB

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