3/14/2011-‘Almost like a brand new company’

Tucker Rocky puts more resources, focus on V-twin side
CINCINNATI — They routinely had four of the nation’s top five on-road motorcycle model sellers throughout 2010.
They increased their market share in 2010 so they now possess 55 percent of the nation’s heavyweight motorcycle (651cc-plus) market.
There are plenty of reasons why aftermarket companies should be looking harder at how to satisfy the Harley-Davidson consumer as the manufacturer continues to be a dominant industry player.
That’s something Tucker Rocky Distributing President Steve Johnson is keenly aware of. Johnson, in an interview with Powersports Business, said the national distributor is effectively hitting the “restart button” on its V-twin brand, Biker’s Choice. Part of that effort will entail committing further resources — both staffing and inventory — as well as new brand management.
In January, Tucker Rocky hired industry veteran and former S&S Cycle Product Management Director Charlie Hadayia Jr. to lead Biker’s Choice business development.
“Harley has rebounded faster and stronger” than most brands in the market, Johnson noted in describing why Tucker Rocky is eyeing a part of the market that traditionally has not been its strong point.
“The stock market has come back. The typical Harley owner’s 401k has rebounded nicely. So they feel like they can start living again,” Johnson said of the average V-twin rider.
“I look at the size of the market, the number of bikes out there, the number of consumers,” he said during an interview at the V-Twin Expo. “I now own two Harleys myself. I hang out at the Harley stores on the weekends. I see the number of people going in there, and there is excitement. They’re still riding. They’re still enjoying the industry.”
To capitalize on that, Hadayia and fellow Biker’s Choice Director Richard Schafer will focus on a few key areas to boost the brand’s business. Their concentration will mainly be on inventory, and more specifically, on stocking levels and appropriate placement of that product in different areas of the country.
“The big thing is positioning the inventory so we can better service our dealers so we can be a next-day service,” Schafer said, who, along with Johnson, noted the company’s past conservative approach on V-twin inventory impacted the brand’s sales.
Will the revitalized Biker’s Choice target franchised Harley dealers or independent V-twin operators?
“We have a huge opportunity with the franchised dealers on some new products that we have exclusivity on,” Hadayia said. “With that said, there’s a big opportunity with the rest of the shops out there.”
Hadayia, who grew up in the industry, knows both operations well. He at one time worked at a Harley-Davidson dealership, eventually becoming service manager there before landing a position at S&S Cycle. Hadayia spent just under 13 years at the LaCrosse, Wis., aftermarket manufacturer before joining Biker’s Choice, a company that his father, Charlie Sr., had previously worked for.
Besides focusing on inventory allocation, Hadayia will eventually be adding more sales reps to Biker’s Choice. Johnson noted the brand’s sales rep force is not adequate in some areas of the U.S. market, including in parts of California. Biker’s Choice expects to add reps to some of these markets that have previously been served by Tucker Rocky sales reps.
“We have to realize this is a different market. It takes a skill set,” Johnson said of the V-twin market. “You can’t just walk in because you ride a dirt bike and expect you’re going to be knowledgeable and support a V-twin dealer, whether he’s a franchise or an independent shop.
“So it’s about getting the right people in place, getting the right skill sets in place.”
“It’s almost like we’re starting a new company,” Johnson said. “We’ve been in the market, but we haven’t really tried to drive in the marketplace, putting the resources and the force behind it.
“As I look at it, it’s a big opportunity. It’s an opportunity for growth. But to do that we have to make some changes in our organization,” he said, before laughing and adding, “and it probably starts with me, waking up to the fact that it’s an opportunity.”
Trips to Texas-area Harley dealerships have confirmed that opinion, Johnson said.
“We’re really, really optimistic about where the industry is going,” he said. “It’s coming back. You go into Harley dealerships on Saturday and it’s alive.” PSB

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