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Charlotte dealership engages with riders multiple times a week

In 1996, Rob Willey brought his motorcycle into a dealership to get repaired and 28 years later, he’s general manager at Team Charlotte Motorsports. “I started at the bottom putting bikes together,” he says. “Since I was a kid, I had a Honda QA50 and my dad used to ride. I always wanted to ride and got my first street bike at 18. I’ve been riding ever since.”

Team Charlotte Motorsports was established 40 years ago and in 2014, Bill Shenk became the owner. “He bought it, redid the place and we’ve been rocking ever since,” Willey says. “We’re the largest motorcycle dealership in the Carolinas. We have a branched-out dealership under T’s Euro Cycle, which is kind of under the same name, but they sell all the European [brands]. Everything European gets sold out of there and it’s also a new Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Vespa dealership.”

Rob Willey is the general manager at Team Charlotte Motorsports and oversees 54 employees. Photos courtesy of Team Charlotte Motorsports

The 50,000 square foot Team Charlotte Motorsports facility is located downtown and houses over 450 motorcycles, side-by-sides, scooters, PWCs and ATVs. Overseeing 54 people as general manager, Willey describes his leadership style as “fair across the board. I’m very calm unless they make me mad,” he laughs. “But normally, that really helps,” he says about having a calm demeanor. “Especially when you’re selling 30 bikes a day.”

To get every day started, Willey holds a meeting with the salespeople. He says the meeting is always positive and upbeat. “We do a pretty intense meeting every Friday morning, which is a training meeting just to keep everybody on their toes,” he adds.

A hangout and host of events

“The motto of this dealership is to make a friend. We try to do that,” Willey says. “That makes us stand out as a little bit different. We treat customers like we want to be treated. It’s not always about the bottom line. It’s about keeping recurring customers.”

He shares that Shenk has a large collection of antique motorcycles throughout the store. “You walk in here and there’s motorcycles everywhere,” he says. “The owner, Bill, has a crazy collection. We’ve got probably 50−plus motorcycles on the wall that are antique motorcycles from all brands.”

And before COVID-19, the showroom included a 30- by 30-foot swimming pool used to display PWCs. When inventory lessened during the pandemic, the pool was removed. But this isn’t the only attraction offered by the dealership.

Before COVID-19, Team Charlotte’s showroom included a pool that was used to display PWCs.

“We do a few unique things here,” Willey says. Every day the dealership makes popcorn out of an industrial popcorn machine and customers are offered soda and water. “It’s funny because the UPS drivers come in to get popcorn and soda too,” he laughs. “We also feed our customers every Saturday. We cook hamburgers and hot dogs for every customer that walks through the door; Bill is kind of crazy about that. We don’t just do hot dogs. He goes to Sam’s Club and he gets those big quarter-pound hot dogs and the same thing with the burgers. They’re the big quarter-pound burgers.”

People come to the dealership simply to hang out, which has become less common within the motorcycle industry, because Team Charlotte offers a destination. While the dealership is large, its environment is welcoming and personable like many smaller motorcycle shops. “That’s our goal. That’s how we keep it fresh and keep people coming in,” he says.

In the past, the dealership would hire bands to play on the property throughout the day on Saturdays, and this is something Team Charlotte will start doing for its customers again. A tractor and trailer make a stage behind the dealership decorated with lights and speakers. “We’ll get that going, and we also have a barbeque,” Willey says. The dealership has a smoker made from a trike motorcycle and he says they will cook brisket and pork so customers can experience “a real North Carolina barbeque when they come in.”

The Charlotte Motorsports team also hosts bike nights on Wednesdays at a local barbeque shop and bar. He says that every week, the dealership does things to stand out to its riding community, and this has led to its growth and the opportunity to continuously improve.

Improving and promoting

“It’s ongoing. Every day there’re new challenges and there’re new things to do,” Willey says about improving the facility and operations. He uses the parking lot as an example of the continuous upgrades made to the dealership. A few years ago, the parking lot was blacktopped, and then lines were added. “Things like that keep everything new and fresh,” he says.

In the past, the dealership has booked live bands to play for its customers and will start doing this again, according to the general manager.

Marketing at Team Charlotte Motorsports is done in-house. Willey points out that most marketing is done digitally and on social media, and less often in print or on TV.

“It’s pretty much getting your name out there on the internet and being the top Google-searched dealership,” he explains. Shenk ensures this by promoting
the dealership and handling the back end of digital marketing. The dealership uses Instagram, Facebook and TikTok and keeps each platform active with personalized content promoting specials and units for sale. “You don’t want to overdo it, but you’ve got to do it just enough,” Willey says about how often to post.

Inventory management equals success

Inventory is back up and Willey says that dealers who take advantage of programs used to manage inventory are the ones that are going to succeed.

“As of this quarter so far, we’re right on par with last year,” he says about Q1. “To stay flat now is a good thing because if you look at industry dealers, the profit is not where it was two years ago. We’re keeping steady, and the numbers are still there.”

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