501 Thornton Road
Lithia Springs, GA 30122
Eddie and Chris Houghton (father and son)
30,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1964. “This is the fourth location,” says Ronnie Godwin, general manager. “We’ve been here six years.” Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. 50 employees.
“The demographics for Harley-Davidson buyers seem to get a little older every year,” notes Godwin. “Obviously, owning a Harley is still pretty hot for the Baby Boomers, but will that excitement for the sport of motorcycling — and particularly for the American-made motorcycle — find its way to Generation X and Generation Y?”
Burning up Atlanta: “The Softail family, particularly the Heritage Softail Classic,” says Godwin, “followed by the Road King.” Harley-Davidson of Atlanta accessorizes 50% of its bikes prior to sale. “That’s a good way to increase your parts sales.” After-the-sale items that move include grips, pegs, covers, and bolt-on chrome, and there’s a large Motorclothes Department.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Per Harley’s CSI reports, the average Atlanta customer is male, 40 to 50 years of age, with a household income of $100,000 to $150,000, and has attended some college courses. “In the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here, it seems that advanced sales have slowed down,” notes Godwin. “At that time 50% to 70% of the inventory was pre-sold. Right now it’s probably only 20%.” To what does he attribute that? “There are six Harley dealers in the greater Atlanta area, so customers have more choices. Our allocation has increased, so I assume that other dealers’ have, too. Then there’s the economy. We’ve been very fortunate to move 1,000 motorcycles in 2002. We plan on doing a bit better this year. We really haven’t seen the effects of the sluggish economy like our counterparts in the car industry.” Interestingly, H-D of Atlanta had a “phenomenal” January, making up for February sales that are a bit behind last year’s. “People just started shopping earlier this year.” PSB spoke to Godwin days before Bike Week in Daytona. “Our service department has been inundated for the last three weeks with more work than we can handle.”
“We’re in the unincorporated portion of the county here, and we have a good relationship with law enforcement,” says Godwin. “We were told at the dealer show last month that we may start facing some challenges from different environmental groups in the near future.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Harley-Davidson of Atlanta has 13 full-time service technicians, all of whom have completed or are working on their PHD certification, plus service advisors/writers and a service manager. “The service manager, who was appointed just before I took over as general manager, has implemented a number of changes,” says Godwin. “The biggest change was an adjustment in the retention process. The technicians’ pay is now based on the number of hours they are available and on formulas to figure proficiency. The better mechanics in Atlanta make just under $30 per hour, which is unheard of in other parts of the country. Some of our employees have been with Eddie and Chris for years.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Be innovative — less concerned about what you’ve done in the past, and more about what you’ll do in the future to keep the excitement of motorcycling alive, particularly as it relates to the Harley-Davidson and Buell brands,” advises Godwin.
“Keep your employees pumped up. Give them a good, clean work environment and a decent paycheck, and try to keep them on the same sheet of music.”
Godwin reads motivational books and attends seminars. “Recently I attended two dealer operations training courses: Best practices of a magnetic dealership and ‘Fish Camp,’ based on Stephen Lundin’s book, Fish!, about Pike Place Fish in Seattle, Washington.” The book is making the rounds of Atlanta’s employees. “Dr. Lundin says that it’s okay to have fun at work. You get to choose your attitude every day.