Power Profiles

San Jose Harley-Davidson/Buell – San Jose, CA – May 12, 2003

1551 Parkmoor Avenue
San Jose, CA 95128

Brian Cardozo

20,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1994; at present location for three years. Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. Sister dealership in Livermore, Calif. 52 employees.

“Obviously the economy is the biggest concern right now,” says Dennis Pilon, operations manager. “I don’t think the desire for a Harley-Davidson has diminished much. People just might not have the means to invest in a toy that’s not an immediate need in their lives. But our sales are actually strong this year, right up with last year — which is actually an increase if you factor in the economy.”

Sizzling at San Jose: the Harley-Davidson Road King and Heritage Softail, plus the Buell Firebolt. “Now that’s interesting because the Buell Lightning is more popular nationwide,” notes Pilon. “We sell a lot of chrome accessories at the time of unit sale — that’s our customers’ main focus. Another very, very big item is pipes — what they call a ‘high-flow system’ that gets more air to the engine.”

The average San Jose H-D customer is age 35 to 50, with an annual income above $60,000. Are these mostly people who work in the Silicon Valley’s computer industry? “Not too many of those anymore,” says Pilon. “That particular industry has been hit hard. When it comes to occupation, it’s a pretty wide gamut.”
Pilon adds that his dealership is “right up there” with the top dealerships in the country for sales of parts and accessories at time of unit sale. “That’s new over the last few years. People are starting to customize the bikes right away rather than later on. As for women, the demographics for Harley-Davidson generally are about 6% to 7% of buyers, and we’re finding the same.”

Pilon hasn’t seen any anti-motorcycle issues. “As a matter of fact, Santa Clara County has the greatest number of motorcycle owners in the entire northern California area.” The dealership supports several charities, primarily though its HOG chapter, “which is very charity-minded.” Is the dealership a Rider’s Edge training site? “No. I think all California dealers are restricted from that by the California state motorcycle safety program.”

Pilon says his 10 parts salespeople have a great attitude — “They get to know the customers by name, and when they ask for a part, our staff members might suggest, ‘Have you thought of this?’ You might say that the parts folks ‘upserve’ them. They make the customer’s visit productive so he doesn’t buy one thing, go home, and say, ‘Oops, I should have gotten that.’
We put on training programs for Motorclothes, parts, and vehicle sales in helping them serve the customer.” The dealership has a service manager, three service writers, and seven service technicians. “When we return a customer’s bike after service, it’s certainly cleaner than when it came in. A lot of people comment on the bike wash and think we actually give them a full detail. We have very good detailers here.”

“At least 15 of our team members here are riding to Milwaukee for the celebration,” says Pilon. “Of course we prominently display our 100th anniversary clothing, and certainly it comes up in every conversation with bike owners, because all the motorcycles have the anniversary badge.”

While Pilon joined the dealership just recently, he’s been a “friend” of San Jose H-D for 12 years. “One thing we do that is very unusual is the way we greet customers when they come through the door,” he says. “We don’t let them get more than 10 feet before somebody has said, ‘Hello’ to them. Personally, I’ve been in other dealerships where that’s not the case.”
Do the customers respond to that friendliness? “We sell more bikes than anyone in northern California. Last year we sold 570 motorcycles, and we’re going to surpass that this year.”

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