Harley-Davidson/Buell of Charlotte
9205 East Independence Boulevard
Matthews, NC 28105
Ken and Ron Lipack
“We took over the dealership in February 1993, but it has been around since the teens,” says Ken Lipack. Currently 18,000 sq. ft., but the Lipacks are adding another 16,000 sq. ft. under heat and air, and 5,000 sq. ft. roofed, open-air breezeway. Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. About 30 employees.
“What makes me feel good about our industry—probably why I don’t have any great concerns—is that there is still only a relatively small percentage of the population who are motorcyclists,” notes Lipack. “I’ve heard estimates of 8% to 9% of the folks who are of age. Think of what percentage own automobiles — there is tremendous growth potential. By simply increasing that by 4% or 5%, you could increase the overall customer base by over 50%. The perception of motorcycling, for the most part, has changed tremendously over the last decade. It is now perceived as a sport — one that in many cases, especially with our product line, is a status symbol.”
“Because it’s the 100th anniversary year, a great deal of folks are buying the touring bikes—any of the FL models, such as the Ultras, the Classics, and the Road Kings,” says Lipack. “There seems to be a bit higher than normal demand and interest in those. Collectibles are very popular, but we sell a lot of accessories for the motorcycles and a lot of the MotorClothes. Functional riding gear is probably the core part of that business — helmets, boots, gloves, and leather jackets — what customers need to ride comfortably and safely.
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
“We have a very diversified customer base, which we attribute to the wide appeal of our products,” says Lipack. “When buying a motorcycle, a great deal of accessorizing typically takes place. Some folks do it immediately, and some over time — that hasn’t really changed much over the years. Our dealership expansion will include devoting a particular area of the showroom to that kind of custom-design process.”
“It’s not so much that there’s anti-motorcycle sentiment, but maybe just concern from people in some of the rally areas where there is heavy congestion during those timeframes,” notes Lipack. “We don’t have any rallies in our local area —Myrtle Beach is the closest. The Harley rally is pretty well-received and accepted, but residents there have concerns about another motorcycle event that takes place a couple of weeks later.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
“Currently we have eight technicians, a service manager, a service writer, and two service assistants,” says Lipack. “There is no training comparable to that which the Motor Company makes available to the dealership staff. With all the changes in technology — the different fuel injection systems and the different engine designs, like the Twin Cam 88, the V model, and the new V-Rod—if a tech hasn’t worked at a Harley dealership in the last year or two, his training is very outdated.
“All of our technicians go through the schools, because there are different levels of schooling — fundamental for the newer technicians, advanced for the more experienced, and update courses for a new model or a new feature. We have different levels of technicians, and we assign the work accordingly.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Lipack says a “very large contingent” of Charlotte H-D customers and Charlotte HOG chapter members are riding together to Milwaukee to celebrate the 100th anniversary.
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Don’t lose sight of having fun while running your business, and make sure that you take care of customers by providing top-quality customer service,” advises Lipack. “Both of those elements go hand-in-hand. If you’re not able to continue to have fun in your business, it makes it more difficult to really provide that top level of service. It’s an experience that we provide for our customers, not a product — and as long as we focus on providing the full experience, we’ll continue to be successful.”