5722 Urbana Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
Michael J. Vantucci
“In 1976, Michael and Nancy Vantucci bought the dealership from the Delphy family,” explains Bill Morris, who worked as service manager from 1994 to 1997, left due to his wife’s job transfer, then returned in 2001 as general manager. “Currently the building is 18,000 sq. ft., but we’re adding 17,700 sq. ft. We hope to have it completed by December.” At current location since 1994. Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell.
A full-service secondary retail location (SRL) — Harley-Davidson of Williamsport — opened July 31. “Right now it’s in a temporary, leased 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse, but we own five acres one mile down the road and will build on that.” 54 employees in Frederick and nine in Williamsport.
Morris’s first concern is “dealers who have come into the Harley-Davidson family strictly because it is a hot commodity and there’s a lot of profit, rather than love for the motorcycle.
We’ve been riding this wave of popularity for at least 10 years, and at some point availability is going to catch up to demand. We may actually sell a bike off the floor — and may have to start discounting. When that starts occurring, dealers who got into it just for profit are going to drop out. Some gouging has been going on. We sell motorcycles for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. A lot of dealers add $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the model. Mike Vantucci has been adamant that you don’t treat customers like that, which is probably why he has been doing it for over 25 years.”
Morris’ second concern is the cycle of discretionary dollars. “For a while, everybody bought BMW cars, then motorcycles, then boats. Hopefully, enough people have tried riding Harley and have learned to love it as we do, and want to stay in it.”
Frederick is fresh out of Buells. “The XP9 chassis has sold very well for us,” says Morris. “The Softail and touring lines are big in this area, and we’ve also done very well with V-Rod model. Quite a few wives purchase the V-Rod due to its low seating and light weight. They don’t feel intimidated standing it up off the kickstand. Everybody was looking to see how well the water-cooled engine was going to be received, but it seems to be doing quite well.” Frederick also has a full-service machine shop “that can do just about anything. Not just a boring bar and a lathe — we actually have CNC equipment to flow cylinder heads or port-and-polish.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Morris says Frederick’s customers “tend to be
in their 40s to 50s, and we have a tremendous
number of customers who have bought many bikes from us over the years.
People used to buy just the motorcycle, then would make a weekly trek to the Harley shop to ge the next trinket. Since Harley will now cover the warranty on accessories — if put on at time of sale — it’s to the customer’s advantage to have the bike the way they want it from the beginning.
Plus, the Harley financing is attractive. When I first started selling Harleys, we’d say, ‘This is what it’s going to cost you. Go talk to your bank.’ Now it’s a one-stop shop--insurance, financing, and extended warranty all at the same time. Right now there’s a special on V-Rods for no money down with approved credit. Active or retired military can also get special financing with no money down.”
“Harley has alerted all the dealers to pay attention to the noise issue,” notes Morris. “Some gated communities have said, ‘You can own a motorcycle but you cannot ride it on our streets.’ “People have to trailer their bike just outside of their development.”
Morris and his staff are educating their customers. “Loud pipes — especially on fuel-injected bikes — actually hurt the motorcycle, because you have to keep the air-fuel mixture correct. In pipes without baffles, that’s very hard to do. And you lose power because you need some form of muffler to keep back pressure in the system. I think that wide-open, loud exhaust sound is a detriment to our industry.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
The Frederick shop has a service manager, two service writers, a shop foreman, 12 service technicians, and two bike washers. “Every bike gets cleaned before it goes back,” says Morris. “We try to keep our backlog to about 10 days; if it’s more than two weeks, we look for another technician.
“In the past we’ve been backed up eight or nine weeks when we didn’t have enough quality people. We have about eight parts salespeople, some full-time and some part-time. We have a window where the service techs can get parts.
“There will always be communication problems between the two departments, but it’s our best attempt at keeping a smooth flow.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
“We need to keep people excited about the bikes — make sure they have a good enough experience that they want to keep doing it,” says Morris. “Harley-Davidson does a great job with its HOG chapters. Frederick HOG has grown from 30 people to 400.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Don’t get down now that the 100th anniversary is over,” advises Morris. “Historically, Harley’s best times have been the year after an anniversary.”
Powersports Business spoke to Morris just prior to the big celebration in Milwaukee, including the rollout of the 2004 motorcycles. “Buell will have a new, exciting model with more horsepower and torque than before. We hear there’s going to be something exciting about the Sportsters — possibly a complete redesign. I really expect great things from Harley-Davidson in the years to come.”