Power Profiles

West Bend Harley Davidson/Buell – West Bend, WI – March 29, 2004

2910 West Washington Street
West Bend, WI 53095

Jim and Sandy Dricken

The West Bend dealership was founded in 1946, and the Drickens have owned it since 1980. “I began working here in 1967, when I was 17 years old,” says Jim Dricken. “Five years ago we moved to a new store on the west side of town. We recently put on an addition, and now it’s 27,000 sq. ft. Then four years ago we opened up a ‘secondary retail location,’ to use Harley’s parlance, 15 miles away in Hartford. It’s 14,700 sq. ft. and does about one-third the business of our main store.” Carries Harley-Davidson and Buell. The West Bend store has 18 full-time and five part-time employees, and the Hartford SRL has five full-time and three part-time staffers.

“I get concerned that there will be overproduction,” says Dricken. “Harley-Davidson is pretty careful about that. The other manufacturers, traditionally, have been horrible. There’s a difference between making money as a manufacturer and as a dealer. For a while, both increase profits together. Then you get to a point — once the OEM is past its break-even — where it makes even more money, but if there’s too much product, dealers’ profits go down.

“We’re not at that point yet, and I know the folks at Harley watch that pretty closely. It’s always a judgment call to keep increasing production. We’ve stayed at a 26% to 28% market share for at least a half-dozen years as production has increased. That tells you the entire market is still growing.”

Hot sellers at West Bend and Hartford include the full-dresser lineup, including the Electra Glide, the Classic, and the Ultra Classic.

“We run out of those first, but we’re constrained by what percentage of our order can be the FL line. So we may actually sell a little more in the Big Twin line — the Softail, the Deuce, the Springer, the Fat Boy, the Heritage, and the Dyna. We’ve sold our share of the Buell Blast, but as far as a standout, we’ve sold a lot of the XP9 model.” The two dealerships do not host the Rider’s Edge program.

“Our customers are one to two years younger than Harley-Davidson’s national average, which I think is a good thing,” says Dricken. “We are also slightly more blue-collar than the national average, probably a product of our area. We’re 30 miles north of Milwaukee and there are a lot of high-paying jobs for blue-collar workers, like tool-and-die. And with dual incomes today, you don’t have to be a business executive to afford toys. The vast majority of our customers are married, and last year 16% of our new-bike purchasers were female — higher than the national average. There’s a tremendous opportunity for growth with the ladies.”

Dricken adds, “Customers’ expectations are much higher than years ago. The cheapest tire you can buy today is better than the most expensive tire 25 years ago. The bikes are manufactured much better, with things we take for granted — quartz headlights, disc brakes, electric start, and alternators rather than generators. My wife, her brother, his wife, and I made a 5,000-mile trip last year to Harley’s Reunion. We went from West Bend, Wisc., to Milwaukee via Portland, Ore. I ended up with a flat tire, but we didn’t use any oil and breaking down was the furthest thing from our minds. It’s really all about the passion. I still get a thrill when I see someone get their first Harley.”

“We have a very well-equipped service department,” says Dricken, who started at the dealership as teenaged service technician. “Our people are very dedicated and knowledgeable. We do our own machining in-house, including cylinder boring. We have control over both the quality and the timeframe.

“Say a customer drops off his bike on Thursday for an appointment on Friday. He could pick it up Friday night, and his 883 would now be a 1200. If there’s an engine gasket leaking, there’s usually a reason. We can true up the surface on our milling machine and surface grinder—often at less cost to the customer than buying the component that was warped.”

While being 30 miles from Milwaukee comes in handy when techs need training at the Motor Company, “we still end up sending people to AMI’s Daytona Beach campus or MMI in Phoenix for Harley updates.”


Dricken says the move to the new building five years ago “gave us more room, and we’ve hired some new people in parts recently. But it’s important to control inventory, because you can put a tremendous amount of money in parts. Instead of having five of one part—if that is enough for a month—I’d rather have two of that item, then have the same dollars invested in two of another item. That way, we’re more likely to have a part for the customer.”

“Keep a positive attitude,” advises Dricken. “We’re in this to earn a living, but most importantly, you must have the passion. Ride with your customers. If you can’t have fun at your job, do something else. I’ve been fortunate to spend 37 years doing something I love.” psb

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