Moto Italia – Worcester, MA – May 10, 2004

700 Plantation Street
Worcester, MA

Ed Soucy

5,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in the late 1970s as a Moto Guzzi shop in nearby Gardner; Soucy purchased it in 1993 and has since moved it to Worcester, 35 miles west of Boston. Carries Ducati, Moto Guzzi, and Aprilia scooters. Five employees.

“The portion of the American population who rides motorcycles is microscopic compared to the European market,” says Soucy. “In Europe, more people envision themselves on a motorcycle, and motorcycles are in more general use. In the United States, motorcycles need to be marketed to a broader public, not just motorheads.” To appeal to a wider audience, Soucy is hiring a saleswoman and advertising on Red Sox baseball programs. “Typically the woman who rides on her own started off on the back of a Harley. That’s a limited market, and a situation where Harley-Davidson brand loyalty is extraordinarily high. For example, I don’t know anyone who has a ‘Zenith’ TV or ‘Amana’ refrigerator tattoo on their body.” Soucy also bemoans the fact that smaller-displacement machines are seen as “beginner’s” or “women’s” bikes. “A 600cc Suzuki GSXR or a Yamaha R6 is not a learner’s bike by any stretch of the imagination. Take the Kawasaki Ninja 250 — a delightful machine. Kawasaki says it has difficulty selling them, and they’re correct. But I think that the difficulty is associated with marketing them. Kawasaki should do a better job.”

Molto bene at Moto Italia: “The Ducati Monster is the hottest-selling model,” says Soucy. “I think the 800cc might do better this year because the 1000cc is more expensive. Throughout the United States the Moto Guzzi cruiser models probably sell better than the sportbikes, but it’s close to even at this dealership. There seems to be a lot of interest in the big-displacement Aprilia scooters this year, but historically I’ve sold more of the small-displacement 50cc scooters. Puerto Rican-Americans in Worcester buy them from me and hop them up, turning them into pretty amazing machines. I’ve advertised scooters in college newspapers to no effect. In Boston scooters sell to college students, but not here.” Soucy has no plans to carry the full Aprilia motorcycle line, “because there’s a full-line dealer close to me.” The dealership carries Arai and Fulmer helmets, and Soucy will “special-order anything for anybody.”

“The Ducati customer is typically middle-aged, pretty well-heeled, and facing a mid-life crisis eyeball to eyeball,” says Soucy. “He comes in and announces that he’s going to buy a Ducati superbike. The Moto Guzzi customer is typically a bit older, probably a skilled tradesman versus a professional, and typically pretty eccentric. He’s probably a prior Moto Guzzi owner, although in the past year we’ve seen more first-time Moto Guzzi buyers.”

“The idea of selling motorcycles for profit is an absurdity,” says Soucy. “You use the motorcycle to win the customer, then profit on service, parts, and accessories. There is no such thing as Moto Guzzi service technician certification, but for Ducati there is. You can’t have people who aren’t certified doing warranty work. We’ve recently relocated to a larger facility. Our prior service area was too small to get enough work in and out, keeping everybody occupied. Previously we had to say to customers, ‘Can you come back in two weeks?’ Typically the service backlog in Boston is even longer. I’m hoping to get some business from the Boston area if when they call I can say, ‘Yes, come right in.’”

“Many motorcycle dealers find their way into the business because they’re motorheads or wrenches, not good businessmen,” says Soucy. “Some are good businesspeople, but most are not. That’s the major contributory cause to dealerships not being profitable. And all motorcycles need to be marketed to a broader cross-section of the public.” psb


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