Power Profiles

BMW Motorcylces of Atlanta – Marietta, GA – June 28, 2004

1750 Cobb Parkway SE
Marietta, GA 30060

Bob and Linda Woolridge

12,000-sq.-ft. dealership that the Woolridges purchased from Sonic Corporation out of Charlotte (a large automotive consortium) in 2001 and converted to BMW specs. Exclusively BMW. Sales have increased over the last three years; currently ranked ninth in the USA, two years running, out of 154 franchised BMW dealers. 11 employees.

“There’s a limited fringe element that’s trying to bastardize the industry with loud pipes, not wearing helmets, the ‘bad boy’ image,” says Bob Woolridge. “That’s more counterproductive than helpful. This small minority gets the eyes and ears of everybody. You don’t see the 100 nice, quiet, safe, motorcycle riders going down the road; you see the one obnoxious jerk who ticks you off.”

Woolridge says the new GS and the new LT models are selling well, “and the RTs are always steady.” Other bestsellers at BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta include BMW riding gear and accessories, GPS, saddlebags, and comfort items of all types. “BMW’s on the cusp of coming out with really neat products that should put them up there with the super-duper racebikes.”

The average BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta customer is 42 to 55 years old, college-educated, with an average household income of $98,000 plus. “It’s fairly WASP-y, middle-aged white males, but we do a sell a lot to African-Americans and a fair number of women,” says Woolridge. “BMWs are tall bikes, but we manage to accommodate vertically challenged riders by lowering them and customizing the seats. Linda’s a shorty, too, and is very active in the business. Our buyers are looking more for luxury bikes. Most have had motorcycles before — perhaps different brands and styles — and have decided they want something upscale and reliable. And they don’t want to work on these bikes themselves.”

“You must have good folks working in PG&A who are knowledgeable — who know how something works, what its value is, from their own riding experience,” says Woolridge. BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta’s five service staffers are all BMW-certified. “Good technicians are good technicians, whether they’ve graduated from a service school or not. We’ve expanded both the parts and service areas — for example, we’ve increased our service area by 5,000 sq. ft. a year and a half ago.”

Both Linda and Bob are very active in the BMW Owners of Georgia club, and the Board meets at the dealership. “For two years I was the rally master for our main fundraising vehicle. We sponsor a lot of events, including the breakfast for the annual toy run that raises funds for needy children in one of the northern counties, where we ride a lot. I’m also involved with the AMA. We were active before we became a dealership, so it’s not just to create revenue streams.” The Woolridges also support the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Ride for Kids. “It’s still a ‘Honda thing’ in terms of sponsorship, but their number-one individual fundraiser last year was Bob Henning, owner of Bob’s BMW,” notes Woolridge.

Woolridge came from the telecommunications industry. His words of advice to a would-be dealer? “Just because you’re successful in the corporate world — you’re vice president of a multinational corporation with 10,000 people reporting to you — it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good small businessman. The skill set is totally different. You have to work six or seven days per week, 10 hours per day, and be willing to do it for a relatively low return. You buy a building for $1 million, get the dealership running, and after 15 or 20 years it’s paid off. But your business isn’t necessarily worth $5 or $6 million, so it’s not the best retirement vehicle. It’s a long-term investment proposition. That’s why there are so many dealerships opening and closing around the country. And you can’t afford to just hire strong managers, because there isn’t enough money in it.” psb

—Julie Filatoff

If you would like to share your story with the readers of Powersports Business, please contact Julie Filatoff at filatoff@cybermesa.com.


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