Power Profiles

Liberty Harley-Davidson – Akron, OH – Nov. 14, 2005

Liberty Harley-Davidson
32 East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue
Akron, OH 44310
(330) 535-9900
Ohio Corporation owned by Ernie and Rosemary Passeos
Liberty was founded in March of 1987 in Akron, Ohio. The main store is 26,000-sq.-ft. with a 5,000-sq.-ft. service department, 3,000 sq. ft. in parts and the rest dedicated to showroom, Motorclothes and parts.
A second retail location in Boston Heights sits about 15 miles from the original store and is about 15,000-sq.-ft. The Passeos family also owns a motorcycle themed restaurant at the same location as the Akron store. Liberty sells only Harley-Davidson, not Buells. Employs 70 full-time people between the two retail locations.
“In our market, the number of dealers that Harley Davidson tries to put into the system,” says owner Ernie Passeos. “There are five dealers right around me. And I’m the volume dealer. They put a dealer in 15 miles away from me and this was before the multi-dealer policy so I couldn’t even apply for it.
“I also think they are overproducing motorcycles. It floods the market, so to speak, and it kills the price of used bikes.”
“Last year it was the Softail Deluxe,” says Passeos. “And this year it’s the Electra Glide FLHX. I can’t keep them in stock.”
For parts Passeos says that hot sellers are always chrome and performance. “The new Race Tuner which Harley has out covers a lot of sins,” says Passeos. “You can do a lot off stuff to your bike and keep it running with that Race Tuner.
“I didn’t know how big it was until I learned my parts manager was ordering 12 at a time, every month. On the 2006 models, because you can change your exhaust system now and put the Racer Tuner on and compensate for your catalytic converter.”
“What I don’t see anymore is the kid working at a gas station making $6 or $7 dollars an hour coming in,” says Passeos. “He was able to buy a bike besides a Sportster when I first started because they were still only $8,000 or $9,000.
“He’s still coming in, but now he’s buying used. My new bike customer is primarily skilled labor or white collar and mid level executives. We’re still doing a lot of business with doctors and lawyers.
“We’ve increased women ownership from less to 1% to about 12% of the actual sales.
“As our owner base is maturing, they are buying more touring models than sport models. But they are not trading the sport models. They are keeping both. They want the comfort and convenience now.”
“We’re doing about 20 million a year in total revenues, and my Parts and Service contributes about $4 million of that,” says Passeos. “We’re making a lot of changes ongoing. After being here for 20 years I found out we have to reinvent ourselves about every five years. And basically, that’s what I’ve been doing the last two years.
“Training is huge, all my techs have to do the PHD tapes that Harley furnishes and we have to send them off to school. I say have to, we don’t have to, nobody’s making me but the schools are available because the bikes are becoming so much more technical. My focus is more sophistication in terms of service. I really can’t hire a guy that doesn’t have the proper training. We have people come in and say ‘I’ve been working on Harleys all my life.’ And I say, ‘Show me what you can do on this new bike.’ And they are lost.”
Between the two stores, Liberty has 14 technicians. Each store has a service manager, and the main store has two service advisors; the new store has just one. Between the two stores, 10 people work in parts and general accessories and eight work strictly in Motorclothes
“We spend between the two stores about $400,000 a year in advertising,” says Passeos. “First, all Harley dealers are, or should be, event driven. You have to have a reason to come here (as opposed to somewhere else). I have five dealers around me within 30-40 miles.”
Passeos also spends money on cable TV year-round and radio.
Passeos also does a lot of direct mai, to promote upcoming events. They have a mailing list of over 10,000.. We have quarterly newsletter that comes out called the Liberty Torch. Our Web site has been up about six years. We had an individual do it locally and it was fine for a while, but PSN cane to the table with so much more, we went with them three years ago. I did buy a new V-Rod Destroyer and we may put together an in-house race team.”
“Take care of your customers,” says Passeos. “Be available to them. This is still very much an owner-driven business. They people want to see the dealer there.”
—Blake Stranz
If you would like to share your story with the readers of Powersports Business, please contact Blake Stranz at bstranz@comcast.net.

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