515 West Lambert Road
Brea, Calif. 92821
In 1976, Hicks started a small motorcycle service shop. Four years later, he went to work at American Honda as a technician and later spent time in the customer relations, engineering and product research departments. In 1994, he started working for Triumph Motorcycles and became the first sales manager for the western U.S. He also was involved in the company’s marketing and press relations departments. Because of his contacts in Southern California, he was asked to help out Hollywood, including teaching Pamela Anderson how to ride a Triumph Thunderbird for the movie “Barb Wire.” “I had my friends tell me, ‘You’re on MTV!’ I’m all, ‘Huh?’ Hicks said. “It was pretty cool.”
He went on to become the general manager of Race Tech in 1997, helping the company nearly double in size in terms of employees and profit, he said. In April 2000, Hicks opened a dealership, Southern California Triumph. After only 18 months in operation, he said the Brea location became the No. 1 Triumph dealership in the nation. He has since opened two adjoining motorcycle dealerships featuring Ducati and Victory. All three operations are housed under the same roof, but share little else. Each dealership is devoted to the individual franchise and features different products and a distinct look. Hicks even has separate business licenses for the three stores. The idea behind separating the brands is enticing the niche motorcycling enthusiast. Hicks said a Ducati enthusiast doesn’t want to look around a huge showroom just to find the latest Ducati bikes and apparel. In Brea, that enthusiast is swarmed by Ducati merchandise the moment he steps into the store. “I get accolades from customers all the time,” he said. Overall the three stores total about 10,000 square feet and feature 13 full-time employees.
Hicks calls dealer discount advertising “the absolute scourge of the industry.” Hicks believes such practices, which may move product but at little profit, can quickly weaken the industry. With little profit, dealers can’t provide good customer service or keep quality service technicians. “It comes to what in my terms is a supermarket,” he said. But “if a dealer can make good money, he can keep good people.” Hicks refuses to put sales prices on advertising, believing the key to luring customers is to get them excited about the product. “It’s ambiance ads,” he said. “Strictly ambiance. Get somebody excited about the dealership and the motorcycle to get them in.” Hicks said he also refuses to talk prices on the Web or over the phone.
Hicks has only had Victory for six months, but he sees a bright future for that franchise. “The traffic is growing,” he said. “Ducati is hands down No. 1 followed by Triumph.” Ducati’s S2R1000 is a big seller. Hicks believes one reason Triumph has fallen is because of the company’s decision to pull out of the International Motorcycle Shows. A decision that he questions. “How can they justify pulling out of the IMS shows?” he asked.
Lighter and nimbler bikes are a bigger hit than big touring bikes, Hicks said, pinpointing the Triumph Tiger and the Ducati Multistrada as two examples. These types of bikes can be good commuter bikes but also provide enough wind protection, power and comfort for longer travel.
Parts and service
Hicks has two full-time employees in parts, four in service and one part-timer spread out over the three dealerships. His Ducati franchise responsibilities include servicing bikes that will be made available to the media for road tests.
Promotional home runs
Hicks advertises in two large markets, in Los Angeles and Orange counties. But how his advertising budget is spent will be changing this year thanks to a customer-tracking program. His employees were asked to inquire how all first-time consumers heard about the business. Hicks was surprised to find that 36% of the new customers learned about the business because they simply drove by. Less than 2% discovered the dealerships through the phone book. Hicks advertised in 40 phone books last year. That won’t be the case this year. “It has definitely brought things to light,” he said of the customer-tracking program.
Words of advice
Powersports dealers need to understand they’re in the entertainment business, not the transportation industry, Hicks said. “Passion. Enthusiasm. That’s what drives (customers) into my door. Too many dealers think they’re in the transportation industry. They’re not,” he said. “The more the dealer can understand that, the more successful they’re going to be.”
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