Power Profiles

Honda Suzuki World – Warwick, RI – Feb. 11, 2008

Honda Suzuki World
250 Oakland Beach Ave.
Warwick, R.I. 02889
David Marfeo
Located in eastern Rhode Island, not so far from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean lies Honda Suzuki World. In addition to selling a variety of Honda and Suzuki products, the dealership carries Sea-Doo and Yamaha PWC. The mid-sized dealership has been around for nearly 20 years. General Manager Joan Barton hasn’t been with Honda Suzuki World that long, but her enthusiasm for motorcycles drew her in when an opportunity presented itself to become active on the business side of bikes. Barton previously worked in manufacturing. When the company she worked for closed its doors and headed to Canada, her friend David Marfeo, who owns Honda Suzuki World, happened to be looking for someone to manage his motorcycle and PWC-centric shop. Her experience and enthusiasm landed her the job. “There are new products coming in all the time; new things to learn,” Barton said. “It’s great working with the public and meeting people from all different walks of life. Doctors and the guy down the street walk in here.” Honda Suzuki World is a single-location dealership selling ATVs, PWCs, motorcycles, scooters and UTVs.
Although she doesn’t carry the worries that come with owning the dealership, Barton has thought about the potential ramifications the economy might have on sales if it continues its downward trend. “I’m just hoping people continue to buy toys with the economy getting so hard,” she said. An additional difficulty Honda Suzuki World faces is the limited areas ATVs or dirt bikes can legally be ridden in the state. Most customers are forced to ride in either Massachusetts or Connecticut, notes Barton.
Suzuki sport bikes are top movers at Honda Suzuki World of late, says Barton and adds the dealership has been seeing a generational shift, and the younger guys coming in more frequently are looking for that kind of ride. “But really it’s a seasonal thing,” Barton said. “It changes from month to month. We also sell a lot of helmets and accessories for touring bikes, especially chrome.”
With recent trends in centering on the economy, Barton observes customers becoming pickier about spending money for something they might have a hard time justifying if they have bigger financial worries. “Since the economy has tightened up and the housing market has gotten bad, people are thinking twice about spending their money on recreational vehicles,” she said. “They’re not doing so much on the spur-of-the-moment spending. They’re thinking about it more now.”
Speedy delivery is the name of the game for parts and accessories at Honda Suzuki World. If the dealership doesn’t have something in stock, it can usually get it for customers in 24-48 hours, says Barton. However, that’s not usually necessary. “We carry just about anything you need for your motorcycle or watercraft,” Barton said. Honda Suzuki World’s service department services everything the dealership sells. The department, manned with four technicians, has added many computerized systems to aid in fixing PWCs, notes Barton. The company has it’s own in-house test-tank for PWC repair, one of the only ones in New England.
Honda Suzuki World puts stock in participating in powersports and other consumer shows to get the word out about the dealership. The shows are very beneficial in terms of putting the company in front of the customer, Barton said. In early January, the dealership was at the Providence Boat Show, displaying its PWCs and Sea-Doo jet boats. Honda Suzuki World also participates in an annual motorcycle show and exhibits its selection of bikes at a car show in the summer. “It draws a lot of customer interest,” Barton said. “Without that, a lot of people don’t know about our location, so this gives us great visibility.” The dealership also wants its customers to start thinking about the upcoming riding season early. Right now, Honda Suzuki World is encouraging customers to put the powersports products they’re interested in on layaway until April.
“Look forward to the spring and summer,” Barton said. “We’ve had a lot of dealers in New England have problems this year because of the economy. You would think motorcycles would take off, but they haven’t. Hopefully things will take off when riding weather finally arrives, so hang in there.”
— Lisa Young

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