Power Profiles

Montgomery Honda Yamaha – Montgomery, AL – Jan. 19, 2009

Montgomery Honda Yamaha
535 North Eastern Blvd.
Montgomery, Ala. 36117
Gerald Smith
The dealership was started by Charles Hunter in 1971 and was originally named Hunter Honda. Vice President Gerald Smith says he went to work for him in 1975 when they moved into the current location. The 28,000-square-foot building has been added onto or remodeled about 13 times since then. Smith says they can’t build anymore because of city variances. The only thing they can do is build up, but that’s not likely to happen in the near future. Montgomery Honda Yamaha has about 27 employees, but they’ve had as many as 32. The dealership carries Honda ATVs, motorcycles and scooters, and Yamaha ATVs, motorcycles, scooters, UTVs and PWC.
Getting customers to walk through the door has been a challenge for Montgomery Honda Yamaha lately. “The customers just aren’t coming in,” Smith said. “We have a door counter, and it’s dramatic how much the number of door swings have decreased.”
With the down economy, Smith says they haven’t had much luck selling anything. “We’re about 50 percent off,” he said.
What powersports units customers are buying has changed considerably. “We’ve always been very heavily ATV because of the dealership being in the Southeast, hunting and farming. At one point we were 70 percent ATV and then 30 percent motorcycle and PWC,” Smith said. “Now that’s turned around where we’re about 70 percent motorcycle and 30 percent ATV.”?Another thing recurring lately is consumers not getting approved. “Most of the vendors we’ve used have dried up,” Smith said. “Every day (the staff) is trying to find new lenders. (The vendors’) criteria has increased tremendously.”
Both departments are successful for the dealership, but the service department has a program that really helps business. “The biggest advantage is we sell our own maintenance program and have for about 13 years,” Smith said. VICs (very important customer) get a gold card, like a credit card, and with that customers can make an appointment and get serviced that day. “It gives us solid service business year round,” he said. The plan also includes a warranty. To keep up with business, the dealership has six full-time technicians, two service writers and a service manager.
Montgomery Honda Yamaha stays active through a number of outdoor activities and charity events. Smith says they pay nonprofit organizations to display programs and product, which is the donation. The dealership also advertises, but mainly through TV. Smith says about 70 percent of its advertising budget goes toward cable TV. “It’s the only thing that’s really shown long term to be effective,” he said and added they do some broadcast TV as well as a little radio. He’s found that print advertising isn’t effective for the dealership. “Our local newspaper is not effective at all,” he said. “Readership has gotten less and prices have gone up. Print is very ineffective for us.”
“The attitude of the dealership is the biggest thing we try to do,” Smith said. “Yes, it’s not that great, but lets not let the customers see that. Up to this point, we haven’t done any drastic layoffs even though it is expensive. If the business does turn around, it’s hard to get those employees back.”
­–Karin Gelschus

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