WORLD OF WHEELS
World of Wheels
2572 State Route 257
Seneca, Pa. 16346
This northwest Pennsylvania dealership was started by a motocross racing enthusiast who wanted to sell the products he was riding. “I road motocross when I was a young kid and was kind of an enthusiast with the dirt bike part of it,” owner Bob Felmlee said. “I had a friend kind of get me started in (the dealership), and we just kind of went from there.” Felmlee opened World of Wheels with Kawasaki in 1981 in Shippenville, Penn. Just two years later, he took on Suzuki and Honda and moved to Seneca. In 2004, he added Yamaha. “We’ve got a 6,000 square-foot showroom. We have good inventory. We try to keep the dealership clean and immaculate and try to work with people on a one-on-one basis,” he said. The dealership essentially doubled in size to 25,000 square feet approximately five years ago.
Felmlee is worried what the future holds for sales. “Is gross coming back or have we hit the bottom?” he said. “Is this the end of the downward turn, or are we going to go the other way? Is this a lull we’re going to be in for the next two to three years? I guess that’s my concern is where the market is at.
“We’re all trying to do what we can to become profitable. It’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen next year.”
With the dealership situated in a rural county of about 57,000 people, Felmlee’s biggest sellers are four-wheelers. “We’ve done well with the Honda 420 Rancher line,” he said. “We’re doing really well across the board with the side-by-side lines.” World of Wheels began selling UTVs as they became available, and the sales peaked shortly thereafter. “They really got popular here about five to six years ago. There’s not nearly the market that it was a few years ago, but we still do well with them.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Though Felmlee, like most other dealers, has seen sales decline, a new customer has emerged. “Women of course have become more into the street bike part of it. More than five to six years ago, they joined the street bike part of it,” he said. In order to serve the women that are coming in, Felmlee has worked to make his dealership a comfortable place for female customers. “We stock a lot more women’s clothing and more gear for them, so they feel more welcome that way.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
The service department of Felmlee’s business is one area he takes pride in. Felmlee himself got started working in service. He now employs his brother, who has been a technician for about 25 years, and two other techs. The service manager has been on staff for 10 years, and the dealership also employs a phone operator and a part-time tech seasonally. “I think we have more of an experienced service staff. Hopefully we can answer your questions and fix your product quickly and efficiently. That’s my goal anyways,” Felmlee said. Because of the department’s history of good service, little advertising is needed. “We do a little bit (of promotion) over our Web site, not much. It kind of sells itself. It stays busy. Generally the service department part of my business is the most busy,” he said. The parts and accessories department also has been doing well since the dealership’s expansion, which gave the department more space. “We can carry a lot more products, dirt and on-road both,” Felmlee said.
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
World of Wheels’ biggest promotional push is ride sponsorships throughout the summer, with the largest being the area YMCA’s annual run. “Usually the rides are sponsored by us, and we’re one of the stops on the rides, so people get to stop by and see what we’re about, and we hope that they stop by later,” Felmlee said. The promotions seem to work as he said traffic does pick up after those events. In addition to ride sponsorship, Felmlee is also involved in Gold Wing and other area powersports clubs. “You make contact with your customers,” he said. “You get more of a personal thing. They know who you are when they walk in.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“Just watch what you’re doing and take care of business,”?Felmlee said. “Take care of your customers. It’s kind of a common sense thing, but that’s how I feel. You have to take care of the people that have been taking care of you.”