McIntyre ‘bullish’ on future of motorcycle tourism
When EagleRider celebrates its 20th anniversary on July 21 in Los Angeles, Chris McIntyre figures to get asked plenty about the next 20 years. And he’ll beam with excitement upon replying.
“I’m very bullish,” McIntyre said. “Motorcycle tourism is going to flourish and is here to stay and grow. I’m so much looking forward to 2012 and the next five years. The market for used, the demand for recreation and motorcycle leisure travel is exploding. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re at a quarter-million rental customers in the next five years.”
That’s a far cry from the company’s origins. McIntyre and Jeff Brown founded the Harley-Davidson rental business in 1992. A Los Angeles garage had a fleet of four motorcycles, and EagleRider’s first four customers were Austrian. Today, that fleet has grown to more than 4,000 and serves about 60,000 customers per year.
“I was working at AT&T and was on a ride with Jeff,” McIntyre recalled of the original concept for the company. “We pulled over and had a cup of coffee in Big Sur, and started talking about why nobody rents these. Why is there no single company known for rentals, tours and travel on motorcycles?”
A few months later, the business launched. Initially McIntyre saw how other industry segments worked hand-in-hand to build their customer base.
“I did all the enthusiast sports when I first came out here,” said McIntyre, who grew up playing hockey in Madison, Wis. “All of them except motorcycling had one thing in common. They all focused on promoting the business. The manufacturers all succeeded by promoting the recreation and leisure of their sport. Skiing was all about collaborating with a resort, and that’s how they sold more skis.”
EagleRider’s business has simply snowballed over the past few years despite the economic times.
“Business is booming. The last three years, some of the worst in the industry, EagleRider has seen consistent double-digit growth,” he said. “And it’s been over 20 percent in all but one year.”
EagleRider, which saw its employee base increase to 250 employees from 225 a year ago, expanded facilities in many markets in 2011 in addition to offering new product lines.
“We focus on purpose and passion, and the profits will follow,” McIntyre said. “2011 was fantastic.”
EagleRider’s origins as a Harley-Davidson rental business have evolved into offering other brands. The company’s product lineup now includes Triumph, Honda Gold Wing and BMW. EagleRider’s top rentals are the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, Harley-Davidson Road King Custom, Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail, BMW GS 1200 and Honda Gold Wing.
“Let’s face it — a lot of people still want to ride Harleys,” McIntyre said. “But some markets have done well with the other brands, either within dealerships or in our stand-alone facilities.”
While top-line revenues grew by about 20 percent in 2011, profits stayed flat compared to 2010, mainly due to used bike values.
“They’re coming back, but the prices are taking a while to come back,” he said.
Dealers continue to turn to EagleRider to enhance their pre-owned inventory. McIntyre estimated earlier this spring that the company had a fleet of about 800 stock rentals available for sale.
“Dealers are buying our bikes,” he said. “Two years ago when they were trying to keep their head above water we took our bikes to auctions, but they’re continuing to come to us to build their inventory. Our bikes are really diamonds in the rough to augment their new bike sales. Some are two years old, and some are 10 months old. They’re stock bikes and they have perfect service records.”
An EagleRider bike could be placed in a showroom at any of its 110 locations, travel 21,000 miles in six months, then be ready to be sold to the dealer body. About 25 percent of EagleRider stores are located within dealerships. The company has 80 locations in the U.S.
McIntyre is encouraged by the first-quarter growth of the motorcycle market in the U.S. His business, also, has seen what McIntyre calls a “substantial increase” in new motorcyclists who want to try before they buy. “They get their permit and use EagleRider as a place to try out the various models.”
McIntyre says he’s not surprised by the decreasing number of dealerships that are offering bike rentals on their own, but instead deciding to partner with a third-party provider like EagleRider.
“If you’re an expert at motorcycle tourism, you’re not in the rental business,” he said. “It comes with more of a travel background.”
EagleRider plans to celebrate its first two decades with a celebrity-laden event on July 21, which will include bands, a fashion show and VIP rooms and red carpet.
“We pioneered global motorcycle tourism in 1992 with a dream, all the money in our pockets and four Harley-Davidson motorcycles in a Los Angeles garage,” McIntyre said. “Now, we’re an international franchise that offers motorcycle enthusiasts the opportunity to explore tourist destinations around the world on a motorcycle. We want to show our appreciation to our customers, vendors and franchisees.”