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Off-road sales driving dealers to Q4 success

We’ll provide a more complete look at the Q4 2014 Powersports Business Dealer Survey in the February edition, but I wanted to provide a glance at the feedback we received from dealers in early January, based on their Q4 performance.

Yamaha and Polaris were the top two OEM brands sold by the participating dealers, and 25 percent said their quarter came in above plan. Another 34 percent reported an on-plan quarter, and 41 percent said they were below plan.

About 37 percent said sales of new units were “very strong” or “somewhat strong,” while 40 percent said the same for the service department. Used unit sales were reported as “very strong” or “somewhat strong” by 39 percent of the dealers who took the survey.

In terms of customer buying interest in Q4 compared to the same quarter in 2013, 26 percent of dealers said it was “about the same.” More than 39 percent of dealers said customer buying interest was either “significantly better” or “somewhat better” than the year-ago quarter.

Dealership profit margins, meanwhile, were considered “about the same” by 38 percent of dealers compared to Q4 2013, with 26 percent reporting margins as “significantly better” or “somewhat better.” And that leaves 36 percent of dealers saying profit margins are “somewhat worse” or “significantly worse” than Q4 2013.

But there’s hope for a better future among the dealer body. About 35 percent of dealers said their business outlook is “significantly better” or “somewhat better” than it was six months ago. Of those responding, 40 percent said it was “about the same” and 25 percent said their business outlook is “somewhat worse” or “significantly worse.”

The list of dealers who complete the survey is impressive and made up owners and GMs who, to say the least, keep their finger on the pulse of the economic environment. For example, when asked “To what extent have your concerns about rising gasoline prices changed?” 75 percent of them said they were “somewhat less concerned” or “significantly less concerned.” Meanwhile, the same question about the U.S. political environment caused 40 percent of the dealer respondents to say they were either “significantly more concerned” or “somewhat more concerned” about the U.S. political environment.

Let’s take a look at some of the Q4 2014 segment performance from the North American dealer body.

  • Side-by-sides: Positive
  • ATVs: Positive
  • Heavyweight motorcycles: Negative
  • Sport bikes: Negative
  • Off-road bikes: Negative
  • Scooters: Negative
  • PWC: Flat

Finally, snowmobile dealers, at a rate of 2 out of 3, reported snowmobile inventory as “too heavy,” in Q4, with 44 percent reporting that their sled inventory is “about right.”

RBC Capital Markets analyst Joe Spak provides an incredibly detailed and historical PDF to dealers who complete the survey every quarter. To top it off, you might win one of five $100 Best Buy gift cards courtesy of RBC Capital Markets. Send me a note if you would like to be added to our list.

Lunch time, learn time

 The CFMOTO 650cc police escort vehicle replica.
The CFMOTO 650cc police escort vehicle replica.

I didn’t win a gift card, but it was a gift nonetheless that has found supreme placement in the decorated halls of the Powersports Business offices.

CFMOTO’s Dave Auringer (left) and Mr. Lai (right) have helped the Chinese brand reach new heights in the U.S.
CFMOTO’s Dave Auringer (left) and Mr. Lai (right) have helped the Chinese brand reach new heights in the U.S.

It’s always a treat when I get a call from CFMOTO’s U.S. offices to extend an invitation to get their know company better. Dave Auringer, national sales director at CFMOTO Powersports, and Mr. Lai, president and chairman of the board at CFMOTO Power Co., Ltd., found some time during the holiday season for a lunch meeting, and it turned into quite a learning session.

Once again Mr. Lai was in the giving mood. My “Happy New Year” gift is replica No. 0679 of a limited edition run, and it’s easy to see it’s the CFMOTO “Escort Motorcycle of State Guest.” CFMOTO won the rights to manufacture the police escort vehicle for visiting heads of state during the APEC meetings in Beijing in 2014.

It was a fitting end to the year for CF. Auringer, of course, has a knack for introducing dealers to new products, having launched the Sea-Doo dealer network in the U.S. He’s apparently well on his way to another impressive venture with his latest undertaking. The CFMOTO U.S. subsidiary is coming off its best year ever in 2014, and the U.S. dealer network has already topped 160. Back at the company’s Hangzhou, China, headquarters, Mr. Lai is already seeing reasons to believe 2015 will be even better for his company throughout the world.

Oops! It’s Tak not Toru

Apologies are due for an incorrect name that we referenced in the Dec. 29, 2014, edition of PSB in a story from Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.’s dealer meeting in Las Vegas. As you know, the president of SMAI is Tak Hayasaki. And now we do, too, although we listed the previous president’s name, Toru Muraki, in the story.

Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or

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