Industry expert finds Zero Motorcycles a gem indeed

Gart Sutton 20-group members to gain insight into electric bikes

Gart Sutton, founder of industry consultancy and 20-Club moderator Gart Sutton & Associates, recently ventured to Zero Motorcycles headquarters in California to learn more about the growing electric motorcycle maker. Gart then proceed to take one of the Zero bikes on the road and posted the results of his adventure on his GartRides blog. Powersports Business asked him a handful of questions about his electric motorcycle experience.

Gart Sutton and Zero Motorcycles CEO Richard Walker.

Gart Sutton and Zero Motorcycles CEO Richard Walker.

PSB: What motivated you to ride up to Zero Motorcycles headquarters in Santa Cruz, Calif., for your GartRides blog?

GS: As you know, GSA has the leading Composite Reporting software in our industry. Our latest Voyager-6 version will be introduced this year. The GSA Design Team insisted on adding electric motorcycles to our reporting capabilities. In other words, they want to be able to analyze the dealership revenue and expenses on electric motorcycles and compare them to our traditional powersports products. This prompted my desire to learn more about Zero and the electric motorcycle potential.

PSB: So did you actually get to ride Zero bikes, and if so, what did you think?

GS: No way was I going to pass up the opportunity to ride their bikes. In three words, the bikes were fast, responsive and invigorating. The Zero SR (street) has impressive handling and does over 100 mph. How does 0-60 [mph] in 3.3 seconds sound? The Zero DS (dual-sport) is a dream. Zooming through the Redwoods without noise, heat, fumes and vibration is a totally different experience. 

PSB: I understand you got the factory tour. What did you think? 

GS: I was impressed with the improvements they have made since their 2013 makeover. The technology has made great strides and so has Zero’s factory processes. I spent considerable time talking with their quality control “gestapo.” I watched him securitize the bikes that came off the line and was fascinated with his attention to detailed during his final inspections. 

Gart Sutton aboard a Zero motorcycle in the Redwoods of California.

Gart Sutton aboard a Zero motorcycle in the Redwoods of California.

PSB: So the BIG question is should powersports dealers consider carrying the Zero brand?

GS: Depends. Some demographics would be ideal and others not. For instance, I can see a Zero dealership in Austin, Texas, but probably not in Midland. One of our 20-Club members just took on Zero in Concord, Calif. This is a San Francisco bedroom community full of Silicon Valley-type residents. Dave Antonson of Contra Costa Powersports says Zero is attracting a totally new clientele into his store. The techie early adopters are more educated and affluent. Zero has a big demo campaign that encourages customers to come in and give the motorcycle a try. This is essential, as Zero motorcycles aren’t cheap, and riding is believing.

“USA Today” did a “Techie People” study that includes a U.S. county-by-county analysis on “early adopters” of technology ( I would strongly recommend powersports dealerships in the study’s high-techie concentration areas consider Zero. The manufacturer has a very affordable startup program that doesn’t require heavy inventory demands. A brand that brings an augmented customer base into a powersports dealership deserves serious consideration.

PSB: What will Zero dealers need to do in order to be successful with this product?

GS: If the dealer cannot get personally excited about electric motorcycles, they should probably pass on adding the brand. Furthermore, a dealership will need a designated “enthusiast salesperson” who will champion the brand and its technology. No noise, no gears and no chrome isn’t for everyone. Being at the right place, at the right time with the right product is essential for taking the leap to carry electric motorcycles.

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