Now in its 15th year in the U.S., brand brings youth into stores
Since SSR Motorsports was founded in 2002, the company has constantly evolved. Now, with a steady foothold in the U.S. and a 250-dealer base, SSR is looking to grow its presence.
Brothers William and Dennis Li founded SSR Motorsports 15 years ago. Dennis led the production plant in China, while William was head of U.S. distribution. They built the brand on pit bike sales.
Then in 2008, William Li purchased his brother’s shares of the company. He closed SSR’s Chinese factory and moved manufacturing to another company in China, which in turn hired many former SSR plant staff, to ensure that the quality remained the same as it had been.
After William Li acquired SSR, he began expanding the lineup. First ATVs, dune buggies and scooters were added. Then, in 2013 motocross bikes, dual sport bikes and UTVs replaced the ATVs and dune buggies.
In 2015, SSR was named the exclusive U.S. distributor of Benelli motorcycles, adding the Razkull 125cc street bike, Buccaneers V-twin 250cc street bike and the Snake Eyes 250cc bobber to the SSR offerings.
“With all the new products, SSR can supply a full line of products to stand alone,” said Mel Harris, VP of Operations. Harris is a veteran of the powersports industry, who joined SSR in 2015. He spent 27 years at American Suzuki, ending his career there as VP of Motorcycles.
Throughout its 15 years, SSR has built a network of 250 dealers, including two of the
top 5 2016 Power 50 dealers, Logan Powersports Group and Hattiesburg Cycles.
Mike Ratz, principal of Logan Powersports Group, added SSR models to the lineup at Logan Motorcycle Sales in Logan, West Virginia, a few years ago, and has had so much success with the line that he added it at Route 119 Powersports in Danville, W.Va., about six months ago.
“They’ve been good to us, and they work with us. I’d love to see them grow and keep growing,” he said.
Harris frequently has prospective dealers talk to Shawnda Mercer, general sales manager at Logan Motorcycle Sales, when they’re looking to get on board.
“They’re a really good product. We’ve sold hundreds and hundreds of them,” she said. “We mostly sell a lot of the smaller ones because they hold up so well for the kids.”
Harris explained that pit bikes are still SSR’s best sellers, and Ratz says the small cc bikes are bringing all generations into his dealership.
“What I’ve seen is it puts a lot of excitement back on the showroom floor because now we have parents coming in with kids because they can afford to buy them something,” Ratz said. SSR sales also boost the morale of the sales department, as Logan Motorcycle Sales sells 8-15 of the bikes each month, and salespeople are excited to see new faces in the dealerships. He’s also found that once parents buy an SSR bike for one kid in a neighborhood, soon other parents will be in looking for the same bike.
As a sales manager, Mercer is glad she can send a family away with an SSR with little concern about the quality. She said the units rarely come back for anything but maintenance.
“As far as something for a child to use and it to be inexpensive, that’s the route to go,” she said.
All of the SSR and Benelli models are manufactured in China, and quality control is assured from the factory all the way to the delivery to the dealership, Harris explained.
“Quality control is in two phases: 1) SSR Motorsports employs a quality control staff in China to review product before shipments leave the manufacturer’s plant; 2) All shipments from the factory are checked at our U.S. warehouse to be sure the product is exactly as we expect before we ship to dealers,” he said.
In addition to the quality, dealers appreciate the price and the margin. Ratz and Mercer said it’s easier to sell a family on a $440 50cc bike than one from a competitor that’s three times the price. The same goes for the entire SSR lineup.
“Value-wise, when you get up into their 250s and 450s, they’re cheaper and they look just the same,” Ratz said.
Though the MSRPs are less expensive than those offered by SSR’s competitors, the company leaves room for a generous margin for its dealers. “The SSR Motorsports business model is unique from the other manufacturers,” Harris said. “We offer dealers a larger than normal dealer margin, up to 55 percent. We stock parts for daily shipments. We stock inventory, so dealers can order daily, weekly or monthly as they need product, and with reasonable flooring terms, a dealer can control his inventory and never pay flooring costs or very little payments with good product movement at retail, reducing a dealer’s largest expense.”
The initial buy-in for accessories, parts, décor and signs costs about $1,000 per dealer, and most start with $18,000-$50,0000 of inventory. Credit-worthy dealers can qualify for 120 days free flooring.
In 2017, SSR is hoping to expand its dealer network by another 100 dealers. Through early February, SSR was on track toward that goal, with a dozen new dealers signed up and more starting the paperwork to apply. This year SSR plans to add two new Benelli models and youth ATV models.