After 30 percent growth in 2016, Zero Motorcycles sees continued success in 2017
From hiring a new CEO to signing its 100th North American dealer, it’s safe to say that 2017 has already been a great year for Zero Motorcycles. Its electric motorcycles attract customers for the benefits they offer over a standard gasoline engine — the bikes require no routine powertrain maintenance or oil changes; they recharge from any standard electrical outlet; and they produce little engine noise, vibration or heat.
“Whether you’re passionate about pollution when it comes to transportation, passionate about electric vehicles and conservation or passionate about motorcycles, we sit at the intersection of those communities. You can care about any of those, and you belong on this team,” Zero CEO Sam Paschel told Powersports Business. “We’re going to be able to tap into those passions on both a consumer and employee basis, which can build a really powerful brand.”
Before Zero Motorcycles, Paschel served as chief commercial officer for Skullcandy, driving product innovation, marketing and commercial activities. He became a powersports enthusiast at the age of 8, riding a Suzuki RM 80 dirt bike. Once Paschel demoed a Zero motorcycle, he said he was sold on the engaging experience, unlike anything he’d experienced on a standard bike.
In his new role, Paschel aims to bring his perspective and experience as someone who is passionate about motorcycles, but has spent the bulk of his career outside of the motorcycle industry. “I’m bringing that perspective to a team of highly qualified people inside the motorcycle category,” he said. “I’ve had the benefit of working in other industries. … That experience preps me to understand the right way to aim and manage a really talented team.”
Zero ended 2015 with 47 dealers in its North American network and has achieved 40 percent year-over-year dealer growth since. This May the company signed its 100th dealer, Motorcity Motorcycles in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Rather than asking its dealers to buy excessive inventory, Zero’s approach is to have dealers carry two to three demo models throughout the year. “Trial is a cornerstone of our purchase and brand experience,” said Paschel. “For us, we make it relatively simple and low-cost for a dealer to be a Zero dealer. They carry three bikes that are meant to be demos for the year and then at the end of the year they sell them.”
Based in Scotts Valley, California, Zero Motorcycles is a global brand with distributors all over the world. For U.S. dealers, Paschel said that once an order is placed, Zero can have a bike to the dealer and available for customer pick-up in seven days on average.
When asking dealers to add a pioneering electric motorcycle to their lineup, Paschel said they need to be passionate about the brand to be successful. The dealers he hears from the most are organizing Zero bike nights, engaging, committing to moving forward with the brand and building Zero communities. “It’s not just innovation. It’s being part of a revolution, and revolutions are built on passion,” he added.
Zero Motorcycles offers six bikes in its 2017 lineup: the Zero S, Zero SR, Zero DS, Zero DSR, Zero FX and Zero FXS. Paschel said there has been an even sales split among those models.
“People buy motorcycles for emotional reasons, for cultural reasons to be part of a movement, but rationally one of the things that does separate us is the actual maintenance required over the lifetime of the bike is very simple — it’s just brakes and tires,” he said.
Technology continues to play a key role in Zero’s motorcycle lineup. The Z-Force motor features 116 foot-pounds of torque and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds. With the launch of the 2017 models, Zero has now cleared the 200-mile range in the city and above 150-160 miles on highway, depending on how aggressive the rider is.
In addition, the bikes have the performance capabilities to reach speeds over 100 mph. Also important is the company’s fast-charging solutions, which can charge a bike within an hour to two hours from empty to full. “We have ranges now that have gotten these motorcycles to a place where they are broadly a consumer-scalable business,” he added.
Recently, the company generated some buzz with its “Don’t Wait for Washington” campaign. The program promised customers that they would get the expired 10 percent federal tax credit, even if Washington fails to reinstate it.
“We have customers that are missing the season,” said Paschel. “We took a leadership role on the most advanced powertrain out there. … We’re not going to wait for anyone. We’re going to continue to innovate, push the brand forward and push people toward electrification.”
If the government fails to reinstate the Electric Motorcycle Tax Credit by the end of 2017, Zero will pay up to $1,869 cash back, matching the tax credit, for new, eligible 2017 Zero motorcycles.
Zero has sold more bikes each year than any other electric motorcycle company, said Paschel. “We are consistently in the mid-double digits in growth. We grew more than 30 percent last year, and right now we are on plan for the year as far as what we committed to both ourselves and our investors. We’re planning for fantastic year.”
“The overall mission here is to spread the concept of an electric motorcycle. We believe we are part of a brand that can change transportation,” he said. “It is going to be the sophisticated, simple and elegant solution of how to get from point A to point B.”