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Bike makers target car dealerships

Motorcycle manufacturers are targeting car dealers to help them grow their UK sales networks. But some warn that being a successful car dealer doesn’t necessary mean they are qualified to sell bikes successfully.

Triumph, Britain’s only surviving mainstream bike manufacturer, has a network of 51 dealerships, with key open points remaining only in Reading and Cambridgeshire (located in either Cambridge or Peterborough).

In a bid to fill these, the company, which makes superbikes such as the Rocket III and Speed Triple, has been running a campaign targeting car retailers via AM.

“Response to this series of ads has been tremendous and we’ve had approaches from some very well funded groups,” says Triumph area sales director Mike Tomlins. “On the face of it, many of the applicants looked ideal, but after talking to them it’s apparent an awful lot of them see bikes as just another profit line.”

Tomlins believes there’s a cultural world of difference between cars and bikes – not only between the people who buy them but also those who sell and service them.

“Obviously we want dealers to be profitable, but we need dealers who understand the customer and understand the ethos of motorcycling. Some car dealers can and do fit the bill: North City Triumph in Chigwell, for instance, was a Saab dealer before joining us. But that was a rarity.”

Ducati and Harley-Davidson are also known to be looking closely at dual-franchising approaches.

Harley, for instance, appointed car dealer Sycamore in Rutland in December 2002. It won the Northern Dealer of the Year award for the brand in 2003 and 2004. Ducati, with 31 dealers, has up to five open points.

BMW – like Honda and Suzuki, a maker of cars and bikes – has 34 car dealers out of a total network of 155 who also retail motorcycles. It also has more than 30 standalone bike retailers.

While there are no immediate plans to extend its two-wheel coverage, a spokesman says: “We’re going the same way with bikes as we did with cars. At some point in the near to mid future we will be looking to fill open points as volume grows.”

Honda, meanwhile, appears to have gone cool on its car/bike sales network plans. It has 169 bike dealers, 200 car dealers – and just five overlap.

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