I ride a 2006 Honda ST1300. The brand, and the specific model that I own, have earned the respect that it enjoys and deserves. But recently the company has begun to move away from an independent dealer network and towards a network of “Honda only” dealers that sell not only the motorcycles, but also the company’s brand of generators, outboard motors and even lawnmowers. My guess is that it is a move designed to strengthen the over-all company brand and leverage the reputation in some marketplaces (motorcycles perhaps) to improve the brand’s success in others (lawnmowers perhaps).
I had counted on replacing my rear tire when I got to
I rode to the nearest town with a Honda dealer in the hopes of getting the tire changed. I discovered that they didn’t have one in stock, which was not really unexpected. (It is a fairly unique model). What was unexpected though was when they told me that it would take a week to have one shipped there, and that “nobody airships tires up here anymore”. My choice was to wait a week, or head out and hope to make it to a larger center with a tire in stock. I decided I had no real choice but to take my chances and go.
When I got to the other end of town, I noticed another motorcycle dealer that carried a couple of different brands of motor products. I pulled in and asked if they had a tire that would fit my bike. After a few minutes, the parts manager came out with 3 tires - none were the exact size, but they would fit. But then he offered me one further option. “If you want the exact tire sir, for about $50 I can have one flown up here. I could have it here by tomorrow, the day after at the latest.” I chose one of the tires he had in stock, and before I had a chance to catch up on all my emails (and do my Facebook updates) using their customer accessible WiFi connection, they had my tire replaced and I was on my way.
A couple days later, while almost exactly in the middle of a 6 hour stretch without any services, a stone thrown by transport truck rocketing through a gravel section of the highway under construction, pierced my radiator. Green coolant was now spraying all over my front disk brake. In tough situations like that, I did what I always do first: I called my wife!
My riding partner (“Charlie”) and I found a small lodge with a satellite phone connection and diesel generated electricity. We rented their last room (an authentic little log cabin), had dinner, and hoped my wife would be able to find a radiator and somehow get it to us.
My wife located the nearest dealer, about 4 hours away from where I was. They told her that they didn’t have one in stock (no surprise really), and if she wanted to order one they would have it in a week to ten days. She asked about the cost to expedite the order, but they told her that they didn’t do that anymore, they “order everything through the system.”
Not wanting my little adventure to keep me away a full week (or more) longer than she counted on, she called a local independent dealer that was recently disfranchised. They called another independent multi-brand dealer out west that still had their franchise. They in turn ordered and expedited the radiator and were prepared to send it to any dealer in any town that I might be able to get to.
Charlie is not only the best friend from my youth, he is also a certified Porsche and Audi technician – and one helluva MacGyver impersonator.
With the standard Honda tools, a pen knife, an air mattress patch kit, and a couple of electrical tie wraps, he sutured and patched my radiator so that we could ride out of our wilderness lodge and towards the nearest town. We made it to the first town 3 hours away with no trouble, so we went to the next, and then the next. In two days, we rode 1000 miles, with the patch, to the dealer that had ordered and expedited the rad. Four hours later, Black Beauty (my bike) was as good as new When I reflected on this adventure within an adventure, I believe I discovered a serious flaw in this new “single brand” dealer network. For them, their primary advantage and their primary purpose both related to the brand. They support the brand, and they are supported by the brand, But when it comes to the motorcycle marketplace, it’s not about the brand. It’s not even about the motorcycle. It’s all about the rider.The same is true in all businesses, and especially in our manufacturing industries. It’s not about the brand. It’s not about the equipment, or the technology, or even about the product. It’s all about the customer. Whoever meets the needs of the customer the best, wins.
Paul Hogendoorn is president of OES, Inc. and a founding member and past chair of the