Multiline American Motorcycle Dealerships

Multiline American motorcycle dealershipsIt wasn't long ago when the economy was booming, if you thought it was time for a new motorcycle, you rode over to the local multiline dealership and walked around the Yamahas, Suzukis and Kawasakis to see what they had, make your choice and ride home. Maybe you stopped by another shop that carried Ducati, Triumph and Moto Guzzi, but what if you were interested in something from the USA? Finding Japanese and European dealers was usually pretty easy, but multiline American dealers? Good luck.

Oddly enough, with the economy crawling along, you can almost imagine the remote possibility of something that never was. Suppose, just for a moment, you could walk into a dealership with a Motus sign out front and one from Erik Buell Racing, right along side. Then you see the Victory cruisers lined up with a few Indians, maybe US Highland, too, and all of a sudden you've got a whole new ball game. Harley could play, but I have a hunch they probably wouldn't. For that matter, I have no idea if any of these brands would want anything to do with one another, I've never asked Lee and Brian from Motus about it, or Erik either, but none of these marques can stand entirely on their own, but if there's a way to keep the doors open, they can be there for the smaller market each one serves.

A few days ago GE Capital announced it agreed to provide floorplan financing for Erik Buell Racing to help get the bikes onto showroom floors. That's a nice start. Lee Conn tells me things are moving along nicely at Motus and I see Indian just rolled out the 2013 Indian Chief Vintage Final Edition, stressing at the same time:

that this is only the end of a model, not a line. Many more Indians are coming, ... customers can expect to see the historic brand attached to new styles, aimed at new segments of the market, within the next few months.

Interesting, new Indian styles and new market segments, I wonder what's on the way. Toss in the brands we mentioned above to cover the high end sport and sport touring segment and you have the makings of an All American Dealer experience.

Yes, I know, chances are pretty low any of this will happen, but then a lot of observers were betting some of these companies wouldn't even be in business right now, so before you write off the possibility, maybe you should think about how cool it would be if it all came together. You never know.


  1. Squables says

    If and when an American manufacturer offers a dual sport bike I’ll happily shop their multi-brand store. Until then they have nothing to offer me.

  2. JP says

    a harley clone in a production frame is not an Indian, niether will a Victory engine in the same frame. Sorry. (but if they make a street tracker and I had the $$ I might be swayed (~_^)
    Hope Buel has success and I wish I had the money for one of those Highland DP bikes myself. The first real multiline American will likely be the Victory/whatever other than Indian, as many of the Vic dealers I have seen are already multiline of one sort or another. Polaris owns Indian now so I’m sure the Vic dealers will have the bikes.

    • Medicated Steve says

      Agreed. Also, I cant wait to see what Polaris does to the Indian style (Sarcastic). They will surely make it ugly as hell like their other bikes.

  3. Renegade_Azzy says

    I think it will be interesting to see if the current model of dealerships lasts the decade, or if the Tesla model will be the real deal winner.

  4. BoxerFanatic says

    I am not sure there is enough economic energy in this country to continue to pay for the dealership mentality of various brands and their franchise owners having the capital to afford separate facilities for competing motorcycle lines.

    I think it may end up working that way for cars and trucks, too, to an extent.

    I have a feeling that reduced discretionary spending and economic buying power of the consumer may end up closing up shops altogether in smaller population areas, and shrinking and condensing significantly in population centers.

    Bricks and mortar fixed costs are going to have to be consolidated. Sort of a “powersports big box store”, where you go and buy your choice of brands that can afford to offer products. Almost all the brands under one roof, save maybe Harley Davidson, and maybe a few mechanic-owned garages that sell a couple of bikes a year out of the front lobby, total.

    A single brand, or even a few complimentary brands in one shop, paying for signage and a sales staff, and rent/mortgage/utililities, and service shop costs is getting too high for a marketplace that is dwindling.

    Young people barely like to drive cars, let alone ride bikes. Middle income people are getting squeezed economically, and the people of means are about to get a bunch more tax liability… I am not sure who exactly has lots of money to go out and buy new motorcycles in enough numbers, with enough profit margin to support dealers with just a few brands.

    I had to sell my bike earlier this year because my pay hasn’t increased, but my bills have. I want to buy another, but the financial realities have gotten worse, not better. Bike sellers are likely dealing with a shrinking market base of many other people who have to make economic priority decisions.

    • Decline says

      “Young people barely like to drive cars, let alone ride bikes.”
      This could start to change, Justin Bieber apparently just bought a bike. Steve McQueen, your poster days are numbered. ….now excuse me, I’m going to slam my face into a wall now.

      • Richard Gozinya says

        The motorcycle industry’s problem isn’t celebrity endorsements. It’s that they build products that 99.9% of people under 35 have no use for. They build bikes for suburbanites over 40. Whether it’s sportbikes, cruisers, or those ever dumber adventure bikes. They’re all expensive, and have little use to someone who lives in a city. How many college kids do you think can afford, let alone have any real use for, a Ducati 848 Evo, the bike Bieber has? It’s got horrible ergonomics for a commuter, it’s expensive, it’s gearing and throttle response are designed for the track. In short, it has no real world functionality that can’t be achieved better and more affordably with an old UJM, or maybe a supermoto, if that college kid is feeling their inner hooligan.

        • Twisted Steve says

          I’ll agree with that as well. When I bought my Buell xb9 (my first bike) at 21. I decided that 984cc’s were just enough for me. Now, Commuter it is not, although I did commute on it. It was a great first bike. I even took the test on it. Not too FAST but tons of POWER. It was WAAAAAYYYY too much money though. I have since grown out of it, now it gets ridden around the block once a year.

    • Renegade_Azzy says

      That sell off condition does not apply to just bikes. Just about everything is hard to sell… except gun related stuff.

  5. rohorn says

    American dirt bikes? Like Cannondale and ATK? How come they aren’t still around?

    Then there’s American bikes like Zero and Brammo (any day now…)…

  6. Mark L. says

    I have to gloat here. I sent a letter of reccomendation to Lee at Motus, and I am very happy to say that with Cruisin 66 In Springfield, MO we have Victory & Motus in the same shop, and a fantastic dealership at that

    Tim has said that it is possible that they will pick up Indian in the future as well. either way, good times for us in Springfield, MO.

    Mark L.

  7. Kurt says

    Anybody heard from Fischer lately? It’d be cool to toss them in the mix for a competitively priced supersport… Just a thought.

  8. Lincoln says

    Hopefully we will see Highlander Sports Bikes in the near future, both in single and v-twin configuration and at an affordable price. Have always been a fan of the Buell, more so for the air cooled bikes than the 1125, but have to say the 1190 really does look the business!
    And the Indian, hey, if it’s got Final Edition in the name, instant collectable. For me it just looks like another Harley. Will be interesting to see their next models though. Would they ever cosider the in line four again I wonder??? Crazy prices for those old ‘fours’ these days but would love to own one.

    • Yeti2bikes says

      Lincoln, I’m with you on bringing back the inline 4 Indian. It’s on my list of the 7 bikes I want to own. Unfortunately the last three examples I’ve seen went for over $50k. Just like the old Harley Knuckles… On my list but out of my price range. Remember the Henderson inline 4’s. They even made a Super Six for a year or two. Saw one in a museum once

  9. woodco100 says

    Indian will never sell well until they get real hardbags on thier bikes. Why they have not realized that in 5 years is beyond me.

  10. HMP says

    as for the “Harley could play, but I have a hunch they probably wouldn’t”
    remember, its not about HD, but the dealers themselves.
    Look around, many have other brands in them
    Ray Price has Triumph
    Greensboro (when they were Youngs) had Kawasaki

    Nice assumptions though….

  11. Tin Man says

    My local Harley dealer(Wolverine)carried Victory for a short time, they did not sell. You put a Victory next to a H.D. and they dont stack up, for the same money as a H.D. the Victory fit and finish was lacking along with cheesey turn signals,bars and risers. The Victory’s are improving all the time but without a price advantage whats the point. Now a premium American Dual Sport might sell next to Harley but the Buells sure didn’t sell.

    • Squables says

      Really? I’ve seen them side by side and next to full on customs looking better. If I were to choose such a machine I would certainly pay a premium for a more powerful and much smoother bike like the Victory myself.

  12. fast Eddie says

    Hey how about a dealership that fixes up old jap scrap. When the ” riders ” figure out that there
    are other older bike’s that are a great investment , they will but a buell . When they ride and ride and ride , they’l figure it out that it’s time to buy a Harley . Mostly cause to there to old to ride anything else . Like all things experience comes as part of a formula . Time = experience .
    so sorry to hear all the talk about what will sell and where this whole M/c industry will head .
    Great artical tho……… keep up the great work As Cornel Klink would say , ” very interesting”
    F E ride safe

  13. OMMAG says

    Back to the 60’s. Back before giant distribution networks and mass media marketing. Back when guys who owned a shop did it so they could pay for their own bikes and bike activities. Back to the days before the success or popularity of a bike was predetermined by journalists and market studies. Back to the days before a manufacturer ever thought that making something needlessly complex was a good idea.

    I could go on …..

    Personally … I’d love to go back to having a few shops around that each carried ONE product and brought a lot of support and enthusiasm and know how to the table. Sadly today’s bike shops are more often just like any car dealership and the independent enthusiast run shop is for all intents extinct.

    The upside … is custom shops which seem to be popping up on the landscape like mushrooms … and that is something.

  14. Tin Man says

    The brands that are doing well, increasing market share and growing even now are mostly sold in stand alone stores (BMW, Ducatti, Harley and Triumph). Its the bargain brands that are stumbling and losing dealers and market share. The big box style of marketing seems to be in trouble, not the upscale involved Boutiques. The people with money to buy bikes seem to want more than the Supermarket style dealer. Just as 20 years ago the internet stores were predicted to rule the retail and food sales in the U.S. this has not come close to happening and never will, people want more involvement at the point of sale not less.

    • woodco100 says

      Tin Man, what did Hannibel Lecter say, “We covet what we can see” Click on that little flat bar in the upper right hand corner and shrink your screen. Most likely your screen saver is the bike you covet. I know mine is.

      The Japanese brands are just not building exciting bikes right now. Very capable, just not not stirring the soul like the sound of a Ducati, the “feel” of a Triumph triple or just the pure joy of looking at your Road King from across the parking lot as you walk out from a long day at work.

      • Twisted Steve says

        I’ll agree with that. Unless you’re looking for straight out anus clenching speed, you’re not really looking at an Asian Motorcycle. That being said, I really love my 77 cb550. If I were going to buy a BRAND new bike tomorrow it would be… a Road King. Why did Kawasaki get rid of the Drifter? That thing was cool. I’d buy one of those if they made a 1500 with chain drive.

  15. Bear says

    Twisted Steve:

    Ever heard about the BMWS1000RR? And the HP4 version.

    ” ” ” ” Ducatis Panigale? With it’s 3 (perhaps 4 with the ‘F’s) versions.
    And the various 1098s / 1198s, and earlier 4 valve head bikes.
    ” ” ” ” Aprilia RSV4s, and RSV Mille’s – both 4s and twins in various types

    I’m no great fan of BMW, but they jumped into the Super Sports market, and proceeded to kick the hell out of the Japanese 4s.Jump on a S1000RR some time, turn of the electric aids, and then tell me you’ve not been ‘clenching’. If you survive – not many would have the skills to pin one of those and come back in one piece. A Brilliant handling bike, but with that much power, it will bite you, and tear your throat out, if you daydream for but a split second.

    • Medicated Steve says

      I am well aware of them, I was speaking as an uneducated new rider looking for that 1000cc gixxer. lol I love that 1000RR especially the two different headlight shapes. It looks very cool.

  16. conchop says

    Having been a Victory dealer and bike builder/ fix it all shop 10 years ago, I can tell you that nothing will turn you into a double barrel a–hole faster than being a dealer. The manufacturers make their money off of you, you make your money off the customer. The corporate attorneys make sure they attach all your assets so they never lose. Greed runs that part of the system. Brand loyalty, HD/ Goldwing/ BMW/ Rocket bike / cruiser etc etc runs the customer.

    The economic crisis and the 9/11 attacks changed the game. Choppers are not what they use to be and neither are the Asian bikes. The threat of economic uncertainty and job security has cut in the market. Wage stagnation has a lot of people out of the market too.

    My last bike was a Buell Ulysses. Asides from the ridiculous styling of ADV bikes, they have elements of the future in them. They are comfortable, flexible, and economical. Therein lies the future of American motorcycling and the proverbial shop. Pure practicality.

    American styling has launched a zillion dollar industry. Practicality is a new necessity. Blend the two and you might be on to something. A multi line American dealership would come closer to meeting tomorrows economy of scale and internet sales cannot be overlooked by the traditional brick store. Internet sales must be a force.

    But lets go to the banker and the manufacturers and look at the money. Betcha the numbers won’t add up for the dealer.