Designing the Powersports Retail Model of the Future

My transition from dealer to OEM is coupled by my experience in the Brigham Young University EMBA program. As a capstone project for Dr. Paul Godfrey’s course, “The General Manager’s Role”, my cohorts and I had the opportunity to work towards identifying solutions to the future powersports buying and ownership experience.

Being parts of the powersports industry for almost 20 years in both the dealer and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) roles, I constantly considered what the future of the business would look like and how we could shape it for the most successful outcome for riders, the end user. As a powersports enthusiast myself, I relate to the need for better buying, riding, and ownership experiences.

Although I was the “smartest guy in the room” on the subject matter, the team and the consumers drove an infinitely better outcome than I could have every produced on my own. The realization that I needed to be and was the most clueless guy in the room was critical to the mission’s successful deliverable.

Great Questions to Combat Personal Bias

Because I am so close to the situation, I am biased. My bias blinds me to realities and possibilities that were discovered by sticking to the process. During our fist group discussion, I realized that my confirmation bias was a tremendous threat to the project. If I espoused a predetermined and favored outcome, the project would never realize the full benefit of the diverse expertise of the team and the strategic process.

Recognizing bias and adjusting for it is key. To do this, I focused on asking the right questions instead of giving answers. Converting my conceived solutions to questions to our group brought out better solutions because five others had insights and angles I never considered. Conversely, when I lacked the discipline to first formulate a questions first, my proposals slowed our progress in some cases.

Team solutions provide much greater outcomes than individual work. To realize the benefits of the team, leadership requires the discipline to identify bias and first pull out the ideas and opinions of others. Breakthrough concepts emerged from the group as we followed this process.

Serve Customers by Understanding Customers

Creating an innovative powersports distribution system was our top priority. We looked closely at the evolving functions of the OEM and dealers. Initially, we were searching for the solution by looking at the inefficiencies and inadequacies of powersports retail distribution and the function and dysfunction of the supply chain. We felt by doing this, we would design a new buying and ownership experience.

There were some interesting trends in other industries that are clearly lagging in the powersports industry. In addition, we identified opportunities to adapt to more innovative methods being deployed in other industries. However, this process was not giving us a deep understanding of powersports enthusiasts pain points and unmet needs.

We realized we needed to gather powersports user preferences. Initially, we decided to email a survey. Dr. Godfrey steered us towards in-depth interviews a variety of powersports users diverse geographies. Working together, we designed a forty-five minute interview. Each of us had some big surprises from the first set of interviews. The second set were all familiar. The subsequent interviews validated the information quickly as we started feeling like Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day”. We could easily predict most of their responses.

The process of identifying the love group and conducting in-depth interviews, or a ZMET analysis, is a powerful way to uncover answers as to what consumers really care about and how important things are and are not to them. We also understand the “why’s” by digging deep.

Even though I am in the powersports “love group” myself, it wasn’t until we performed these interviews that we identified the real problems of the powersports buying and ownership experience. Working from the bottom-up, we were able to discover what is broken in the traditional dealer model based on the perceptions of people that spend tens of thousands of dollars on the products we make and sell.


Three months ago, I started a journey with my incredible team at BYU by bringing them into my world. They came with vast experience in other world-class companies. One of the breakthrough ideas came out of benchmarking one of these companies in the firearms industry.

Our deliverable and final project was full of recommendations for a transformation of the powersports distribution model. The executable strategy could dramatically improve the powersports buying and ownership experience.

However, learning the disciplines of questioning to overcome bias and expand the vision was the most valuable deliverable for me. A disciplined approach to asking the right questions is the key to producing the most successful solutions.





Arctic Cat Acquires Motorfist

Arctic Cat Acquires Motorfist

Chris Metz, new CEO for Arctic Cat (ACAT) made good on his promise from earlier this year. He announced in front of a group of over 400 Arctic Cat Dealers plus employees that Arctic Cat acquired Motorfist, a premium mountain snowmobile clothing Arctic Catcompany headquartered in Idaho. This is a strategic bolt-on alliance that representMotorfists a new era for Arctic Cat. Christopher Metz, Arctic Cat’s new CEO, announced in January, “We currently are developing our strategic growth plans. However, I can say with confidence that we will seek to spur growth through additional . . . small bolt-on acquisitions that quickly enable us to expand our expertise and capabilities, and drive even faster product innovation.” Of the marriage between the two, he stated that this is an example of “one plus one equals three” and that “[Motorfist] is a highly exciting brand”.

Motorfist’s Short Story

Motorfist was founded in 2009 by Brad Ball, an avid snowmobiler and brilliant entrepreneur with a mission to enhance the lives of snowmobilers. He accomplished this by recruiting an all-start team to help him. One of those key people is Josh Skinner, the product development managScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.00.04 PMer for Motorfist. Skinner worked with Ball in 2001 when the Ball launched the Alticity Snowmobile Films series. Alticity snowmobile movies chronicalized the best of what mountain snowmobilers did to have fun in the mountains from a bone stock King Cat to a Apex Turbo. Motorfist was later born out of these early evolutionary mountain riding years. Ball knew from his experiences in the backcountry what riders needed before we knew we needed it. Because of previous experience in the textile business, he had a vision for how to deliver new innovative products.

A Great Team

Arctic Cat’s core values are a close match to Motorfist’s – they are snowmobilers and their passion for snowmobiling drives their decisions. They are both the underdog – smaller and more agile than their competitors. This move elevates the image and Brad Ball Jared Burt Arctic Cat Acquisition of Motorfistexpertise of Arctic Cat and provides them with a substantial new growth opportunity. Arctic Cat will benefit Motorfist internationally with its extensive global distribution network.

Today, Arctic Cat was a new company. Metz is a breath of fresh air. He looks at this business as a challenge and a turn around opportunity. The company has already made big changes in their business practices, helping dealers eliminate aged inventory. Motorfist is a great example of a company that takes care of their dealers to build a strong network. Arctic Cat has realized they need a stronger dealer network and they are doing something about it. Now, their first of what will be many more acquisitions is a step forward, a sign of good things to come for Arctic Cat.

Jack Rabbit Revved Up on Rockstar – 1st Ride on the 2016 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK

My first ride on the Polaris Axys Mountain Snowmobile Chassis in Alpine, Wyoming

Better than Burandt?

2016 Polaris 800 Pro RMK 155IS an average mountain rider better on the Pro RMK Axys than professional rider Chris Burandt on his “old” 2015 Pro RMK? Nope. However, the thought that came to me riding the new 2016 Polaris Pro RMK 800, “I might now be a better rider than Chris Burandt on his 2015 Pro.” I could make the sled do whatever I wanted. Later, I got it stuck in a hole surrounded by trees – I dug a nice, deep trench. Yep, I proved you can still get stuck on the immortal 2016 Pro RMK. I might have been the first to get the 2016 Pro RMK stuck. But I won’t be the last.

All the stuff that feels so good on the Pro chassis is still DNA of the new Axys RMK chassis. The running boards, the handlebar orientation, the feel of the quick belt drive, it’s all there. Polaris did not fetch it up, they took the ProRMK to the “NXT” level. Literally. The ride was out of Dan Adam’s NXT Level Clinic‘s shop in Alpine.

The new 2016 Polaris 800 Pro RMK 155 is more powerful, more responsive and more controllable. It transfers the mood and personality of the rider right into the sled. What ever mood you’re in and regardless of snow conditions, the  sled will do what you want with less effort than ever before.

CONCLUSION: The new 2016 made me a better rider, but only in my dreams as good as Burandt. I may have to wait a few more years for that sled. How can it make you a better rider?

Jack Rabbit on Rockstars

Jack Rabbit playing in SnowBest part….the button that turns on the power. Power is reeling out the track, in a hypersensitive way. It’s like they replaced the throttle lever with a control button that fires the power instantly to the track. I did not really notice hesitation before, but Polaris engineers made it more responsive. A new electronically controlled oil pump makes the engine as responsive as a light switch. The new 2016 Pro RMK hops up on the snow like a jack rabbit revved up on Rockstars. 

168 Horsepower

The 2016 Polaris Pro RMK 800 engine puts out 168 horsepower. DISCLAIMER: “At some dudes dyno shop somewhere on some day in some conditions.” Regardless of the numbers being thrown around, this sled is more powerful and more reliable – as proven on the flat-lander sleds the past season.

The devilish details include a lighter crankshaft, grooved pistons and 3-stage electronic exhaust valves. Polaris engineers fine tuned their power plant recipe to even the horsepower playing field with Cat and Ski–Doo. The dyno wars will be buzzing, but the real tests will continue to play out on the mountain.

408 Pounds Strong

I know what your thinking, “Did they use more glue on the a-arms?” Or, “Are the a-arms going to fold at the first mogul now?” Nope. In fact, the new a-arms are forged aluminum. Lighter, check. Tougher, check.

Track. The all new track has mean, lean 2.6” lugs. More traction and even lighter than the 2.5 track.

Benchpressing a 2016 Pro RMKSIDETRACK: Watch a guy bench press a 2016 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK (basically)

To Play Video of this guy bench pressing 408 pounds CLICK HERE.

Headlights. The new LED lights are lighter in both ways.

AXYS Platform. The new chassis is actually reinforced more at the weak points on the chassis making it stronger than the 2015 Pro chassis. But, they still managed to make it even lighter.


Have Fun Pretending

I am Chris Burandt while riding my Pro RMK the same way I was Michael Jordan on the Elementary School ball court. Kudos to the engineering team at Polaris. 408 pounds made it a little easier to lift out of that treacherous hole in the trees. Now we’ll have even more power, lift and energy to boondoggle through the pow and pretend like we’re Chris Burandt.


Karate Kid of Powersports

Average vs Great Businesses

Average companies and great companies have a great vision, develop innovative strategies, set goals, become accountable to budgets and execute relentlessly. However, what separates the average from the great is focus and fight.

Focus in an organization is the ability to align the vision, strategy, the wildly important goals, budgets andKarate Kid Mr Miagi execution. Fight in an organization is the ability to fall and get back up every single time. Polaris Industries provides an example of both.

Polaris Karate Kid

Tom Tiller was the Karate Kid of the powersports business. During the summer of 2003, I was sitting next to Tom Tiller, Polaris CEO, on a shuttle to ride the new ATV’s that Polaris was introducing at their manufacturing facility in Roseau, Minnesota. Just as he would for any inquirer, Tom clearly described his vision, goals and plan to execute to me. (the 10 minute version) He always had a story with a vision. He knew exactly where he wanted to go. He would fight until he succeeded. Anyone that heard him share his vision could hear the conviction in his voice. His goal: Be a 2 billion dollar business by 2006. Part of their strategy would include acquisitions.

Faced with Failures

2006 was a year of setbacks. In 2005, Polaris posted an impressive 1.9 billion in sales. However, with a poor snowmobile season, Polaris missed the mark under performing it’s prior year sales for the first time in 24 years with less than 1.8 billion in sales that year. In addition, Polaris was pursuing the acquisition of KTM. They purchased a 25% stake in KTM in 2005 as a stage 1, but stage 2 never came and the partnership unraveled prematurely at the end of 2006.

Going Global with Acquisitions

The setback in revenue retraction in 2006 was a catalyst for a revised plan. Dealer News reported, that Tiller and his management team put together a revised three year plan that mandated, “$150 million in net income…on $2.2 billion in sales.” Behind the wildly important goal to achieve 2.2 billion in sales, was a new vision and an aggressive strategic plan to go global and become the leader in powersports.

Goupil Small Electric Vehicle
Goupil Electric Vehicle

Although the KTM deal never materialized into a full blown acquisition, it helped Polaris prepare for several successful acquisitions in the coming years. The best result from the KTM deal was the framework that was established for Polaris to be a company that executes successful acquisitions.

Successful Polaris acquisitions in just the past four years include Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) from Chrysler in 2010, Indian Motorcycles and Goupil in 2011, Eicher Motors (a joint-partnership) and Klim in 2012, Aixam Mega in 2013, Koplin in 2014. Besides gaining acquisitions experience, the KTM deal helped Polaris expand operations in Europe propelling their expansion into a global company. After 2006 Tiller and his leadership team learned from the setbacks and established a framework for the future.

No Fear Fight with RZR

Throughout 2006 and lasting a few years, Yamaha got beat to a pulp with lawsuits and media attention over roll over accidents in their popular recreational side by side, the Rhino. In the summer of 2007, one of our sales guys actually took a customer for a demo ride. The salesperson decided to impress the customer by spinning a cookie behind the Rexburg Motorsports facility.

Jared Burt riding Polaris RZR at St Anthony Sand Dunes
Jared Burt riding Polaris RZR at St Anthony Sand Dunes. Dealer News published the story in July, 2008.

The customer stuck his leg out as it started rolling over, and snap. The ambulance came and hauled him away. It was a mess. The settlement between his attorney, Yamaha and our insurance company wasn’t resolved for four years. This was only one of hundreds and hundreds of cases filed against Yamaha. Later that year Yamaha released an update installing doors and wheel spacers on all Rhinos, but it just made the lawsuits come in even faster.

How does Polaris respond to this adverse market risk? Do they pull their similar Ranger vehicle off the market because of the risks of lawsuits? No, they fight! In 2006, Tiller and his leadership team finalize plans (in the peak of the national Yamaha lawsuits) to launch the all new sport Ranger RZR. (They obviously weren’t looking for advise from their legal department.) The RZR is a faster, more sporty and aggressive version of a Rhino that came to market mid-2007. The Polaris RZR has been wildly successful and today Polaris dominates the side by side market in both the utility and sport segment. RZR became metaphorical “crane kick” that propelled Polaris past the recession. (See Karate Kid crane kick video)

The antithesis of the bold RZR launch was the death of the Rhino. Yamaha pioneered the recreational side by side market starting in 2004. They had the manufacturing capability to launch innovative sport side by sides that would have been difficult for Polaris to compete with. Instead, Yamaha’s sales took a nose dive because they decided not to fight with new sport model introductions and discontinued Rhino production last year.

The Results of Focus and Fight

By 2013 Polaris revenues increased to $3.7 billion, the fourth consecutive year of 15% growth in both revenue and earnings. Polaris also eclipsed Harley Davidson as the new global powersports leader. Tom Tiller is long gone from the organization, having turned the reigns over to Scott Wine and Bennett Morgan in 2008. The setbacks and failures in 2006 were the turning point which necessitated more intense focus. The courageous response of Tiller and his team had set Polaris up for tremendous success.

A New Fight with Focus

The setbacks and courageous decision to get back up and fight in 2006 resulted in a plan with aligned vision, strategy, wildly important goals, budgets and execution. The KTM deal gone sour helped them prepare for future acquisitions and develop a distribution network in Europe. They deployed strategy to create new product segments and acquire companies including entry into the global small electric vehicle market. Polaris has updated and upgraded their wildly important goal. A business journal recently reported “[Polaris] sees 2020 revenues around $8.0 billion, representing a 12% compounded annual growth rate. This should be achieved by 5-8% organic growth, with another $2 billion revenue contribution from acquisitions. Net income should increase towards $850 million, as net profit margins should increase above the 10% mark.”1 The goal is aggressive, and they will probably have some setbacks on the way. The good news is that this company has an incredible amount of focus and fight. Don’t be surprised when they succeed in achieving this audacious goal.

Being Great

Polaris introduced the new Victory Magnum bagger at their 60th Anniversary Meeting in 2014.
Polaris introduced the new Victory Magnum bagger at their 60th Anniversary Meeting in 2014.

Polaris became great because of DNA within the company, leadership and culture to focus and fight. Guided by a strong vision, they pursued their principles in the face of failure. Too Frequently, there is a disconnect in a leader’s vision with the goals. Often, the budget does not reflect strategies that are being implemented. Executing effectively and decisively requires focus; aligning the vision, strategy, budget and wildly important goals. When results don’t go as planned, there is a set back, or mistakes are made. Learn from Polaris’ example, get back up, focus and fight!

1 Seeking Alpha, Polaris Industries – Great Long-Term Investment, Has Seen Runaway Momentum In 2013

The ‘Motorcycle’ Innovator’s Dilemma

The ‘Motorcycle’ Innovator’s Dilemma

In his business classic, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, Clayton Christensen identifies that the reasons well managed organizations fail managing disruptive innovations. Ironically, those reason are the same reasons organizations are successful managing sustaining innovations. Christensen explains, “paradigms of sound management are useless – even counterproductive, in many instances – when dealing with disruptive technology.” Honda’s entry into the motorcycle industry in the United States is used as a primary example to demonstrate disruptive technology principles in Christensen’s book that help the reader understand the principles of and how to manage disruptive technologies.Honda Supercub Ad
Honda’s Big Mistake and Little Miracle
Honda brought three employees to Los Angeles in 1959 to set up shop and compete against Harley Davidson. They started distributing the “Honda Dream with similar features to the Harley”. Like other well operated companies, Honda researched the US market, listened to what customers wanted and executed well. The well researched strategy failed to meet management expectations even though 500 new Honda dealers embraced the idea. Honda needed a disruptive technology to enter a market dominated by Harley.
As Honda discovered their disruptive technology, the smaller, off-road capable Supercub; business erupted with unpredictable and unplanned new growth. Christensen states, “Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.” He goes on to explain that, “Small off-road motorcycles introduced in North America and Europe by Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha were disruptive technologies relative to the powerful, over-the-road cycles made by Harley-Davidson and BMW.” Japanese workers brought little Cub motorcycles for personal use and realized that they were a blast to ride in the foothills of southern California. This little miracle was the beginning of the launch of a little motorcycle that would totally disrupt the Harley dominated motorcycle market. Honda had a disruptive technology, now they needed to find customers.
When Listening To Dealers (Your Customers) is Bad
Honda’s dealer network did not embrace the new little Supercub. “Once the small-bike strategy was formally adopted, the team found that securing dealers for the Supercub was an even more vexing challenge than it had been for its big bikes.” As Honda management had assumed previously, their dealer network felt like they needed something that would compete with Harley, and to the dealers, the Supercub was a inferior product.
Listening to customers in an established value network works for launching new sustaining innovations. Researched based forecasting, listening to customers, established manufacturing processes and go to market strategies that are used to successfully launch sustaining products does not work to manage disruptive products. Christensen proves that “…paradigms of sound management (like listening to customers) are useless-even counterproductive, in many instances-when dealing with disruptive technology.”
It’s a good thing Honda didn’t listen to their dealer network that rejected the Supercub. The emerging small motorcycle market had to be launched in a totally different and less significant distribution channel for the motorcycle world, a small group of sporting goods stores.
Dealers are Barriers to Disruptive Technology
Honda’s customers (their dealers), became a barrier to disruptive technology because they were focused on taking share in the existing motorcycle market of large, over-the-road bikes. These dealers had processes and cost structures that required price points with certain margins. Established customers do not recognize the potential of disruptive products because “…when they initially emerge, neither manufacturers nor customers know how or why the products will be used, and hence do not know what specific features or the product will and will not ultimately be valued”
Honda’s entry and creation of the off-road motorcycle business would have been stopped if they had not sought an alternative distribution network by selling to Sporting Goods stores. Christensen teaches, “…the successful entrants find a new market that values the technology.” The little off-road capable motorcycles started a revolution that grew the American motorcycle market to 5 million sold per year by 1975.
The business models of Harley dealers were aligned with Harley’s established high end motorcycle business. The Harley dealer network became a barrier to Harley Davidson entering the disruptive off road motorcycle market. Christensen noted “…a primary cause of Harley’s failure to establish a strong presence in the small-bike value network was the opposition of its dealer network. Their profit margins were far greater on high-end bikes, and many of them felt the small machines compromised Harley-Davidson’s image with their core customers.” Even today, more than 50 years after the launch of the Supercub, Harley Davidson has zero market share in the off-road motorcycle market. The dealers were the barrier because they told Harley no, and Harley listened.
The Dilemma Resolved
Managing disruptive technology is counter-intuitive to to great organizational management. Christensen observed, “successful companies populated by good managers have a genuinely hard time doing what does not fit their model for how to make money.” Honda had a break through because they resolved that dilemma. Honda’s example shows that disruptive technology should be pursued as a learning and discovery pursuit instead of the traditional execution principles used for sustaining innovations. Honda employees discovered and learned by riding them and watching how their friends responded to them which became the beginning of an emerging market.
Being prepared to fail and not give up during the learning process is key. Christensen reveals that managers must first understand these conflicts, then create a context where the market size, organizational size and values and cost structures are aligned with a smaller emerging market just as Harley missed out on and Honda ultimately succeeded in resolving. – Jared Burt

Giving to Others with Motorcycles and Ice Buckets

When something bad happens to someone, instinctively we want to help. A helping hand turns into many helping hands as someones challenge is taken on as a challenge by others to respond. It starts a movement.

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a movement that has raised millions for research for ALS, also know as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. The father of a close friend was recently diagnosed. So, when Polaris CEO challenged Polaris dealers to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I responded, donated and got drenched in ice water. It seems crazy. It is, but it worked.

Ice Bucket Challenge Response to Polaris

Another movement I was lucky to be a part of was the Wesley’s Warrior’s motorcycle rally. Wesley was an awesome young man that didn’t live to far away from our motorcycle shop. After being diagnosed with cancer, his wish was to be in a motorcycle gang. His wish came true as motorcyclists from all over East Idaho responded to the challenge with their motorcycle and generous donations to help Wesley and his family. Like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, people of all backgrounds with nothing in common other than a motorcycle came to be a part of a movement.

Wesley’s Warriors Motorcycle Gang

People around us face challenges, big and small, every single day. It doesn’t take a movement to give a helping hand. The Savior taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these…ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40, King James Holy Bible) and that we should “iGive, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38) Whether we are ministering individually to someone that needs uplifting in a simple way or we are serving side by side with the multitudes, we can make a difference and be blessed with a little more happiness and a fuller life. It doesn’t really matter if we are pouring water on our head or helping someone get up that falls down, we just need to give! – Jared Burt

Surfing Asphalt on the Polaris Slingshot

Giddy with a broad smile, a bug actually stuck to my teeth. Early on the morning following Polaris 2015 product launch in Minneapolis, I was finally riding the worst kept secret in Powersports; the 2015 Polaris Slingshot. I was being convinced. Was it really a motorcycle? I had to flash my motorcycle endorsement before I rode. I was wearing a helmet. I could sense everything around me, the wind on my chest and a bug in my teeth. Then, the twisties came. Nope. It’s a car. A car that sits only 5 inches off the ground and rails around corners, but definitely a car.

Best guess on top speed is 135 MPH
Best guess on Slingshot top speed is 135 MPH

Technically, it’s a three wheel roadster, the term used to describe the three wheel hit, the Can Am Spyder. Nevertheless, I was having a blast on this new Roaster with the 2.4 liter General Motors EcoTech engine at 173 horsepower, 166 foot pounds of torque and a 5-speed manual transmission. Polaris engineers designed it with the perfect center of gravity utilizing mass optimization. Then, they added a coil over a-arm front suspension that soaks up all the bumps. It also stays planted around corners with the help of an anti-roll bar. Slingshot has a rear aluminum swingarm for the traction controlled rear wheel which is how Polaris earned the official motorcycle classification. It still let me lay a patch of rubber at a stop light because traction control is turned off at low speeds. It weighs in at 1,687 pounds and gets about 25 MPG and a fuel range over 200 miles. My guess is the Slingshot’s top speed is 135 MPH. No one would say what it is and I only got it up to 80 on the highway but top speed will come out soon enough.

Jared Burt First Slingshot RideThe base model retails for $19,999.  Four thousand dollars more will get you the SL Edition in red that comes with over $5,000 in accessories including a premium audio system, backup camera with a large LCD screen,a windshield and nicer bigger wheels and tires.

Riding around the suburbs of Minneapolis, it was fun to see the kids stop everything and stare as we rode by. The exotic look of the Slingshot makes it a fun vehicle to show off. More importantly, the Slingshot is a blast to ride. So whether it’s a car, a motorcycle or a roadster, Polaris stayed true to their core and has designed and built another innovative vehicle with a fun factor that will get your heart pumping a little faster every time you surf asphalt. – Jared Burt

Worn Out Tires and Peace on Earth

The Riding Experience1928 Indian Scout

Robert M. Pirsig described the powersports experience best in his book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values”, when he states; “In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

That sense of presence is the common experience of riders of all types of powersports vehicles on the open road, the windy forest trail or the snow powdered mountainside. Small machines, built for one or two riders, enable us to feel the surface beneath us, to smell the scents of our surroundings, to feel the breeze and fluctuations of temperature in our bones and to see the world we are in. I love the scent of campfires, the brisk air when passing by a brook, the sights seen in the open air environment. Being “in the scene” as Mr. Pirsig puts it, can be enjoyed on a motorcycle, dirt bike, snowmobile, or an ATV/SXS.
So, why do so many motorcycles and ATV’s get stored away in the corner of a garage collecting dust? What can the powersports industry do to ensure utilization?
The Manufacturers Mission
The design and manufacturing process of powersports vehicles is fundamentally based on the mission of creating the ultimate user experience. Mr. Pirsig continued, “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right.” The first Indian Scout, the Honda Dream, the Suzuki Hayabusa and thousands of other “satisfaction machines” have passed the test. However, building great machines is not enough to achieve the desired experiences. Manufacturers that establish a strong dealer network will win.
The Dealers Responsibility
Motorcycle ShopFinal execution of the mission to give “satisfaction” and produce “tranquility” is delivered at the motorcycle shop.  The dealer is the face of the brand. Unfortunately, there are some ugly faces in powersports. It doesn’t even matter so much if the face is small or large. What matters most is a buying experience that matches the motorcycle mantra. The motorcycle buying process largely determines the ownership and riding experience.
I will be delighted with my motorcycle to the extent that I repeatedly have good rides. If the sidewalls on my tires start cracking before my tread disappears, it has sadly become an ornament in the garage. Dealers have a responsibility to instill confidence in buyers so they want to ride often. This can be accomplished by engaging the buyer in six ways.
  1. Sell the right machine based on needs and desires after a consultation and test rides.
  2. Set up the motorcycle for the specific rider and terrain.
  3. Teach the rider how to utilize each function of the machine well.
  4. Instruct the rider on the proper break-in procedures, pre-ride inspection routine and maintenance requirements.
  5. Ensure the rider has opportunities to participate on group rides and/or receives riding resource information.
  6. Provide continuous, befriending service support.

If the dealer fails to execute any of these, the rider will be less likely to make riding a priority, losing interest. Confident motorcycle owners become passionate riders. Passionate riders experience satisfaction and demonstrate fierce loyalty. Passion is the ingredient that separates the auto industry from the powersports industry. It’s the magic potion of powersports.

Peace on Earth
Motorcycle manufacturers drive innovation to create the ultimate user experience. This is derailed in the retail channel when bad buying experiences bleed into the ownership experience. The six dealer/rider interactions will inspire confidence if executed. The results are simple: worn out tires and peace on earth. – Jared Burt