Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeNEWSOld fashioned, but I am happy in the weeds

Old fashioned, but I am happy in the weeds

I really am surprised that the humble whispers in previous letters from my little shop have resonated enough to be heard. For many years I tried to talk to the industry I love, only to be met with laughter and immediate dismissal. It’s ironic that now my words have some small meaning.

We all know the game is in decline, many offer reasons but I can only offer opinion based on what I see from the outside sitting on the veranda looking at the closing stages of a party I have always been rejected from.

Here are some of the points I’d like to make. From what I can see the bike business is much like politics with decisions made by the powers that are often short sighted and offering only short-term fixes. Just like politicians, industry decisions and changes are made to allow those making them feel they have achieved progress, at least within the short term of their appointment. Almost inevitably they are changed and twisted by the next individual’s short-term views. Never is there a long-term plan.

Let’s take new riders, for example. What’s the incentive? Ownership of machines is nearly no longer relevant. Government has long been planning significant changes to the modern transport system with electric driverless systems etc. As such the catastrophic introduction of PCP finance has aided government to diminish the sense of ownership which was so important to the motorcycle fraternity. Few and far between are the riders that say their bike is special to them. That’s replaced with the absolute sense that it’s not their bike to own and will simply return it when the agreement is up. I believe we will see the disastrous consequences of selling machines that riders can’t really afford. For too long people have looked at the monthly cost not the buying cost and when we return to standard HP finance and those monthly payments are four/five times higher, more riders gone. Why would you spend 20K+ for a new motorcycle when a two-year-old bike is half the cost, an abundance of them having been returned to dealers? PCP is a short-term solution with no long-term plan behind it when it ends.

Let’s talk about future dealer development. I have it on good authority that for an independent to move up to main dealer status is near impossible, unless you have a million in your pocket and own the building you’re in. If I had a million and the freehold the last place I would put it is in the hands of a manufacturer/importer. I asked two of the top five manufacturers what their plan was should a large multi-franchise dealer suddenly close their doors? Their answer, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”. Well I believe that bridge is coming but will there be any one left to cross it?
I approached my bank manager about potential funding if the chance ever came to join the franchised club and he told me in the 22 years he has served my area he has never lent to a bike business because there is no evidence that any investment will get a return.

No longer do I hold any aspiration or excitement in looking forward to growing and employing more people. Instead I have come to terms with what we are, small, independent, stable, debt free and cash rich. For years I believed I was missing out, but now I very much thank the industry for saving me from the pressures and difficulties now being experienced by the network. I feel sorry for dealers, stuck between a rock and a hard place, dictated to in every way, unable to be flexible enough to cope with the rapidly changing society we now live in.

If a manufacturer were to offer me a franchise would I take it? Under current polices never! I will live out my days doing what I enjoy, serving decent people in a way I wish to be treated. Old fashioned if you like but I am happy in the weeds.

Well I think that is enough of my simple views, maybe I have it all wrong, I genuinely hope I have.
Rob Ticehurst – Newstreet Motorcycles

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