Peninsula Triumph owners John and Melinda Dionas couldn’t have opened their Port Orchard, Wash., dealership at a worse time than November 2009. Not only is western Washington in a recession, but the region was already well into its winter rainy season by then. Plus, the Triumph brand, while it’s well-storied in motorcycle history, can only be considered a niche brand today alongside Harley-Davidson and the Japanese brands.
None of this seems to bother John and Melinda, however, because when it comes to new vehicle sales, they are experienced niche marketers. The couple already owns well-established Subaru and Suzuki auto dealerships in Port Orchard, and dealership manager Steve Taylor is quick to point out that both of these brands attract buyers who are independent thinkers looking for a quality product. He feels sure that the experience the company has in selling specialty cars will translate into selling specialty motorcycles like Triumph’s.
Plus, Taylor points out, the staff may be new to motorcycle sales, but they aren’t new to bikes.
“Most of the staff already ride,” says Taylor, “ and the owner has always had a soft spot for the Triumph brand. His grandfather started riding them way back when.”
With the Suzuki dealership already established, launching the Triumph side was much less financially daunting than if John and Melinda had began from scratch.
“We had available space at the Suzuki store,” says Taylor, “and we were looking for an opportunity outside of the car business. The British-built Triumph just fits.”
Another factor in helping them decide to go with the British manufacturer was that they would be the only Triumph dealer in the West Sound. All the other Triumph stores are in the Seattle metro area, more than an hour away by ferry boat. Additionally, the Port Orchard location is within 20 minutes of three navy bases and the populous city of Bremerton.
There is heavy competition within the region for motorcycle dollars — H-D, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki dealerships are all nearby — but Taylor feels Triumph’s unique appeal and performance will garner sales. He points out that within his store’s first six weeks of operation, it sold seven motorcycles — not bad considering the dismal weather.
However, it is not just new bike sales that are being rung up at the register. Like other dealerships, Peninsula Triumph sells trade-ins, has a full service department (with three lifts and three mechanics), and has an active parts department. What’s more, it carries Triumph’s full line of clothing, gear, helmets and ride accessories.
Taylor also points out that the parts department is already doing brisk over-the-counter sales to locals who no longer have to make the long journey across Puget Sound to buy P&A. He also says clothing and riding gear sales currently account for about 60 percent of the store’s revenue, and he expects that figure to remain high as the dealership matures; in addition to two full-time motorcycle salespeople, Peninsula Triumph also has a dedicated accessory and clothing salesperson.
Of course, attracting walk-ins to a motorcycle dealership during a rainy winter isn’t always that easy, but the store’s location on busy State Highway 16 assures plenty of visibility to passersby, and the fact that the new bike dealership shares lot space with the company’s existing Subaru and Suzuki car franchises also brings in customers.
Bikers are already finding the new store to be a friendly place to congregate, with little sales pressure and lots of bike talk; there’s even a TV that was showing NFL playoffs when I visited. John and Melinda also host Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes at the dealership, after which eager future riders mull Triumph lore and freely dream of one day owning one of the iconic motorcycles.
This may be a difficult time to open a new dealership, but as evident in Peninsula Triumph, if you do it right, success can be had in any financial climate.