“If you’re a new-ish rider and are looking for a place that’s super-supportive, answers all your questions, doesn’t overcharge and offers really helpful customer service — then quit reading now and ride here. These guys are fantastic.”
That’s the Yelp review one customer left after being pleased with a visit to Southwest Superbikes in Dallas. That level of service and understanding is in large part thanks to Mark Peterson, who owns the dealership. Peterson is a born salesperson and rider. Peterson started riding at the age of 10, was hired as a salesperson as a teenager and was managing a showroom at the Dallas World Trade Center at the age of 19.
Skill in both selling and riding set him on the road to his current business of selling pre-owned motorcycles. Peterson’s employer at the Trade Center mentored him, teaching Peterson how to connect with and sell to people. The boss also, with no success, tried to convince him to save his money and not spend it on motorcycles. By that time, Peterson was spending his off hours at the local track.
When the economy found itself in a recession when Peterson was in his early 20s, he was laid off and short of funds to continue his racing. To make ends meet, Peterson started buying nonrunners, fixing them up and selling them. Without a garage, Peterson would chain the project bikes to the stairs.
Peterson was good at both repairing and selling bikes, and a friend started helping with the effort. By 1988, business was good enough that Peterson found a shop to rent with minimal living quarters in back. The friend had shied away when Peterson started talking about getting a shop but wanted to join in when he saw the store Peterson had created. They were partners for years before Peterson bought him out several years ago.
The business has shifted gears several times over the 30-plus years it has been open. Called Southwest Superbikes, the pre-owned shop started out catering to racers, which led to a sideline of manufacturing racing parts. When sportbikes were new and hot in the early 1990s, Southwest Superbikes started concentrating on selling used sportbikes.
“We grew from there,” Peterson says. “We were always all pre-owned — until a year ago.”
As Peterson and his partner learned the market, they added other types of motorcycles. In 2001, they bought the building Southwest Superbikes is in now. A few years ago, Peterson started riding dual sports and was impressed by the Betas he saw, made by a small Italian manufacturer who specializes in off-road motorcycles. He started negotiations and ended up with a Beta franchise.
Southwest Superbikes does very little advertising, which is thanks to strong word of mouth, the Southwest Superbikes website and excellent reviews on social media bringing in most customers. “We stay busy,” Mark says. The average person who shows up has a fairly good idea of what he or she wants and expects a good deal on a mechanically sound machine.
In order to meet customers’ expectations, Peterson runs a cost-effective business, with money only spent on essentials. Although the Southwest Superbikes facility is clean, functional and well lit, it was not designed by an interior decorator. “I tell people, we are a motorcycle guys’ motorcycle shop,” he says. There are only seven employees, including two salespeople. Peterson does all the purchasing. “Due to COVID, we cut down on inventory but made more money. Right now, we only have 65 motorcycles, which is super low for us. The trick is to have the right bike in the correct segment of the market.”
There are other ways to get the word out besides advertising. Southwest Superbikes was a presence at the Bonneville Salt Flats for years, setting world records on motorcycles customized for the salt in-house. Bikes built by Peterson and his crew have put five people into the 200 mph club. When the IMS show visits Texas, Peterson contributes vintage bikes to the show, making sure his shop logo is on a sign near the display. There is a vintage museum upstairs at the shop, and Peterson occasionally sells vintage two wheelers, like a stock 1963 Harley-Davidson Panhead that recently went out the door.
Peterson wants his customers to be happy, and he wants his employees to put customers at ease. “I tell my salespeople, ‘Don’t ask anyone if you can help them,” he says. “Ask them if they want something to drink (employees often hand out sodas). Tell customers to sit on every bike here before they make up their minds. Make sure you offer a delivery option. We deliver all over the place.”
All of the employees are riders and enthusiasts and know the local terrain. If someone is looking for a dirt bike, someone at the shop knows where the best trails are and is encouraged to share this information with customers. If someone is looking for a sportbike, that person will be told where the good roads are. Cruisers will be given Bike Night flyers. The point is to make customers relax and to help them understand everyone at Southwest Superbikes is a motorcycle person. The friendly, low-key vibe makes both customers and employees happy, cuts employee turnover and sells motorcycles.
“Service is a balancing act,” Peterson says. “We are slowly going up in labor rates.” The aim is to make the shop’s cost-conscious customers happy while still staying profitable. Southwest Superbikes has a small but tight-knit crew that gets consistent high marks from customers for cost-effective repairs that are right the first time. The service department also preps the used bikes that come in, so that customers can buy with confidence, knowing that their new ride will be on the road for a long time.
Although Southwest Superbikes’ business model is centered around pre-owned, dealer-prepared motorcycles, the shop also sells some accessory lines, including Quin Design’s new carbon fiber “smart” helmets, LS2 helmets and Scorpion helmets, as well as the Fly Racing line of on- and off-road apparel and accessories.
Peterson believes strongly in giving back to the motorcycle community as well. He opens his shop for meetings of the North Texas Norton Owners Association. He is a founding board member of the National Powersports Dealer Association, a new organization started in 2021, whose mission is to “help the franchised and independent powersports dealer through special services, products, programs, education and advocacy of dealer views.” Peterson is proud of the organization’s work, which gives a helping hand in what can be a chancy and stressful business.
Looking forward to the next five years, Southwest Superbikes is starting to give space on the floor to e-motorcycles and e-assist pedal bikes, despite Texas admittedly not being as strong a market for these bikes as other states. Peterson also foresees a market correction coming soon. “The market has been hot for two years,” he says. “What goes up also goes down. But I think we are going to be OK.”
2361 Fabens Rd.
Dallas, TX 75229
Contact: (972) 418-0555 or https://www.southwestsuperbikes.com/
Number of employees: 7
Aftermarket: Fly Racing, Scorpion, Quin Helmets, Parts Unlimited
NPDA Elevating All Dealers
The National Powersports Dealer Association (NPDA) was founded in 2021 to help the franchised and independent powersports dealer through special services, products, programs, education and advocacy of dealer views and concerns to create a professional, successful and profitable industry.
“Our vision is for the NPDA to advance our industry by elevating dealers to be well prepared, sustainably profitable and exceed the expectations of a growing powersports customer base,” explains Peterson, one of nine founding board members. “NPDA is an association dedicated to direct interaction with our members.”
Even if you don’t join the non-profit association, he suggests at least checking it out. “NPDA welcomes feedback as to what we can do to improve our services and site for your needs.”
For the NPDA to become a productive and powerful force, Peterson points out the need to expand the membership base and bring all of the franchised and independent dealers in the country together.
See more at https://www.npda.org/about-us.