I caught up with Steve Seltzer on his helmet phone as he rode through the sweeping Allegheny mountains near his Altoona, Penn.-based Honda dealership.
Steve is a relatively new player in the powersports game, but he’s making quite the splash in his local market by combining his business management know-how from his career in telecommunications with his lifelong passion for powersports.
“My best friend and I were skiing in Wyoming and I shared with him that I wanted to do something different with my life,” recalls Steve. “He was reading a motorcycle magazine and he threw it at me and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we get into the powersports business?’”
Four days before Steve’s 50th birthday in 2005, he was the proud owner of Steve Seltzer Honda. While Steve was stoked to make his dreams a reality, his shop was more of a nightmare — lacking basic needs like indoor plumbing!
Steve contacted a local developer who showed him a location within a new strip mall. Steve jumped at the opportunity, and was able to move his Honda franchise from the old location, which he politely calls “substandard” to the current 14,000 Tier 4 Honda Powerhouse Facility.
In addition to the store’s Powerhouse status, it’s also received the 2007 Council of Excellence Award from Honda financial Services. A full-time F&I goddess contributes to this success, as does Honda’s reasonable financing rates. “A lot of our customers finance,” says Steve. “I’d say 60% … 3.99% financing is a heck of a rate, and it makes it easier to get people to say, I’ll take
Steve Seltzer Honda also differentiates itself through a high standard of service.
“In service we have three red level techs and one silver,” he humbly boasts. ”We have the most expensive service in the powersports industry in our market, but I think we
also provide the best level
That standard of service extends out of the bays and onto the sales floor. Steve trusts his team, and they’ve done their best to deliver in these tough times.
“We did well this year selling motorcycles, better than we thought we’d do, but we did not do as well in the parts and accessories,” says Steve. “People came in and they bought the bike, but we couldn’t get them to take that next step. We were thankful to get the sale we got.”
Steve says aftermarket P&A has been one of his biggest challenges. “Based on the number of cruisers we’re selling, we should be selling more windshields, we should be selling more saddlebags, more digital audio systems,” says Steve. “The original plan when we opened two years ago was to have a high-end store. We wanted to stock stuff that you wouldn’t find in other shops in our area. We put in pretty good products, and that proved to be one of the mistakes that I made in the product mix … This is a very price-sensitive market: they want the $69 jackets, not the $400 leather.
“Our most expensive helmet that we have is the Nolan. We sell the heck out of it because it’s a really nice product at $200, that’s our top-of-the-line now.
“I learned that you can build a beautiful store, but they still want the $79 special,” concludes Steve.
While Seltzer struggled a bit to find the right mix on the P&A side, his OEM offerings thrived. When he bought the store, it catered mostly to the ATV set, now he’s headlining with cruisers and touring models, doing a brisk Gold Wing business, and he still sees an impressive turn on ATVs and is getting some interest in the dirt bikes, scooters and the PWCs that he’s added to the mix.
While Steve is quick to admit that he’s made some mistakes along the way, he’s well on his way to being an Altoona powersports institution.
The dealerships’s involvement in the community through local rides and events helps create visibility, and riders are brought straight to the store once a week for the MSF Basic RiderCourse.
One of Selzter’s most successful marketing promotions has been his bike giveaways. Riders must come into the store to register to win, and while many just fill out the slip and walk out the door, others stay to browse and buy. He notes that the names he’s garnered for his mailing lists alone are well worth his efforts. Seltzer has a database of 12,000 names and growing.
From all those customers coming through his door, he’s learned one valuable lesson, “What we seemed to learn over the last two years is that you need to sell what sells.”
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