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Industry Profile: K&L Supply

Service and Safety Sell

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— Service Manager David Guy, Grand Prix Cycle of Santa Clara
With more than 10,000 part numbers and counting, K&L Supply isn’t what you’d call a small business, but that’s exactly how this industry giant got its start four decades ago. Company founder and president Joe Lee started K&L supply as a basic repair/machine shop, but when he saw the rise in popularity of Hondas in the late 1960s, he saw an opportunity. “I bought 40 [Hondas] and added bike rentals to the repair and machine business,” says Lee. “You need to take advantage of opportunities. When there became a big demand for parts, I decided to transform the business from a retail shop into a manufacturing and distributing company. There were lots of challenges along the way, but I really enjoy figuring out how to get things done.”

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As the business grew, demand shifted, and K&L’s focus shifted along with it. Today K&L still stocks replacement parts, but the main focus of the business is on tools and equipment. “Service is an important part of any successful dealership, and supporting that segment is where we have achieved our greatest success.”

With new unit sales sagging, the realities of today’s dealership make the emphasis on service more imperative than ever. “There’s a pretty large pool of bikes from the mid-’80s to late ’90s,” says K&L’s product/marketing specialist Jim Bell. “These are good machines, and we’re finding people are willing to spend $1,000 or $2,000 to keep them running as opposed to looking at a new unit for $10,000-plus. That fact has definitely helped drive not only K&L’s sales, but that means our dealers are generating service business and that’s profitable.”

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According to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s 2008 Motorcycle/ATV Owner Survey, the average age of all motorcycles in use is 10.8 years. The traditional bike market’s average age is a sky-high 24.4 years. To reiterate Bell’s point, these units are prime targets for service, and 2008 MIC figures also show that interest in home wrenching is waning: 40 percent of all riders have their units serviced at an independent mechanic/shop or at a motorcycle dealer.

Service Efficiency

So how can K&L help your service department take advantage of this aging pool of motorcycles and a population losing interest in fixing them at home? One word: efficiency. Service managers can sometimes struggle to get the dealer principal to invest in updated shop tools and equipment. “You have to present some numbers,” suggests Bell. “It’s helpful for a service manager to put together something that shows the dollars that a piece of equipment will generate: ‘If I have this lift, I can turn out three times as many units in the same eight hour day.’” Figures that pump up the profit margins definitely will help sell the principal on new equipment, and K&L’s innovative YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/klsupply) will help convince the entire team that the quality presented by K&L is second-to-none.

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Bell compares the video product presentations to a virtual trade show. K&L currently has 26 videos on its site and has received 27,000 hits and counting. You can virtually demo the MC615R Air Lift or see the MC135 Bead Buster in action. “Video is strong in terms of a marketing tool for us,” says Bell. “The nature of the equipment is such that video presentation typically will answer a lot of questions in a shorter amount of time as opposed to trying to talk to someone on the phone, plus it’s amazing how quickly the videos go viral.”

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That grassroots approach builds consumer awareness with K&L products, opening up sales opportunities for hand tools, smaller shop equipment as well as parts and accessories.

Bell also says that the move from 2-strokes to 4-strokes in the off-road aftermarket has been good for K&L supply. “A lot of dirt people are hands on, and they’re just more likely to make a run at it,” he says.

When it comes down to it, whether he’s wrenching at home or bringing his bike into your store, it’s crucial that your customer’s bike stays road ready, and K&L has not only the service tools and equipment but also the replacement parts to keep him going for the long haul.
 
Safety Sells

I’ve seen some interesting MacGyver-inspired shop setups in my day — not only will a jury-rigged shop cost you in efficiency, but it may cause a lawsuit-inducing injury at some point.

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Safety is a huge selling point for K&L. “During the process of introducing our product into Europe, we needed to obtain C.E. certification for motorcycle lifts,” explains Lee. “C.E certification includes some more stringent standards for lifts than the U.S. market requires. As a result, all of our lifts, regardless of what market they are destined for now, feature a covered, dual pedal for safer operation and have been issued U.S. and International patents. Safety has always been a major concern when designing and manufacturing our products, finding new methods to enhance end user safety is an ongoing goal for us.”

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From the early days as a repair shop to international expansion, Lee has always had his eye on the needs of our ever-changing market. “No matter what business segment you are pursuing, if you can develop targeted products for your customers and present them with passion, you will succeed,” says Lee. “The key to succeed is to identify the need; then adapt, rise and deliver.”

We can’t wait to see what Lee and the team at K&L Supply deliver next!

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