Many people around the country are anticipating the end of 2020 as a sigh of relief. In March, powersports dealers held their breath as pandemic shutdowns closed showrooms nationally, but within weeks of the summer season beginning, dealers were selling out of inventory at record numbers.
“Across a lot of the dealer networks, especially in the U.S., the pandemic actually helped the industry, for both gas and electric vehicles,” UBCO U.S. President, Ethan Ralston said. “A lot of people are looking for new ways to ride and there are a lot of new riders, which was created from the pandemic.”
Getting outside is the biggest reason consumer interest increased for the powersports industry.
“The big push in the market is off-road adventure exploring,” Ralston explained. “Commuting is still there, but more people are trying to get outside of the city.” As a result, first time riders are looking to buy.
For some new customers, learning how to ride can be very intimidating, especially someone who has never experienced a throttle and clutch on a motorcycle. Finding a solution to eliminate the intimidation factor for new riders has opened the door into the electric segment.
“I think the big thing in the electric market and what dealers in the whole industry should be looking at is ‘how do we attract new riders to the sport,’” Ralston said. “That’s where electric really shines because new riders who have potentially no experience can easily ride. A gas-powered vehicle is much more technical; with a clutch, shifting, a foot brake and they’re heavy. With electric, it’s simple for new riders to learn. Our bikes have a low center of gravity, they’re lightweight, with a twist and go throttle and brakes are on top like a bicycle.”
Electric also brings riding options for the tech-savvy consumer.
“What dealers should be looking at, from sales to the general manager, is the new technology in electric vehicles,” Ralston said. “Electric batteries are silent. There are different levels of batteries with our bikes and each battery turns into a portable power supply. Our new batteries on all 2021 models are also IP67 rated, which is a first in the industry. This helps add to that unique outdoor experience because a rider could be out on the trails during the day, and when they set up camp at night, they can charge their phone or run lights in a tent with the same battery that powers their bike, and still be able to go on an additional ride the next day.”
The Outdoor Experience
The challenges of keeping inventory in stock during the pandemic has given dealers the opportunity to get creative with their floorspace to cater to the unique outdoor demand.
“Now, dealers are looking at morphing part of their dealership into an outdoor experience,” Ralston said. “Dealers are starting to morph showrooms into lifestyle showcases. Since they can’t fill their dealership up with 100 bikes now, they are thinking about creating an outdoor lifestyle adventure area that showcases cool new products and attracts new riders.”
Ralston suggests opening up the outdoor adventure segment to more than one product for best results, “I would encourage all dealers to look at the outdoor adventure segment because it’s not just about selling a bike, it’s creating more of that lifestyle market with multiple brands. It could be adding pop up tents, portable power stations and UBCO bikes, tow hitches and bike racks. Dealers need to think about how they can get people out and exploring more.”
Inventory & E-commerce
Electric is a key component to the outdoor adventure segment, because unlike many gas-powered vehicles that are waiting on parts to finish production, electric vehicles are available now to fill the open dealership floorspace.
“At UBCO, we’re one of the leading electric companies, but electric is still not as big as gas, so we don’t have as many constraints on trying to find the volume of components, which delays production,” Ralston said. “Dealers are looking for ways to get inventory, to be able to sell it and actually make a profit. If they can’t get any products from other gas-powered OEMs, the challenge for a lot of dealers heading into 2021 is a lot of what they’ve been experiencing throughout 2020 and it won’t dramatically change come Jan. 1. Dealers will need to get creative and look at adding other products to sell to continue running their businesses successfully.”
Whether you are looking to add a new brand to your dealership, branch out into the electric segment, or find a way to attract new riders to the sport, working with your OEM can ease the stress of starting something new.
“The pandemic helped digitize everything,” Ralston said. “For our dealers at UBCO, we launched UBCO University, which is our digital training and onboarding platform. Everyone in the dealership has access to our online curriculum system and the staff can learn at their own pace on their own time.”
With screen time dramatically increasing in 2020, as we head into 2021, dealers should be focusing on e-commerce solutions to meet customers where they are most comfortable.
“Buyers are changing because of the pandemic,” Ralston explained. “Consumers are at home, trying to be safe from COVID. Dealers need to give them the power to find you online, get that new outdoor market lifestyle feel when they go to your website and have the option to make a purchase through the dealer’s website.”
Ralston continued, “I know some of our dealers have a heavy focus on e-commerce because they need that capability where there’s a 24/7 sales rep sitting there. It can be really affordable to add e-commerce and give the customer the ability to make a purchase at midnight, while they’re sitting on their couch and they’ve decided, ‘Hey, I want that. Let’s buy it!’ Then, schedule an appointment to pick it up at the dealership. Digital floor space will becomes equally important as physical floor space.”
From financing to digital marketing programs and being flexible with your needs, OEMs, like UBCO, are making it easier to for dealers to adapt during the pandemic.
“We’ve added two things since the pandemic hit,” Ralston said. “First, we changed up our packaging to be a much more user friendly, where the bike is 99% assembled. What that does is it opens up the opportunity for a dealer to place an order and drop ship it somewhere. Second, we’ve built a whole logistic network and launched a ‘Click and Collect’ program. If someone is on our website, we’re going to act as a 24/7 sales rep, so they can actually buy the bike and pick it up at their local dealer, and the dealer still gets almost their full margin. Plus, this amplifies the customer experience. The dealer will coordinate with the customer to pick it up and then they get all the service revenue too. And we still control MAP pricing, which is always a question we get asked with a 50-state dealer network. That way, it’s a lot easier to take care of what the pandemic created and get more people outdoors.”
For more information about UBCO, visit ubcobikes.com/us.