Little Bikes, Big Fun
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you walked the aisles of the American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) a month ago, you might have spotted Monster Moto exhibiting its mini bikes and go-karts, and were likely transported back to your youth. The company used the tradeshow to introduce itself and new products to the powersports market. However, Monster Moto isn’t fresh on the scene, it was just waiting for the right moment to step out.
Monster Moto was founded in 2013, but spent the past three years developing its products and hashing out its strategy for powersports. Alex Keechle, the company’s CEO, started with the company in 2014 after he was introduced to the brand and its mission.
“I did not come from a powersports background,” Keechle says. “But I met the private equity firm that founded Monster Moto and was extremely intrigued because I have five kids. I loved the idea of getting them off electronics and getting them outside, and these units really do that. I also fell in love with the concept.”
Monster Moto is an introductory price point powersports company. Its intent is to try to demystify powersports to get more young people and adults into the industry. “If you grew up in powersports, some of those units can be intimidating to a novice,” Keechle says. “Our units are not intimidating, but they are fun.”
That fun look didn’t come instantly. Keechle and Monster Moto spent almost a year developing products as well as a network of 600 service centers throughout the U.S. “Those could be anything from a powersports dealer to a place that does lawnmower repair,” he says. “Our 80cc engine is not much different than a lawnmower.”
If after a year Monster Moto had products and an infrastructure in place, why did the company wait almost three and half years to introduce itself to the powersports industry? Well, that’s just part of the strategy. “The first evolution for us was to make sure the market still existed the way everyone thought it existed,” Keechle says. “You can’t talk to a person in their 40s or 50s who didn’t have one as a kid. We wanted to make sure that still existed and we wanted to do it in an economical way, so we did contract manufacturing with Asia.
“Sadly, Keechle says, the mini bike business is full of cheap imports that ultimately have service issues. The last thing we wanted to do was to go out to folks who have been in the industry and say we are different and assembled in Asia. Even though I have my own QC people, all they are going to hear is we are an import product and shut down. We wanted to wait to introduce ourselves to powersports dealers once we were in the U.S.” And that was Monster Moto’s plan from the start.
“We gained traction and our intent all along was to onshore the manufacturing back in the U.S.,” he says. “While everyone was doing a lot of talking, we just quietly said let’s do it. So we did a nationwide search and got locations boiled down to South Carolina and Ruston, Louisiana… we chose Ruston.”
Monster Moto onshored and opened its Ruston assembly plant in June 2016. Roughly 25-30 percent of its sales will be assembled in the U.S. this year. “Our intent on January 1, 2017 is for every new unit to be assembled in the U.S.,” he says. “We will be an assembled in the U.S. product.”
Speaking of products, Monster Moto’s bread and butter is its 80cc gas mini bike. It’s great for a 7-year-old and adults can ride it, too. It doesn’t have too much power and it’s not intimidating, but it’s extremely fun and dependable. You can also put your own flare into it with different colorways such as classic black, Realtree, mossy oak, American flag, muddy girl, phantom flame, and skull and crossbones.
[pullquote]“I think that’s what makes us unique,” Keechle says. “We’re not trying to be the same mini bike everyone is used to. We’ve learned some lessons from the big boys. People in this industry today want something that’s theirs to really be theirs.”[/pullquote]
The upgrades to personalize a Monster Moto are only $50 more than the $399.99 price tag for the classic mini bike. That gets a consumer some pretty good value.
“We believe in delivering an extremely high-quality product at a value price point,” he says. “If you look at our units we have thicker tube steel and better welds, our tires are 3-ply rubber, our chain guard is a two-point chain guard to more easily adjust the chain tension, and our units come completely assembled – all you have to do is attach the handlebars and go (gas needs to be added and the electrical needs to be grounded). We believe in maximizing the value for the end consumer and building the right brand. By doing those two things we believe that our retail powersport partners will have good sell through and our units will stay sold.”
By the end of this year, Monster Moto will have around 100,000 units in circulation, which it has done with retail partners such as Sears, K-Mart and Home Depot. The company went to AIMExpo expressly to launch three new products – 105cc bike, a full-size electric mini bike, and the 212.
“Our plan for powersports is to say, ‘Here are our base products around the 80cc mini bike and go-kart. You’re welcome to carry them and they have good margins, but here are our up-spec products, the 105cc and 212 that we feel can differentiate powersports customers over the small box retailers,’” Keechle says. “We are in the process of hiring someone to focus on the dealer channel from a sales perspective and to get the word out.”
So what types of dealerships is Monster Moto considering? “Is a Harley dealership going to carry our product? Probably not,” Keechle says. “I believe our bread and butter dealer is someone who carries a multitude of brands and is more independent than nameplate. Right now, if a dealer is interested in us, we will give them a shot.”