[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, “The only constant is change!” Seems like the entire powersports industry was in a state of flux in 2016. Mergers, acquisitions and simple cases of the ‘grass is greener’ wanderlust made it tough to tell who the players were without a scorecard this season. From industry veteran Greg Blackwell taking the helm at MTA in January to Tucker Rocky “optimizing” its distribution network and bringing in new president Eric Cagle at the end of the year, 2016 was certainly dynamic in terms of personnel postings, and reflected the constant changes in the powersports industry.
January 2016: Due to December being MPN’s Buyer’s Guide issue, we didn’t have a chance to announce that Greg Blackwell had become president of MTA Distributing until January. “The decision to join MTA was an easy one,” says Blackwell. “From the moment I met the owners, I believed in their values and the vision they have for MTA; which is different than what I have done in the past.” Dealers will remember Blackwell from his time at Pirelli/Metzeler North America, LeMans Corporation and KTM North America. Another industry veteran making headlines in the new year was Deb Drinan who packed her bags and moved from Dowco to become director of business development for apparel, luggage and motorcycle cover manufacturer Nelson-Rigg USA. “Deb brings with her 12 strong years as a powersports industry professional specializing in building and enhancing strong relationships with both OEMs and distributors,” noted Nelson-Rigg president Dimitri Cretikos at the time.
February 2016: The motorcycle industry musical chairs continued in February as Danny Gray Seats terminated business dealings with Harley-Davidson, shifted distribution out of Tucker Rocky and signed a new marketing firm – all in the first three weeks of the new year! “We have developed a new, nationwide dealer-direct program that will help them strengthen customer relationships and sell more custom seats,” claimed VP marketing & sales John Strahl. In other electrifying news from February, former Triumph North America and BMW Motorcycles North America exec Todd Andersen shocked some folks by showing up at Zero. “I’m happy to announce that I’ll be joining Zero Motorcycles as its head of global sales, marketing and after-sales,” said Andersen at the time. “I’m looking forward to helping the team there continue with their mission to electrify the motorcycle industry!”
March 2016: Good news for GasGas as the trials/enduro specialty OEM emerged from bankruptcy and began twisting the throttle. GasGas Motos North America added off-road racer John Barber to support the brand in the eastern U.S. This was just the beginning for GasGas, though (see August). Meanwhile Kuryakyn cranked things up with a new logo announced at the V-Twin Expo and hiring Jeff Wolbers as director of business development and Performance Machine rep John Nasi to handle events for the firm. “Nasi is no stranger to the tradeshow and national rallies environment,” said Kuryakyn VP of brand management, Steve Veltri. On a side note, Veltri is no longer with Kuryakyn, having left the company in September.
April 2016: April showers bring May flowers, but they also lead to a bumper crop of new positions for people at Arctic Cat and AXO. First Erik Nelson was promoted to VP and general manager of Arctic Cat’s snowmobile division and international sales, replacing Brad Darling who left Cat to “pursue other interests” (see May). Patricia Jones joined the Cat crew as chief human resources officer succeeding William Nee who also left to pursue other opportunities. From race horse to clothes horse as 2012 WORCS champ Travis Dowthwaite became MX apparel outfit AXO’s national sales manager. West Coast dealers may also remember him as the regional sales manager for Leatt Corporation. His long-term relationships and involvement in racing are what sold him to AXO, says AXO America, Inc., president Alessandra Zago.
May 2016: Former Arctic Cat exec Brad Darling becomes president of Ontario Drive & Gear Ltd.’s vehicle division ARGO. In addition to strengthening the ARGO brand globally, Darling’s job is to develop innovative new products and strengthen the company’s growing dealer network. Former PSB and Dealernews editorial type Guido Ebert became gainfully employed at SpokesPeople LLC, to serve as media relations coordinator for Indian Motorcycle and Victory Motorcycles. Dealers may remember the veteran scribe from his stints with various trade rags and most recently as editor of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly. While Guido was getting on the gas for Indian and Victory, Jeffery Boaz clicked into FirstGear. “In his new role, Boaz will coordinate and direct the creative design, product design, development and execution for the FirstGear brand,” explained Phil Davy, senior director apparel brands, Tucker Rocky/Biker’s Choice.
June 2016: End of an era at Polaris as company president Bennett Morgan announced his retirement after three decades. Morgan was GM of the ATV division from 2001 to 2005 when then-CEO Tom Tiller selected him to become president and CEO. “It’s been an honor to work at Polaris and with so many amazing people over the past 29 years,” said Morgan. “I will remember the relationships and the people more than the accomplishments.” Also riding off into the sunset in June was longtime American Iron Magazine editor Chris Maida who decided to retire after 18 years with the Harley-magazine. Former American Iron Garage and Motorcycle Rides & Culture staffer Steve Lita stepped up as AIM editor while former MotorcycleUSA.com editorial type Bryan Harley joined the AIM team as online editor.
July 2016: Styling! Fred Cerrato became the new GM for Rizoma USA and is now overseeing all dealer and consumer efforts in the U.S. market. Meanwhile Mike Kim was promoted to account executive and expands his role in daily operations and dealer development programs. As things came into focus at Rizoma, it got a bit blurred at GoPro. The camera company shuffled its powersports distribution model and picked former Apple exec Danny Coster to serve as VP of design.
August 2016: Charging ahead! AMA Hall of Famer and former Zero Motorcycles VP Scot Harden went back to internal combustion engines as the chief marketing officer for GasGas Motorcycles and Torrot electric products. Meanwhile KYMCO made some moves as PR guy Rick Pawelka moved on to become the marketing promotions manager for Big Rock Sports and Mike Hancock was promoted to national sales manager at KYMCO USA.
September 2016: MAG Retail Group (MRG), the retail division that runs J&P Cycles and Motorcycle Superstore, added Sean Laughlin as VP of marketing. A veteran of the motorcycle industry and marketer of some brands you might recognize, including Harley-Davidson, McDonald’s, General Motors and Trek Bicycle. Former Arctic Cat exec John Tranby shifted gears to become director of marketing for CFMoto. “With the addition of new product segments in the 2017
model year, CFMoto is going to be a serious player in the U.S. market.”
October 2016: From Suzuki to Hisun, Larry Vandiver must have found retirement a little too slow a pace. “We are very pleased to have Larry as a part of our team,” said Hisun VP of sales & marketing Ryan Daugherty. Meanwhile there was more magazine mayhem as Marc Cook left Motorcyclist magazine to move back east to become content director for Twisted Throttle.
November 2016: Following on the heels of the announcement that two of its distribution centers were shutting down, Tucker Rocky/Biker’s Choice named Eric Cagle president of the Fort Worth-based distribution giant. Speaking of Tucker Rocky, Jennifer Robison, architect of the “Brand In A Box” (BIB) program and the distributor’s visual merchandising and retailing specialist for the past 14 years, was let go. The BIB merchandising solution spread across seven TR house brands.
December 2016: After announcing Arctic Cat’s Brad Darling had been brought onboard in May, ARGO added David May as VP of operations at the end of November. He is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and joins ARGO from Precision Castparts Corporation. Flat Track legend Chris Carr is back in the saddle as chief competition officer for the newly renamed American Flat Track series. David McGrath transitioned to Race Operations & Technical Director in 2017. Rounding out the Competition Department’s management team, Steve Morehead and Becki Edmondson will continue in their roles of Director of Race Events and Director of Member Services.