Starting a shop, trying to establish a dealership

blackandchrome

Well-Known Member
Messages
82
So here's a question for any of you.

Why is it almost impossible to become a dealer for some of these parts vendors? I've probably worked on atleast 50 bikes in the past two years. Everything from simple head, cam, exhaust install, to bags, fenders, 23" and 26" wheel installs.

So what I did over that time, was have everyone order the parts I told them to get. And they did, would bring their bike to my shop, and I would do the work. Everyone has said to open your own shop. Well, I just did. Filed appropriate paperwork with the state, did the insurance bit, and have the shop. Currently working out of my 40x50 shop. Dynojet dyno will be coming next week, have everything you need. But majority of these places want a picture of your "storefront" and "display" area. WTF? I'm not a Harley dealer! I'm not a sears and Roebuck! It's a shop! On top of that, a 5k initial order? So I'm supposed to order a couple of bag and fender kits that nobody will want, or will sit around here for a couple years? No thanks!

Parts I always recommended to people, that I liked their quality, and how they were built, honestly, I probably won't recommend them again. I know I sure won't install them! And I'm going to try and talk some of my customers into swapping out some of it, and tell them what kind of a joke some of these companies have been to deal with.

Now there are other ones, who want you to fill out an application, send in a copy of your state license, tax id, a credit card for billing, and that's it! Those are the ones I'm going to be happy to promote and push their stuff.

I tell ya, some of these motorcycle parts builders and vendors think they are so high up in the world. Back before I really got into the Harley's, I spent a lot of time tractor pulling, and had my own dyno shop. Dynoed the Diesel engines on a superflow SF902 Dyno. And half of the parts builders had stuff sitting here, on my shelf. No charge to me! And if someone came in, dynoed their tractor, and wanted to try a different injection pump, injectors, head, or turbo, they would. If it worked, they would write the check out to whoever! It was nothing to have 150-250k in parts laying around the shop for guys to try. And yet, it's almost impossible to work with some motorcycle shops. I'm really starting to miss the days of dealing with shops like Columbus diesel, precision turbo, and Harts diesel.

So any suggestions on which companies or vendors are decent to work with? Who wants a shop to actually push their parts, rather than someone else?
 

Wanna Ride

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,141
As much as I hate to say it, the motorcycle/custom industry is unique in a few, unfortunate ways. There's a flood of shops out there that crop up, and are started by what are actually some lazy, unscrupulous individuals. Seems like those types are always attracted to this type of industry, unfortunately. When I began my career in the custom automotive industry, over thirty years ago, it was similar, but not quite as bad.

Couple that with an ever-competitive industry with so many outlets for customers to purchase parts, it gets tougher and tougher for the legitimate guy to make an honest living. Back in the day, there was so many fewer parts sources, and most of those really produced quality components. Now, with simpler, more cost-effective manufacturing processes, it's even easier for so many crappy products to surface on the market. Add all of that and one more ingredient, and the whole industry can turn to shit. There's a reason a lot of those manufacturers want to specifically deal with established, brick and mortar shops, an I can understand their reasoning with that. Most have been burned by so many little "shops", that undercut their real dealers. It's a really messy industry, that can quickly turn off customers, shop-owners, builders, manufacturers and everyone else. There's so many d-bags out there who just have no concept (or desire) of how to really run a successful and reputable business. So that just makes it even harder for the good guys to do so, and gain the trust of suppliers and customers. We've all seen them air their dirty laundry all over facebook, and even on this forum. Ironically, that's one of the reasons I quite frequenting this forum, which at one time, saw a lot more activity. Then it became nearly a daily occurrence for some school-girl type of bickering over these exact same reasons. Anyways, some guys who work hard for the first two weeks of the month, then disappear for the remainder of the month. Then when they resurface, the customer's money is gone and the excuses are plentiful. Then there's no shortage of guys who will sell parts at virtually no profit margin, and undercutting the guys who are trying to run a legitimate and honest shop, to be around for the long run. Harsh... but true.

That last ingredient? Credit card customers. The ones who want instant gratification, that really can't afford it. So they drive up the demand of the absolute cheapest parts, bolted on by those same unscrupulous shops I mentioned earlier. All combined, it makes it ridiculously more difficult for the honest guy to maintain a shop and produce quality work. There's a whole lot more details to all of this equation, but you get the idea.

Sounds like you've got the right combination to build a great business on, and I wish you the best of luck. Hopefully, I didn't take the wind out of your sails, because that surely wasn't my intent. And I'm also confident that I really didn't tell you anything that you probably didn't already know.
 
Last edited:

blackandchrome

Well-Known Member
Messages
82
Thanks Wanna Ride. It didn't really take the wind out of my sails at all. It's just kinda frustrating how some of the places work.

When you really sit and think about it. It almost sounds like some vendors are more concerned about having their parts on display. As long as they sell you, the builder, the parts. They don't care, as long as their parts are on display.

You could almost go and buy a building on Main Street, set up a dealership with vendors. And basically display their parts. And some shady guy can walk in, buy parts from you. Install on his or someone else's bike, do a terrible job. And then the bike owner can bash the manufacturer of the part. Even though there's quite a few sets of hands those parts went thru.

It dumbfounded me as to why they wouldn't want a reputable person as a dealer and installer. I sell your body parts, and either I install, or customer does. You would think that would help to eliminate any problems that could arise. But oh well.

Some have been great to deal with. I'm not gonna name names. But one place I called and talked to. We hit it off right away, he even waived their initial purchase amount. Another place I called, went as smooth as could be. I think we spent more time discussing camshafts, lobe sep, and why it seems nobody ever degrees cams in on Harley's. Ask that question to some engine guys once. You'll get a ton of great, and sometimes funny answers. But I'm dumbfounded as to why I haven't seen a degree wheel hanging around anywhere. On the diesels I used to dyno, you wouldn't believe the difference just a couple degrees would make. Although, we were always dealing with ungodly cylinder pressures, and boost pressures. 44-50psi on a certain class of tractors, all the way up to 120-150psi of boost on the big pro stocks. 1200hp up to 3600 and 2100-4800 ft pounds of torque. Even the cement floor in the shop would shake. Walls, and windows in the building would vibrate. That stuff always gave a guy a bit of a chub.

Anyways, I think some things will work out. The guy who's shop is closing, and I bought his dyno and some other equipment, he's keeping some of his accounts as long as possible, and we will work together on a few things. In the end, it will all work itself out.
 

Wanna Ride

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,141
The biggest reason they only want to deal with legitimate, brick-and-mortar dealers, is to protect the pricing structure and their dealer network.
 

Marc

""The Chopped Baggers Guy""
Messages
12,446
The biggest reason they only want to deal with legitimate, brick-and-mortar dealers, is to protect the pricing structure and their dealer network.
100% correct




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blackandchrome

Well-Known Member
Messages
82
The biggest reason they only want to deal with legitimate, brick-and-mortar dealers, is to protect the pricing structure and their dealer network.

While I'd like to say I agree with you, I will say, that they do a terrible job. Took a road glide in on Friday. To fix a crappy job of mounting bags and fender that Mankato Harley did, and also to mount chopped tour pack, and strip down to paint and powder coat all the chrome on the motor. The guy talked to me about doing a 26" on it. He showed me his prices from Mankato Harley on the neck kit, wheel, legs, rotor, and honestly, I told him to have Mankato do it.

Mankato Harley quoted him an American suspension bolt on tree for a 26" wheel. And Mankato had it 250 under suggested retail, and 150 under MAP. I know the pricing structure on it, from inquiring on an American Suspension dealership.

So how exactly is that protecting their brick and mortar dealers and pricing structure?

I said I would jump at that. It's a real good deal on those parts. And, I didn't mention anymore. I was just curious what he was quoted, because I'm swapping a 23 to a 26 for someone else, so I wanted to know what everyone else was quoting for a price, and was floored to see an actual Harley dealer at 250 off of retail!
 

DanHappy

Well-Known Member
Messages
509
While I'd like to say I agree with you, I will say, that they do a terrible job. Took a road glide in on Friday. To fix a crappy job of mounting bags and fender that Mankato Harley did, and also to mount chopped tour pack, and strip down to paint and powder coat all the chrome on the motor. The guy talked to me about doing a 26" on it. He showed me his prices from Mankato Harley on the neck kit, wheel, legs, rotor, and honestly, I told him to have Mankato do it.

Mankato Harley quoted him an American suspension bolt on tree for a 26" wheel. And Mankato had it 250 under suggested retail, and 150 under MAP. I know the pricing structure on it, from inquiring on an American Suspension dealership.

So how exactly is that protecting their brick and mortar dealers and pricing structure?

I said I would jump at that. It's a real good deal on those parts. And, I didn't mention anymore. I was just curious what he was quoted, because I'm swapping a 23 to a 26 for someone else, so I wanted to know what everyone else was quoting for a price, and was floored to see an actual Harley dealer at 250 off of retail!
Think the dealership is playing with the numbers for business? Just fudging the numbers for the complete build? Say 250 off somewhere else, say labor rate, to make up the part to look good. Why I say that is I see it all the time with my work. Can somebody walk in and buy that kit for that price and do it themself, or do you have to have them to the work?

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blackandchrome

Well-Known Member
Messages
82
That was the price the dealer was going to sell the parts as a cash and carry sale. Just like you had mentioned, they discount the parts, and make it up in the labor. But, then shouldn't that go against the whole brick and mortar price protection that Wanna Ride, and Marc suggested? That's what I would think.

The guy actually called me again today, and he spoke with Mankato Harley, and they would knock another 5% off total parts sale. And he asked if I would do install. I told him I would, but if any issues with fitment, or anything else that may arise, then he has to deal with Mankato. If they can undercut that bad, then they can also deal with any issues that arise. I'm not thrilled about it. But I'm not going to turn the work down.
 

Marc

""The Chopped Baggers Guy""
Messages
12,446
No it won’t go against what I said. Now if you make a big banner and put it on the front door or run an ad then you’ve broken the dealership rules. You can pay customers to take product, but you can’t advertise it.

Anyway if a business has rules for the retailers, you follow the rules or don’t get a dealership.


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