by Victor Wanchena
There has been a disturbing trend in motorcycling as of late. More and more of the small independent shops are folding under the heavy hand of the corporations they represent–all in the name of marketing.
Time was when just about anyone with the desire could become a motorcycle dealer. Pony up a couple bucks for a sign, fill out a few forms and you could be selling motorcycles out of your garage. It didn’t mean that you the motorcycle buying public was received the greatest dealer “experience” but more often than not you knew your local dealer personally and could holler at him if something went south on your bike. With increasing frequency these small dealers are being forced out of business in the name of corporate branding and market analysis.
Now before I get to far into this I must state for the record that I am not anti-corporation, that is a fool-hardy position especially given the fact that MMM can be counted as one of those dreaded corporate entities. The manufactures of motorcycles are in the business for one reason alone, to make money. That doesn’t make them evil, They are rewarded for their efforts with profits, we are rewarded with ever better motorcycles a very nice relationship in my opinion. No one does this for love of the sport alone. They serve an all-important role in our beloved motorcycling.
What has me disturbed is the move the major manufactures have made toward large corporate stores. These Taj Mahals to brand X are too sterile and market researched for my taste. Slick packaging and every color matching the corporate ID right down to the toilet paper hanging in the bathroom has eerie Big Brother feeling to it. These flagships are not without their place but not at the expense of the mom and pop operations that once existed throughout the areas in between large cities. I love the idea of the local shop where riders wander in and aren’t assaulted by thumping music or a myriad of neon lights and colors. Who cares whether they are complying with the proper corporate ID model? If the pay their bills and take care of the customers, let them be. Not everyone that being able to buy a chainsaw and motorcycle in the same shop is a bad thing.
Sometimes the at home feeling of the rough around the edges shops is just what the customer needs to feel comfortable. When you need special help, say in the middle of a multi-day endurance ride and your bike to hell on you, these are folks that will stay open late or pull a part off a bike sitting on the showroom floor just to make sure your happy and back on the road. There’s a fighting chance the person behind the counter or getting their hands dirty changing a tireis the owner.
Ride fast, take chances.