Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What makes a motorcycle shop tick...

There are three kinds of shops, whether dealer or independent. At the lowest level are those shops that thread Imperial bolts into metric holes, wrap Teflon tape on a part instead of fitting a new o-ring, and generally get by with as hacked a repair as possible, through ignorance or stupidity or both. Dealer or independent, this one is doomed to fall sooner or later, and history has shown they do indeed crash and burn. The next level is that shop that pretty much gets by without doing exceptional work, but just adequate. There are a lot of these folks, the middle of the bell curve, as they say, and in my own business I battle with them every day. Then, dealer or independent, there are the standouts, those that garner trust and admiration for their work and for their dealings with their customers. The difference between the dealer and the independent is in the lower two classes, as at the top there isn't much difference except in marketing, and we'll look at that uniqueness in a minute. They're both excelling. At the bottom and middle however things are very different. An independent who is operating at the bottom level dies off pretty fast. An indendent's lifeblood is its service reputation, thus a bad reputation dooms them. A dealership at the bottom however can go on for a very long time. Its service reputation has only a small impact on its business, which remember is really all about new unit sales. In fact the fortunes of the lousiest dealers are in a sense subsidized by their host OEMs, much like GM and the federal government, and thus they are somewhat insulated from the effects of their own incompetence, again like GM. There was a Honda dealer in a metro area of L.A. once whom we used to joke about that he got his customers off the bus stop. He pissed off so many he had no customer base, every customer was a new one, and most were immigrants from outside the country and therefore were not forwarned! The middle class of shop, dealer or independent, is fairly comparable. They're doing okay, probably losing customers but also gaining them. The middle tier independent will probably crash before the middle tier dealer does, for reasons already noted, otherwise they're similar. At the top level however, while both top dealer and top independent enjoy huge success, how and why is worth considering. Later.

Friday, September 14, 2012

new websites!

Not just one but three! And more are coming. I am in the middle of changing hosts and the new sites give better focus to my carburetor business. They are,, and Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Okay, back to dealer anatomy...The Dealer Agreement

Powersports dealerships appear on the surface to be like franchises, but they are actually much less binding. The right to use the name, logo, and have access to factory parts at reduced prices and factory information and special tools, and participate in coop advertising and similar programs is about it. These things are conferred upon private businesspeople who solely and completely own and control their operations. The owners of the businesses deterimine location, building type, business plan and structure, pricing, participation in factory programs, all of it. Their host manufacturers have very little control over how these dealers run their businesses. In some cases they can force them to do certain things like attend training, but more often they can't, much of this depending on the contract that is put together at the time the dealer takes on the brand. This can seem odd to those who assume their Honda dealer is like their local McDonald's, but the two business types are actually quite different. Franchises such as McDonald's are bound by agreement to use only McDonald's ingredients, prepared in a picture-perfect McDonald's way, with no non-approved augmentations or changes, etc. Dealerships don't work that way. They can charge whatever they want, present the product however they want, and sell or not sell factory and aftermarket product in whatever combination they want. Further confusing the issue is that some brands such as Harley-Davidson, BMW, Ducati, Polaris, Suzuki, Honda, Bombardier and Yamaha retain very strict control, at least by industry standards, over dealer participation in training and other programs, while companies such as Kawasaki, Eton and Kymco have the least amount of control and have little or no mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with desired directives. It all goes back to the dealer agreeement, the contract between the two parties established at the time of the dealer's setting up, and what the parties feel is adequate at that time.


Granted, many manufacturers no longer include brake system rebuild instruction in their authorized service manuals for liability reasons. And not all manufacturers made this mistake when they *did* include system rebuilding. But this "technique" is so dangerous it is unbelievable. In most mechanics schools doing this will get a student noticed in all the wrong ways. Do NOT remove brake caliper pistons using compressed air! There are special tools for doing this. Just another example of how the manufacturer, while they usually get things right and when they do, do it better than anyone, they don't always.

More OEM service manual issues

Here's another mistake some factory service manuals make, encouraging folks to test for steering bearing tension by wiggling the fork assembly back and forth (front to back). While I submit this might help you identify bearings that were so loose they were about to fall out of the frame, first, there is a much better test for that, and second, this is not the correct way to check steering bearing tension, and it should not be presented as such. For really loose bearings (which actually would make themselves felt and heard long before one suspected the need for the wiggle test) the best test is the hand on the top clamp while pushing front suspension down technique. As for bearing tension, Honda and BMW for their part show the right perspective when they specify the spring scale method of tension measurement. Next up, a common but very unsafe practice found in many manuals...