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2009 Shriners Children Hospital Toy RunThis past Saturday was Portland’s annual Shriners Children Hospital Toy Run.

The major organizer and motorcycle advocacy group for the event is ABATE and this year marks 30 years.

The weather was dry, but it was cold.  In fact, the temp gauge registered a new low (28 degrees) on the motorcycle.  As I left the neighborhood I noticed leaving tire tracks on the frost covered asphalt.   I met up with the posse for breakfast and the main roads had already received a quick spray of glycol-based de-icers on the overpasses and bridges.  By the time we finished breakfast and drove toward the Tri-Met parking lot the frost had mostly evaporated.

This year’s turnout was nearly as large as last which brought out more than 6,000 riders.   But, more importantly it’s a lot of toys collected for sick kids.  The Toy Run brings together Harleys, Hondas, clubbers, and even the occasional Vespa.  The ABATE members held a motorcycle raffle to help raise money for the hospital and shortly after noon the police escorted riders followed a Tri-Met bus full of toys to the Shriners Hospital.

It was a great toy run and I want to provide a major shout out to the organizers and sponsors:  ABATE; Tri-Met; Paradise H-D; Latus H-D; Columbia H-D; Thunder Mountain MC Rescue; Star Rentals; Megan James Band; H.O.G.; Schulz Clearwater.

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MDAMark your calendar.  The fourth annual MDA Hope Ride will be held Saturday, August 1st for the Portland, Or area.

The event will start at the I-5 Baldock Southbound rest area (mile post 282) which is just past the Carbonneau/Canby exit and will end at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City.

The event is sponsored by MDAColumbia Harley-DavidsonParadise Harley-Davidson, Latus Motors Harley-Davidson and Salem Harley-Davidson. The event is also supported by PDXTV and the Harley Owner Groups (H.O.G). Once riders arrive at Chinook Winds there will be a BBQ, awards and prize drawings.

This MDA event helps fight against neuromuscular disease. A great charitable cause!

Photo courtesy of MDA.

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HD_StormNow more than ever, Harley executives say that customer experience is critical to how motorcycle firms compete.

They’re right: research indicates a high correlation between good customer experience and increased customer loyalty.

Unfortunately not all dealers get high marks from their customers. And that translates into lower sales, higher churn, and lost business that goes to competitors.  Does the customer experience become less important during an economic downturn? Absolutely not!!  Building loyalty and catering to the needs of customers is even more important in these very challenging times.  And HD is doing much more than paying lip service.

PiperAccording to the newly released (.pdf) 2009 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) U.S. Motorcycle Industry Study, Ducati dealerships ranked highest.  This is one of a series of annual benchmarking studies which measure how consumers are treated when shopping for a new car, motorcycle, RV or boat. The independent study sent 2,100 hired anonymous “mystery shoppers” into motorcycle dealerships nationwide, then used the patent-pending PSI process to compile the results into accurate measurement of how each brand’s dealerships treat motorcycle shoppers.

Following Ducati was Harley-Davidson—whose dealers were ranked first in 2007 and 2008—then BMW, Victory, Buell and MV Augusta all above the industry average. Overall motorcycle industry performance improved from 2008 to 2009, with eleven of the fifteen major motorcycle brands achieving higher PSI scores.  Harley-Davidson dealers performed substantially above the motorcycle industry average, but 2009 marked the first time in three years that dealers from another motorcycle brand were ranked higher.

A powerful brand needs to convey a long list of qualities; often, a brand may find itself stuck trying to represent too many — even conflicting — things. It seems that Harley is faced with this very situation. Social media interaction with the company will continue to grow in this downturn due in part to its ability to reduce the cost of customer acquisition, service, and transactions. Motorcycle consumers have many places to discover products. In fact, consumption of digital media and the Internet is shifting to cell phones and other portable devices. This proliferation adds complexity to an already highly competitive marketplace, and changing demographics. Keeping the customer central in retailers’ strategies will be difficult given the short attention span.

They have yet to ask for my viewpoint, but I believe Harley-Davidson can improve business results by developing deeper connections with us consumers and independent bloggers. It begins with the recognition that blogs are a new motorcycle “voice” and that the customer experience is a wide-range set of activities, not just an isolated event.  It’s a multiyear customer experience with the end result for any organization dependent on how effectively it navigates through multiple stages of the customer experience maturity.

Congrats to Ducati and the HD dealers!

Photo courtesy of PSI and Forester.

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Sunset HOG Poker Run

Sunset HOG Poker Run

Mark your calendars. 

What:           16th Sunset H.O.G Poker Run

When:           September 7, 2008 – (Sunday)

Where:         Paradise HD, Tigard Or.

411:             Sign up 8-10am.  $10 fee.

I’ve done this poker run a couple of times previously and the Sunset HOG folks put on a nice poker run.  The weather is typically great and the routes are awesome through the Oregon countryside.

There is also something called a “Beaver Hunt” which means there will be signs on telephone polls, light posts etc., that will have a picture of a Beaver and a number on it.  You add up all the numbers and turn in the grand total at the end of the poker run.  Prizes will be given away.  For the “hunt” its best to have a passenger…I came upon a biker who went right off the road last year.  Not sure if they were trying to write a number down or what, but play it safe and let the passenger do the tally!

See you on the route.

 

Poker Run poster photo courtsey Sunset HOG.

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In what seems like the year of voting…I’ve been debating with myself over the last couple days whether or not I should write this post and then I saw some news on Harley sales. Obviously, I outvoted myself and wrote it!

This week the Pope is in Washington, DC., and since the Catholic Church is partly based on symbolism, it’s only fitting that one of America’s most iconic rides – the Harley motorcade – be symbolized too. As thousands of people greet Pope Benedict XVI and he’s schmoozed by President George W. Bush – the Police “Motorcycle Team” always stands ready as a precision motorcycle-cade team made up of officers from all the various Enforcement Groups there to Protect and Serve the dignitaries.  Canada has a similar team.

Given all the symbolism, I found it so very ironic that Harley Davidson decides today is the perfect time to announce that it will cut its work force by 8 percent and trim bike shipments by thousands since domestic sales fell nearly 13 percent in Q1.  These announced layoffs are dramatic and the first of this magnitude in 20+ years! 

It’s no surprise that Harley CEO Jim Ziemer might have something to say about the difficult economy…ya, think Jim?  Could that housing market implosion have anything to do with people no longer pulling equity out of their homes to finance Harley’s over priced “Surrender Your Inner Badness” or “March Badness” hype?!!  Two carnies and a pygmy pony could stomp out better marketing slogans than that.

I’m not sure about you, but I think a new $21K motorcycle (plus another $5K to make it run “nice”) is something people think twice or three times about.  I’ve blogged about arrogant dealers in the past who think people fall over themselves to spend that kind of cash, but with that easy equity cash bucket from the house gone, I think people will either hold on to their current bike for a little while longer or just wait out the “R” (recession thrash-n-crash) until the economy warm up a bit.

I read in several reports that Harley-Davidson has approx 5,600 production workers and 3,500 non-production workers.  Eight percent is approx 800 people impacted by this “downsize” decision and I truly feel sorry for each and every one of those cuts.  I work in an industry that routinely whacks-n-hacks a few thousand heads before morning smoke break so, I know the feeling….

It’s a difficult economic time my friends, but hang in there.

 

Photo courtesy of Philliefan99

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It looks like Paradise HD and Corner Saloon put their talented marketing minds together and marked April 9th as the start of the Spring riding season.  Huh? 

Well I’ll have to take their word that it’s Spring.  The 10 day weather forecast states we’re in for a warming trend.  The high 50’s and rain — which is much improved over the snow/hail/rain this past week, but I’m not so sure it’s Taco Wednesday weather yet.  I would like to think so, but I’m not up for honing my wet riding skills for a $4 taco and Coor’s light!

And speaking of taco’s, I’ve needed to get this off my chest for awhile.  I’m not sure if the Saloon’s “chef” slow cooks his meats before they go into the shells, but if you are having a bad day in Portland, this is the food to induce a revival of all your lulled senses and you can take it out on your friends.   Eat a couple of these deep fried babies and you can bet your fat lard ass you’ll be rethinking bulk-rate crunchy shells, vat o’ mysteriously seasoned meat as the new alternative to extraordinarily cheap Tacos!  Is it just me or are those things total gut bombs?

Sure they have the giant picnic table setup for those folks who wish to savor the full taco-truck experience.  Let’s face it though…the Saloon tacos barely qualify as food!  I’ve tasted better on the outer skirts of Sandy or homespun vegan food carts downtown.

So if you’re not an eggplant passion fruit, cashews, and feisty sweet potatoes kind of guy there are lots of cheap, fast taco joints that’ll fill you up in a hurry without breaking the bank.  At the Corner Saloon — get the pizza.

Photo (taco) courtesy of the people who think outside the bun.

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Harley RoastYeah, I know…winter continues for another 4 weeks here in the Northwest, but this past weekend was meteorologically awesome!  And what better way to enjoy it than heading down to Paradise HD to look over some chrome and eat some rib roast. 

The dealer held its annual service shop sponsored rib roast and the good weather brought out all kinds of people.  Long lines and hundreds of bike with minimal parking, but no one seemed to mind. 

The posse then headed out toward the coast range and around Hagg Lake for a cold, but dry ride.  Seems heading west was not the call as it clouded over late in the day and brought the temperature down.

I don’t believe my temp gauge ever climbed above 50F all day, but hey it’s still February.  There’s a big trough of low pressure headed inland so the forecast over next 4 days is colder and much wetter.  So, much for an early spring!

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