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Darrin Sprechar

Driving a motorcycle in the northwest is an exciting experience. The views, the freedom a motorcycle gives you, the expression of individuality that comes from going down the road on two wheels vs. four, are all attractions that thousands of Oregon motorcyclists experience most every day.

Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to driving a motorcycle. Accidents involving motorcycles are more dangerous to the rider than those involving people in automobiles.

That was the situation last week when Paradise Harley-Davidson (PHD) employee, Darrin Sprechar (43) was involved in an accident on Oregon 217 and sustained serious injuries.  Darrin was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center after he rear-ended a vehicle on the highway between Southwest Walker and Canyon roads. The crash occurred in the southbound lanes at about 2:35 p.m.

Although Darrin was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, he 
suffered a traumatic head injury and remains hospitalized and in the ICU.  According to Beaverton Police (Yazzolino) the helmet wasn’t one approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
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So, let’s reframe the debate — many of us know Darrin from the PHD Service Department — He’s really a nice guy, has a great sense of humor and is 3-dimensional, just like a real person!  Right now he remains in the ICU and it’s unknown when his condition will improve — so is it really time to debate DOT merits?! Really? I’ve read the posts on the forums and press pages.

Instead I suggest it’s time for a good deed.  One that will help bring some happiness to this family during the hazy shade of winter.  The Sunset HOG Chapter is sponsoring a collection for Darrin to help with medical expenses.  You can bring a donation to the next chapter meeting or mail a donation to PO Box 2078, Beaverton, OR 97075.  Or if you prefer you can make a donation HERE however, be advised that 100% of your donation will not go directly to the Sprechar family after the site takes it’s hefty percent of overhead.

We all hope and pray that Darrin’s injury will quickly heal. If you visit this link the family is keeping Darrin’s status updated daily.  For those of you who do contribute,  I’m sure that Darrin and his family would like to personally thank you for your support.
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Picture courtesy of Caringbridge and Sprechar family.
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It’s the mother of motorcycle parades and it benefits children.

I’m talking about the Portland, Oregon annual Toy Run this Saturday (December 4th) which benefits children at OHSU’s Dornbecker Children’s Hospital.

The major organizer and motorcycle advocacy group for the event is ABATE and this year will mark 31 years.  In previous year’s turnout there have been thousands of riders, but more important are the toys collected for sick kids.  The Toy Run brings together Harleys, Hondas, clubbers, and even the occasional Vespa scooter.  The ABATE members hold a motorcycle raffle to help raise money for the hospital and shortly after noon the police will escort riders followed by a Tri-Met bus full of toys to the Shriners Hospital.

See you there…

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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Many of us have experienced EDT and not known it!

Mix that with better, cheaper, faster… a common corporate mantra these days, and you have a catchphrase that leaves out a significant element.  Better, cheaper and faster for whom?  Long term business success means the “whom” must ultimately be your customers yet isn’t it odd how often the existing customers are forgotten in the rush of daily business.  Sales and marketing are about bringing potential new customers into the dealers.  Operations are working to be efficient and fill orders.  Service is busy putting out fires.  Meanwhile existing customers are walking unnoticed and uncared for out the side door.  Customer retention at H-D exceeds the motorcycle industry average, but people will stop patronizing when they feel like their business doesn’t matter to the company.

And that’s my point.  Repeat-purchase loyalty or the erosion (the proportionate fall in repeat-purchase loyalty) at the local dealership.

Even if the Harley dealer does everything right – transforms into a lifestyle destination, offers up camaraderie beyond the parking lot, mixing with customers, first-name greetings, pancakes and music on the weekends, working hard at providing a friendly, at-home atmosphere, low-pressure sales – is there any doubt that a key determining factor for a repeat customer at that dealer during this economic environment be anything other than price, Price, PRICE?  How much more are you willing to pay for the dealer experience?  I would suggest none.  Personal relationships do matter, but over paying to maintain that business relationship is obsolete.

For example below is a repeat-purchase story from a riding buddy (edited for space and used with permission) who just put a new 2010 Street Glide in his garage:

“This purchase was one of the simplest things I’ve done. I called the Sales Manager (Moshonda) at Albany Harley-Davidson (AMC) and asked her for a price. I was really expecting to hear MSRP or maybe $500 discount on a $20.5K price. When she told me $18,519, I said “I’ll take it”. We did some of the transaction over the phone and I went down a couple days later and picked it up. I put down 2/3 cash and financed a third. They made that easy with a good interest rate. They didn’t even try hard to up-sell me on the extended warranty. Simply asked, I said no and we signed.

Went down yesterday and rode it home. Weather cooperated and it was nice having cruise control and 6th gear. The radio is awesome! Candidly I did struggle on not talking to Paradise H-D where I’ve previously purchased.  Bottom line, I sincerely doubt they could or would have even tried to get down to the AMC price. Granted I didn’t give them the chance, but I’d bet Paradise H-D was $1500 over MSRP to start off and now we’re talking about a $4k difference to spend time haggling over. Ultimately I felt that if I challenged Paradise H-D to get down to this price and if we couldn’t and I had to walk there would always be this friction when I went into the dealer.  Frankly I don’t need the stress.  It’s unreal that I paid almost the same amount for my Road King 10 years ago as I did on this new Street Glide.  Clearly it’s a good time to deal!

AMC is definitely a small town laid back feel. No pressure.  I’m fairly certain the knowledge base at Paradise H-D is better. AMC sales didn’t strike me as deep experts. Remember these are the folks who didn’t think the Oregon bikes had catalytic converters.  Yet, it’s a good store and I liked how they promote themselves to “the working man”.  As you’ve said on your blog, Harley may be pricing themselves out of the market with those CVO’s. When you can draw a price correlation between a motorcycle and a Lexus, well then the issue speaks for itself. At the end of the day, it is just a motorcycle.

The other advantage at AMC for me is they seem to have perpetual sales on accessories.  I don’t think it will cost me an arm and a leg to do the  customization I want. I had a little sticker shock on the quote for Vance & Hines pipes, which looks to be all you can get for the 2010 right now at $1475. Too high, but it included a number of items (fuel tuning/dyno etc.) in addition to the pipes themselves.

Looking forward to summer!”

I’m not advocating one dealer vs. another.   But, the economy is changing the way riders interact with dealerships.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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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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