I came across this short article in a recent edition of the Triumph Spirit Magazine (online publication) talking about the new dealership “facelift” that Triumph corporate has been pushing down. While it looks great, I think it’s a misallocation of effort and mostly at the cost of the dealerships.
This idea isn’t new, many local Harley Davidson dealerships have relocated or outright closed as a result of the corporate image that Harley Davidson enforces on its dealers. With Harley, dealers are forced to keep a significant number of models in stock, along with locations within a certain distance of the freeway, and other random image standards I don’t know about.
Polaris has also adopted similar standards for the new Indian line. I spoke with a local Victory dealership manager a while back, asking him if they were going to adopt the Indian brand. He informed me that Polaris requires that show rooms be segregated so that Indian has a “contained” area for their bikes and merchandise. He went on to say that he doesn’t have the floor space to meet Polaris’ standards and would have to spend a significant amount of money to expand the building if he wanted to pick up Indian.
It’s not surprising to see Triumph make this move, considering that Greg Heichelbech, formerly from Harley Davidson, took over as Triumph America CEO back in 2013 (before resigning in 2014). Of course, it’s my assumption that his influence set these wheels in motion, but none the less it’d be tough to convince me that this move isn’t related to copying Harley’s corporate model.
It’s pretty obvious, I’m in the tank for Triumph, so I understand I’m bias. Moreover, don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge Harley for the empire they have built; their policies have secured their success as they sell more than a brand, they sell a lifestyle. Triumph on the other hand, intentionally or otherwise, completely differentiated itself from its North American rival a long time ago as Triumph offers a motorcycle in virtually every class. This topic has been covered at length before, more eloquently, by someone else, so I won’t bore you with the details.
Instead of focusing on dealership image, I suggest that it would make more sense for Triumph to showcase what they offer over the competition, the marriage of elegance and performance. Harley Davidson’s “fit and finish” is probably the envy of every Asian V-twin on the market. At the same time, you may find better performance in the new H2 or R1, but you won’t find the refinement of over a hundred years of motorcycles and the heritage to go with it. I’ll put the Speedmaster and Thunderbird up against any cruiser on the drag strip any day; the same with Triumph Triples against the Asian straight fours. But in the end, this argument isn’t about who’s better, it’s about what Triumph is doing wrong.
Victory’s “Ride one and you’ll buy one” motto is golden, and it’s working. If Triumph is going to borrow from an American manufacturer’s strategy, they picked the wrong one. I suggest that Triumph stop sticking their dealers with the bill of revamping their dealerships and pony of the coin to bring back the Triumph demo truck. The Victory demo truck comes to my local dealership at least twice a year (as you’ve seen), and there’s no shortage of used Harleys parked on that lot as a result.
It’s time that Triumph stop strong-arming their dealers with the price of a new “image” and start handing prospective buyers the keys, and ultimately the title of a new bike.