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23/12/2020

As 2020 closes and 2021 opens, who would have thought we would be where we are? It seems the Covid hasn't decimated our industry as it has done to many others and in the main, we are in a strong position for the coming season. Furlough has been a help through the quiet period and has offset some of the costs incurred earlier in the pandemic.

In thirty-six years in business, the Exchequer has only ever lined his pockets from its dealings with my business. Even aged sixteen when I first started, I was unable to claim the enterprise allowance as I was too young: you had to be eighteen to receive the grant. I can't imagine any motorcycle dealers paying the rates back to their local authority from whom they, on the face of it, receive very little back. So, as an old friend who recently died used to say to me "the good Lord helps them that help themselves".  But, use the support wisely and don't squander it. Use the time to make sure that you are ready for the season to come. Having all your bikes prepped and valeted, may be the biggest part of the PDI. However, stocktaking, website updates, general housekeeping are all so important and carrying them out mustn't be neglected. 

I'd like to encourage more dealers to join the committee of the NMDA. It's very rewarding and in addition to many benefits, you get an insight into what is going on in our industry. Recently, our meetings have been virtual due to the pandemic, so the necessity to travel has been removed which does make it easier. I'm sure as the pandemic closes, we will resume a face-to-face meet but maybe not for all meetings and this should help dealers reduce the time needed to attend. You can't beat a face to face over a cup of tea and a biscuit...

On 25 May, Tony Campbell, MCIA Chairman, will be presenting an update on the changes that the MCIA is lobbying for. In particular around licensing laws. All members are welcome to log on. Invitations will be sent out in the New Year.

The one thing about the NMDA that I really enjoy is meeting dealers that operate different franchises. In general, all the manufacturers offer a proposition to the dealer that allows them a territory within which to sell their product and run the aftersales in respect of that product. But some seem to be able to execute that offering so much better than others. Some are better at bringing new products to market, whilst others seem to have scant regard for their networks, almost seeing dealers as a necessary evil that needs keeping in its place.

The ones that do well in the NMDA Dealer Attitude Survey (DAS) generally understand that without profit the dealer soon becomes uninterested and doesn't get behind the product with the enthusiasm that the brand expects. So, these brands ensure (or at least try) that there is an opportunity for the dealer to earn out of their product. If the dealer is earning then the manufacturer can, in turn, expect certain standards to be maintained. They can also select the best dealers in town.

The manufacturers at the bottom of the table maybe seem not to understand that dealers need to earn to the same degree, and no one likes working for them now! Consequently, they are less likely to be able to select the best dealers in town and end up with discount merchants that trash the brand leading to an ever-decreasing value of the franchise and the make. 

This is a very simplistic way of looking at the relationship, but I do question the wisdom some have applied to the implication of Euro 5. I would place good money on the likelihood that all the metal registered in the last week of December, didn't actually need registering and that some manufacturers would have had some headroom to derogate more of that stock than they have encouraged their networks to register. We will never know as the numbers held in stock in March 2020 are something we aren't privy to. A number of dealers asked me to challenge this but, without the numbers, it's impossible. However, I thought it was worth a mention in my column, as it just shows how much power a manufacturer can wield.

This is one of the reasons NMDA membership is necessary. By completing the DAS in big numbers, the winners and losers are in black and white for all to see. Let's face it, we, as retailers, are being reviewed at every step of our journey, this is our opportunity to feedback along the chain.

Let us grab 2021 and make hay while the sun shines, as it surely will. I wish everyone in the industry the very best for Christmas and the New Year, let's just hope it's better than 2020 and that the vaccine does the trick.

Philip Youles, Youles Motorcycles MD and NMDA Chairman