Craig Collins worked for most of his adult life in a variety of Harley-Davidson dealers, but a little more than a year ago, he ventured off onto his own.
Mr. Collins, 38, opened American Cycles, 3208 Rossville Blvd., in May 2007 as a pre-owned Harley-Davidson dealer, but in the current economic climate, he knew he needed something more.
“We had to find a niche in this market,” he said.
That niche is in customizations and top-notch service.
Mr. Collins began going to auctions across the United States looking for deals on pre-owned Harleys, many of them damaged or missing parts.
American Cycles’ technicians are happy to provide a showpiece customization, but the bulk of their work involves performance upgrades and repairs for damaged bikes bought at auction.
“We’re not just doing the custom showpieces,” he said. “I want people to buy a bike here, take it out and ride it. We do things to make it perform better, but it also has a real-world application.”
Staff Photo by Tim Barber -- Craig Collins, owner of American Cycles, talks about his Harley-Davidson business inside his Rossville Boulevard showroom.
Charlie Haney, motorcycle sales manager at American Cycles, said the economy has hurt sales some, but it has not had a big impact.
“With gas at $4 a gallon, you are seeing more people riding now,” he said. “We are seeing people coming in who have not ridden in 25 years, but with gas prices the way they are, they are getting back into it.”
The average motorcycle gets 45 miles per gallon, which Mr. Haney said could save the average automobile driver who travels 40 miles a day more than $160 a month.
Mr. Collins said he sold 160 bikes and did more than $2 million in business in 2007. This year, business revenues total $1.2 million so far.
He and Mr. Haney said sales goals are 20 motorcycles a month, but lately sales have averaged 10 to 15 bikes a month, Mr. Haney said.
To combat the current economic state, Mr. Collins said he is pursuing options such as scooters and the Hyosung line of motorcycles, which are more cost and fuel efficient.
But he will never stray far from the Harley-Davidson brand.
“We want to keep our niche with Harley-Davidson. That’s what we are all about,” he said. “But we want to offer something for the new rider.”
While the economic crunch has slowed business, Mr. Collins believes it is only temporary.
“We’d love to get to a point where we are selling 500 bikes a year, and that is not unreachable,” he said. “I keep telling my guys to hold on. We’ll be firing on all cylinders soon”