Ryan Cooke looks at BMW motorcycles at Pandora’s European Motorsports. He came to the store looking to buy a dual-sport motorcycle.Staff Photo by Allison Carter
Justin Prann thundered into Chattanooga's high-end motorcycle scene early last year, offering more than $1 million in high-end BMW and Ducati bikes for sale at the opening of his Pandora's European Motorsports location on Highway 58.
In his first year, he sold 100 BMWs, 52 Ducatis and 75 used bikes, he said, a fast start for a company marketing a pricey product in a cash-strapped economy, said sales manager Craig Collins.
"We established a presence fairly early, and ended up having to buy bikes from other dealers to cover our sales," Collins said.
Pandora's was honored on February's cover of BMW Owner's News, a milestone that has Prann's father, who is also his financier, "spending a lot more time in Florida," Prann said.
He is setting the bar even higher for 2011, with plans to double his sales and staff already under way.
The company's strategy of connecting directly with local riders through weekly events and quarterly track days paid off, and is partly responsible for his bright outlook.
Prann's other secret to success has been his plan to leverage the power of the Internet and social media to extend sales beyond the Chattanooga area.
"We sell 85 percent of our motorbikes online," he said.
To maintain sales momentum, he began a major revision to his website before he had been in business a full year.
The updated site combines a cleaner look with community tools, a storefront and social media integration.
"It made up for the fact that we had one of the harshest winters we've had since I've lived here, which just destroyed the walk-in business," Collins said.
The company fills orders for bikes and parts for customers in regions as far flung as Russia, South Africa and Egypt, said Collins.
Customers can access views of their motorcycles and get deals that are matched by few other dealerships in the world, Prann added.
"When we post bikes for sale, our site automatically disseminates that information to a couple dozen other sites," which creates a huge online presence for Pandora's, Prann said.
But his first year in business hasn't been without hurdles.
While his sales and parts segments have outperformed his expectations, the service department isn't caught up yet. In addition, his constant rate of expansion has made cash a precious commodity.
"The bikes we just sold are still new and don't have the mileage yet where they need service, so there's a lot of down time," he said.
To pick up the slack, Prann again has turned to the Internet, broadcasting widely watched how-to seminars to friends, fans and customers, he said.
"Typically, mechanics don't like the do-it-yourselfers, but we're embracing them," he said.
His theory is that after he funnels online eyeballs to the YouTube tutorials, their next stop will be the company's online parts store.
The final key to Prann's high-tech expansion will be to post a video walk-around for each bike available online, which will be a central part of his renewed commitment to double sales in 2011.
Beyond that, the company is refocusing on customer service, by trying to make the high-end dealership not feel like a stereotypical high-end dealership, said Collins, who has worked at other luxury dealerships.
"Sometimes, it can be kind of a clickish-type deal," Collins said. "But we're not arrogant; we're not stuffy; we try to treat everybody the same."
Prann said he extends that same courtesy to Harley-Davidson riders, sometimes seen as the antithesis to a BMW or Ducati enthusiast.
"If they come in, we work on their bikes and we welcome them with open arms," Prann said. "Because I know if I get them in here enough times, I'll un-horse them and put them on a BMW."
Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...