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Ride West's Sales are Parr and more!Ride West BMW

Sales Manager tells of the dealer's road to success

Ride West BMW came to be four years ago, when Ann and Keith Thye purchased the dealership (Buckingham BMW) from Sandy and Bill Buckingham. In 1995 it was 48th in the nation in new BMW motorcycle sales, today it ranks 4th. In 1995, they had 5 employees - today they have 18.

Sales Manager - John ParrDuring this four year rise the dealership has built their customer base on one key principle - Commitment. "The feedback we consistently receive is that customers appreciate how much we care about them and their needs, as well as being a "rider's" shop. We all own motorcycles, and ride them regularly. We use all of the products we sell," say sales manager Howard Parr.

Parr grew up in Sacramento, and lived in many places, including France. He graduated in 1987 from UC Berkeley with degrees in English and French. "I was working in Manhattan as a paralegal. A friend who worked in the mailroom at the law office rode a Honda Shadow, and offered to loan me the bike to ride to Philadelphia. Having ridden five years earlier, I was again hooked on bikes, and left for Daytona in 1994 to attend the American Motorcycle Institute, where I was trained as an entry-level mechanic," he says. He then moved to Seattle where he was later offered, and accepted, a job as the Parts Manager at Buckingham BMW. After two years as Parts Manager, "I got bold one day, and said to Keith Thye 'I could sell 100 motorcycles a year,' the magic number in a BMW dealership, and at the time there were only three dealerships nationwide who were at that level." Now they are on their way to hitting that number, a little more than half way through the current fiscal year.

Ride West customer Bob JamiesonThe Ride West website is an easy one to navigate and is packed full of information about new models and the dealer's events. In the winter they've been known to host slide shows at the shop and they commonly have swap meets which you will find listed on the events page. However, Parr notes that no one can live by web alone. "The web site serves to introduce us to potential customers. It serves as an effective communication tool, and it has specific limitations. Our business is built upon the personal relationships we develop with customers. Virtually every motorcycle buyer in our dealership has been referred by another customer. In my experience, the internet and e-mail have created a fantastic, wide-reaching forum, the nature of which is rather impersonal and distant, oriented primarily towards marketing. In a long-lasting relationship with a customer, even telephone communication doesn't quite serve to convey the intimacy of the relationship people have with their motorcycles-the Internet even less so. So, while the web site certainly expands the scope of our communication, we are always searching and developing ways in which to distinguish our dealership from the 200 other stores in the country who sell the same product."

In the four years that Ride West has been operating under their new ownership they have developed a number of internal employee development programs designed to keep staff around and turnover low. "We believe that a happy and enthusiastic staff is the best benefit a customer can have. We pay our employees well, and ask them in return to provide the value for which our customers pay. We truly consider it an honor and a privilege to be of service to our customers, and that comes straight from the top, from Ann and Keith Thye. We distinguish ourselves as a dealership that provides customer service as a practice, not as a concept."

On the road with the K1200LTObviously, BMW corporate plays a role in their success. Recently the manufacturer has come to market with some new bikes that maintain the company's tradition for excellence while keeping up and surpassing the Jones' when it comes to style. Bikes like the K1200RS and 1100RS were classics the day they hit the showroom floor, but the company has also caught up once again with the touring rider through the introduction of the K1200LT. Parr and his wife took the later on an 800 mile roundtrip to Bend Oregon as quick as they could hi-jack one from the store.

New owners are treated to a one year membership in the Washington State BMW Riders' Association with the purchase of their bike. "It is a great way for a new motorcycle owner to enter into the social world of motorcycle riding. Anyone looking for a group of warm, enthusiastic people can certainly find it in that club" says Parr.

TBack in the shopHose who already own BMW's look to Ride West for their service needs. The dealership offers a full range of support including tune-ups, rebuilds of engines and transmissions, and also pinstriping and painting services (which they contract out). There are five BMW certified technicians on staff. "We say that the five consult on your motorcycle and one turns the wrenches." Parr notes of the service staff.

So does Parr like his job? "I'm very fortunate to work with a product I love, and to have the generosity of my co-workers and customers that provide me with what makes up a big part of my life." Look for the dealership to move to a new location on Lake City Way in the Spring of 2000.

Tom Mehren/ Summer 1999


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