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This Carr will run on two wheels

October 11, 2010
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I finally did it. After years of hemming and hawing, I am officially signed up for the Motorcycle Rider Course at the local community college. With any luck, my brothers will have to find something else to tease me about this summer.

Yup. You heard right. I’ll no longer be stuck gripping the sissy bar when my father wants to take out his Harley, and I’ll finally have a use for my husband’s Craigslist obsession (hello, affordable Honda Rebel!). Not only that, but the prices at the pump won’t cause palpitations in my chest.

In preparation for my course, I started crunching some numbers on the Internet. I learned there are over 4 million motorcycles registered in the United States and female ownership has risen from 9.6 to 12.4 percent between 2003 and 2008 (according to the Motorcycle Industry Council Owner Survey).

That same survey found that while the age of the average owner has risen over the years, the age of the motorcycle has started to fall. Yes, it would seem the recession has suited at least one kind of driver in the United States: The kind that wears a helmet.

In recent years, there has been some movement in the industry to meet the needs of this niche market. Mike Mountz of Cloister Car Wash included a unique motorcycle stand/self-serve wash service at his newest location, opened in Sinking Springs, PA, in 2007. A few years later, Washworld, Inc., a manufacturer of in-bay automatic carwash systems, announced it would market and sell the first touchless automatic motorcycle wash system, developed by Harrell’s Car Wash Systems. Harrell’s MOTO EXPRESS WASH was displayed at Car Care World Expo 2009 and garnered a lot of looks and attention.

True, the motorcycle niche might not be your style, or might be too small for your taste. After all, compared to the 254.4 million registered passenger cars, motorcycle owners represent a pretty small number of potential customers. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a unique customer base to be attracted to your carwash. Offering coffee (a profit center we review in an article here) or a luxury service can reach a new type of customer. So can catering to classic car clientele through special advertising and marketing events.

Choosing a niche market, whether it’s offering a unique service or an Early Bird special, can be one way to get your customers talking — even if they aren’t going to necessarily purchase that service. For instance, even though my father insists on washing his motorcycle by hand, he is likely to mention the Cloister facility (which offers specially formulated cleaning chemicals by Harley) to his rider buddies. Even if they don’t stop in to soap up their hogs, they might just get the family van washed. And in this economy, every dollar counts.

Kate Carr, Editor in Chief

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