Business is not healthy enough for pride and prejudice. The theory of “we only work on Fords, Chevys, automotive/race motors here” will only ensure the closing business hours from late evening to late lunch. Perhaps that strategy will even result in the closing of business altogether.
To add diversity to your business model is to create more money-making opportunities for you and your employees. Having pride will only limit one’s possibilities. Prejudice will only drive away those who are looking for a good machine shop. Just because some kid walks a single cylinder motorcycle into your shop, the attitude of a good foreman or service writer should be welcoming, not condescending.
Attitude must be as such: “How can we make money off this single cylinder motor?” The attitude should not be “How can we make money off of only a single cylinder motor?” If someone is willing to bring you money, why not accommodate them?
What most machine shops fail to realize is they’re fully capable of machining anything that burns gas. From a Ford or Chevy to Kawasakis and Harley-Davidsons. Limiting your shop to only V-8s will accelerate your shop’s premature demise. While the slowdown of this economy continues, the more successful machine shops and engine builders are finding new ways to keep the doors open and the employees busy.
Boring bars, honing machines, vertical mills, fly-cutters, hydraulic press, carbide cutters and end-mills don’t discriminate. Your machinery knows not what it’s machining, it only machines what you want it to machine. Most machine shops already use the modern machinery and tooling necessary to machine V-8s or V-Twins. Although the machinery and tools are in place, many neglect an untapped market which is thirsty with alternatives.
The market known largely as the “PowerSports” market is desperate for alternative solutions of machine and repair work. MX, Dirt Bike, ATV, Snowmobile, Jet Ski, Shifter Kart, Scooter, Outboard Boaters and Harley-Davidson owners are searching for engine builders. And, repair shops and machine shops other than the original equipment franchise dealers. Why? The franchise dealers are usually biased with their repair and performance solutions, meaning they’d rather sell the customer a new OEM manufactured factory part than rebuild the existing one. Varying reasons apply but most often their motivation is the factory kick-backs awarded to the franchise dealer for their volume of OEM parts and performance accessory sales.
Oftentimes consumers feel trapped into making the decision and settle with the franchise dealer rather than go elsewhere because they feel there are no alternatives. As with the automotive and automotive performance industry, there are numerous aftermarket alternatives to choose from, but consumers are generally uneducated in this area. They do not spend time researching their local machine shop alternatives. If they happen to see a local auto shop or machine shop, they’ll generalize in their mind that these shops as automotive only. To change that perception, these shops must promote themselves as all things to all people.
The fact is, even an automotive performance machine shop can set up with a PowerSports distributor and offer parts and performance accessories like most franchise dealers. One of the most tenured and prolific PowerSports engine parts distributors is L.A.SLEEVE. For the last 30 years, they’ve relentlessly promoted the crossover opportunities to the Automotive, Industrial and Performance machine shops throughout the USA. Since 1945, L.A.SLEEVE has been manufacturing cylinder repair sleeves for all engine markets. But, it wasn’t until the early ’70s that they realized the
limitations of the automotive market would soon depress their overall business model.
Well known in the automotive, industrial and performance markets for supplying ductile iron cylinder sleeves, L.A.SLEEVE has been able to provide an opportunity to their auto/industrial customers to also service the PowerSports market. It is warehouse distributors like L.A.SLEEVE who can broaden your customer base. If the opportunity is available, take advantage of it. Q&E Engineering, in Anaheim, California took advantage of L.A.SLEEVE’s technical prowess and engine parts selection. Q&E is one of L.A.SLEEVE’s most successful customers
To delve a little deeper into this market, we look to the guys at Q&E. They’re a shop who’ve been able to service all engine markets. Vance Qualls is the president at Q&E. He tells us his shop has remained busy during this current slow economic period. “We’re different than most shops. Currently, we’re lining up sleeve jobs, head and valve work for a Honda 250F dirt bike, a Kawasaki ATV, a Perkins 6.354 forklift, a GM LS-1, a Carlisle compressor, a V-6 Mercury outboard and a Chinese scooter cylinder. We take in almost anything. Our motto is: if it turns a crankshaft, screw, prop or pump, we’ll build it. If it wasn’t for our diversification we’d probably have been gone by now.”
Although their shop isn’t as organized as a NASCAR engine facility or a glamorous Harley-Davidson dealership, they’ve got work. In-between the confusion on the shop floor of engines, heads, cranks, dirt and grime, they’ve got work and money flowing through the business. And today, that should be every shop’s concern.
Vance tells us, “Of all we do, it’s hard to pass up the ATV and dirt bike cylinder and head work. Cylinders and new heads are extremely pricey; therefore the consumer will approach us looking for a less expensive alternative. The MX and ATV consumers will drop $800 to $1,500 for us to re-sleeve their cylinder, port the head, replace valve seats, supply new intake and exhaust valves and service their carburetor. All theories apply when producing horsepower on a V-8 head or a 5-valve Honda dirt bike head. The work is relatively easy and the profit is unmatched. The market isn’t as diluted as the Automotive market so we know we’re going to be able to mark up our pricing to somewhere in the 40% range. That’s better than anything we can make on Automotive hard parts”.
Of all the PowerSports motors, the 2-cycle motor is the most maligned. The 2-cycle will produce the most “pound for pound” horsepower of any motor ever made. In the past, the long time Drag racing engine builder would scoff at the notion of rebuilding those high pitched squeaky little motors. Frankly most shops are afraid to even look at a 2-cycle. But, in today’s slow economy, one might reconsider. 2-cycle cylinders are being discontinued by most Japanese factories. Owners of these bikes crave to rebuild them because they are still legal to ride in most forest and OHV trails. Newer bikes are being regulated and restricted to mostly MX tracks.
Consumers looking for new cylinders are now being gauged by high priced parts stores or dealerships. Some older 2-cycles are going for upwards of $900.00. Therefore, the consumer has become very receptive towards having their 2-cycles re-sleeved or bored to larger bore pistons. All shop tools and machinery would be utilized in cylinder rebuilding. Boring bars, honing machine, vertical mills, press and some simple right angle porting tools would help finish off the port work.
As the 2-cycles are being eliminated from new sales, the 4-cycle dirt bike, snowmobile, PWC and ATVs are obviously dominating new sales. This has become a boon for the crossover market potential. Why? Again, the performance motor theories are relative to Automotive racing. The progressive thinking Automotive race engine shops are taking in the 4-cycle motors for repair and performance upgrades. These shops will re-sleeve the cylinder (which is not unlike a V-8 sleeve job) installing a big bore piston, top-end gaskets, porting the head and replacing the valves. Retail on a job like that is usually $1,400.00 to $1,600.00 not bad for only three to five hours of labor.
You may be thinking “can an old dog learn new tricks?” It’s all up to the “dog”! Cylinder sleeving is the same across the board. If you can drop in a 4 inch bore Chevy sleeve, you can easily drop in a 3-1/2 inch bore Yamaha ATV sleeve. All methods apply. Can you port a LS-1 head? If the answer is yes, then you can port a 4-valve Honda dirt bike. And, as earlier stated, the profit margin is very good.
The worldwide internet is loved and hated by many in our industry. But, the fact is you can get almost all the information you need by searching the web for free performance tips. Many in the PowerSports markets will divulge their secrets openly on their websites. Why? Because they feel if they’re open with their technology the consumers will trust their motives. These tech tips can and will help the novice in the right direction. Then, old time experience and common sense will lead you and your shop towards integration of Big Blocks, dirt bikes, ATVs and scooters.
You can revive your business by thinking of these other industries. Don’t let your pride get in the way. There is a huge potential waiting out there and only you can open it up. The possibilities are without limit.
Dave Metchkoff from L.A.SLEEVE Co. Inc., in Santa Fe Springs, CA. For more information, call toll-free 800-822-6005 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.lasleeve.com.
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