BIG BOSS INTERVIEW
Interview with Gérard Staedelin, new boss of Harley-Davidson and Buell France
As he prepares to take the helm of Harley-Davidson and Buell in France following the departure of Jean-Luc Mars at Honda, Gérard Staedelin, former general manager of Harley-Davidson and Buell in Switzerland, answered our questions..
Following the departure of Jean-Luc Mars at Honda (read and our), Site interviewed Gérard Staedelin, former general manager of the Swiss subsidiary of Harley-Davidson and Buell (read), who is preparing to take control of the subsidiary french.
Site: You have just been appointed CEO of Harley-Davidson and Buell in France. When are you going to take up your duties ?
Gerard Staedelin : My assumption of duties will be gradual. I still mainly take care of Switzerland, then gradually I will work more on France but I am already in contact with the French team. I will meet the French dealers during our annual meeting in Las Vegas in July, then I will arrive in France at the end of July at the beginning of August with my wife and my son. Moreover, I take this opportunity to launch an appeal: we are looking for a nice apartment to rent not too far from Créteil, so as not to reconnect too abruptly with Parisian traffic! There is no clear cut between what I am doing here in Switzerland today and what I will do in France tomorrow, but the effective recovery will be in September.
M.-N.C. : You have worked a lot abroad. Glad to be back in France ?
G. S. : I am French, I was born in Asnières 42 years ago. I worked as District Manager for the Paris region at BMW Motorrad, but it has been exactly 10 years since we left France to settle in London, when I joined Harley-Davidson Europe. I spent five years in England. In 2003, we moved to settle in Zurich, where we had time to integrate and lose all notion of the French language! Today with my return to Paris, it’s been a cycle of five years again…
M.-N.C. : So we’ll find you in 5 years at the head of Honda ?
G. S. (laughs): Ah ah, you never know if Jean-Luc is calling me! No, seriously, I see my future in Harley. I don’t have a lot of principles in life, but there is one to which I attach a lot of importance, which is that it is vital that an individual continues to be formed during his career. Things change, even if we are in the world of motorcycles which is a rather simple world, but we are surrounded by a changing economy. I left school in 1988, but have gone back three times for a year or two since I started my career. I believe that who does not advance, backs off: by listening, watching, opening your mind to new ways of thinking, and above all avoiding becoming completely "monocultural", you can keep your mind very open. on what’s going on while staying in the same industry. I kept saying to my Swiss dealers: "train yourself!"
M.-N.C. : You are therefore in phase with your predecessor, Jean-Luc Mars, who told us in a recent interview that he would be "important" (for you) "to have a fresh look" ?
G. S. : Yes, I will arrive at this post with a look as candid as possible. I’m still going to take my habits, because I have behind me a backpack of ten years of Harley-Davidson, but I will try to leave it at the door to watch the market, the developments, the dealers, the staff, to try to put some new blood in the way of working.
M.-N.C. : Before taking the helm of Harley and Buell in Switzerland, then today in France, you were a "district manager" at Harley-Davidson for the independent markets: when was it exactly and what did it consist of? he ?
G. S. : I went to England in 1998 to open new markets for Harley-Davidson in Europe, the Middle East and Africa: my job was to assess the potential of each country and find a local partner who wanted to invest with Harley-Davidson. I have worked with South Africa, all the Gulf countries, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Egypt, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, etc..
M.-N.C. : What conclusions did you draw ?
G. S. : From a purely business point of view, it was very positive. Today all these countries are turning, they have developed well, to such an extent that some importers have even been transformed into subsidiaries, as in South Africa six weeks ago. From a more personal point of view it was an amazing experience, I got to meet totally different people in very different fields, that we got to get interested in the Harley-Davidson brand while they were working in fields very different.
M.-N.C. : Since 2004 you were CEO of HD and Buell Switzerland: what is your assessment of your four years at the head of this subsidiary ?
G. S. : If I managed to redo in France what I did in Switzerland, I would certainly be the happiest of men! Because in Switzerland, in a little over four years, we have tripled the volume of Harley and Buell: we started with 1000 motorcycles five years ago and we will end this year with 3000. In a country of 7.5 million. inhabitants, that still means something! If you bring that back to France, it gives you an idea of what we could do! It shows that the growth, which has already started in France over the last 5 or 10 years, is possible and is not over! There is still a lot of work for the French team and for the dealer network, but it’s nice work because if someone has a problem with the growth, they have to get out of the capitalist system, no ? In Switzerland, we not only tripled sales volumes, but we also created an extraordinary working atmosphere with the 15 dealers of the Harley and Buell network, most of whom were already there in 2003 and who saw their business explode! However, a dealer who manages to make a good living from the brand with which he works is someone who normally transmits this to his customers, he invests in after-sales, in equipment, he gives to his clientele something unique.
M.-N.C. : 15 dealers in Switzerland for 7.5 million inhabitants and 45 in France for 65 million? Do you plan to expand the French network to 130 dealerships ???
G. S. : I am unable to answer this question today, because I have to discuss all this with my team in France and see what we will do in the future. The work that has been done over the past five and ten years in France has been very well done and above all, there is no revolution to put in place. We are an American company so we are working on five years. My job is to consolidate what has been done, certainly not to redo everything! The situation is very different from Switzerland where everything had to be set up. Ask me again in a year, but today 45 concessions for France sounds good to me, when you take into account the shape of the country and the more or less populated regions. In any case, I hope that the French dealers are waiting for me with positive impatience, not with stones! For my part, I am very impatient to meet them, so that we realize that we can move forward together and in a positive way for everyone. My principle in business has always been that everyone is happy with what they do. There are certainly possibilities to increase the sales volume of the 45 existing dealerships. This means that each of the current dealerships should have more to do with the brand in the future, and perhaps some dealers who would see their volumes double or triple would want to open something else elsewhere..
M.-N.C. : How do you manage HD and Buell as separate brands? What are their main differences and their main commonalities? On a daily basis, how do you balance your working time between the two ?
G. S. : In emerging countries, we have always approached things with the Harley-Davidson brand, much more powerful than the Buell which followed. It was a long-term job. In France and central Europe, we are no longer there, even if there is still a lot of work on the Buell brand image, which is still little known. Harley and Buell are two totally different products but they are driven by the same passion: the sensations of driving! There is something magical when you ride with one or the other, the sensations are different but you feel that you are staying in the same house !
M.-N.C. : What is the difference between Buell customers and Harley customers? ?
G. S. : They are not that ultimately not that far away. It’s true that Buell customers are a bit younger, more dynamic, but they’re not people who are diametrically opposed to Harley customers. Of course, ten years separate them, and with ten years many things go hand in hand: family and professional situation, purchasing power, physical condition, maturity … We see things in a different way with ten years of more ! Personally, I have a great passion for Buell because I find them to be extraordinarily dynamic motorcycles to ride. But for good reason, if I go on vacation, I will definitely go with a Harley. I’ve always said everyone should have two motorcycles in their garage: a Harley and a Buell !
M.-N.C. : This is your case ?
G. S. : Yes, I drive a Buell STT and like a Harley, I am more of a suitcase and fairing, it’s a Street Glide. Both are motorcycles that give me different feelings.
M.-N.C. : How will your arrival change HD and Buell France? ?
G. S. : I see it quite simply: what I want above all else is to have customers who are very satisfied with their experience with the brand. My second goal is to have dealers who wake up in the morning with a big smile on their faces and who want to go charcoal! Not just because they see their business growing – although that’s very important, of course – but because they want to do it! It is therefore up to us to give them this desire to go and serve their customers in the morning. And from there, we inevitably arrive at the third point, which is to see the business of Harley and Buell develop in France..
M.-N.C. : This is what we learn at IMD in Lausanne, where you have just completed an MBA ?
G. S. : For almost 15 years, it has always been my way of seeing things. I think there is no good business when one of the parties feels wronged. And in our business, that means that the brand, the dealership and the customer must have a good experience and a good relationship. I see life like that. In my opinion, this is the only way to wake up in the morning, to be able to shave and not to be in situations where you pull the blanket to yourself, until the moment when the other party leaves. realizes and begins to feel cold … In addition, we have the great chance to evolve in a world where most people are passionate about the product !
M.-N.C. : Sometimes to the detriment of a certain professionalism ?
G. S. : I have worked with 25 countries and everywhere, the world of motorcycles is a world of passion that develops over time. In terms of overall sales, Harley and Buell are perhaps a little different from other brands in that we certainly have the best deal for financial partners: we sell motorcycles that are all over 88. 3cc, so we are operating in a price range that is high. Therefore, when a dealership sells 100 Harley-Davidsons, it is quite obvious that they are brewing a completely different business flywheel than a dealership that sells 100 motorcycles of another make … And so we draw within Harley-Davidson people who have a business structure that is probably more advanced than in other brands of motorcycles. Our network has a level of professionalism which is nevertheless very high in the world of motorcycles. But we have a level of passion that is definitely higher than what we can find in many other industries! During my MBA, I was immersed in people who came from 40 different countries and many very varied organizations, and I can tell you that I didn’t see many who, speaking of their brand, were able to smile, to be passionate, or quite simply to have the chance to evolve in a leisure environment … It is a chance that we have to evolve in a passionate environment, and it’s a shame that ” we don’t always realize it every day, because we often tend to believe that the grass is greener elsewhere…
M.-N.C. : Do you have any particular concerns, expectations and desires regarding your new challenge? ?
G. S. : I have no particular fears, I am rather serene. Of course, it will not be easy to develop sales in France. If it were, we wouldn’t need a team of 20 people and 45 dealers! It’s going to be tough, especially since we now have a very good competitor at Honda! The French market is very competitive, but I believe that there are development possibilities. In Switzerland we sell a lot of expensive Harleys, maybe in France we can sell a lot of cheaper Harleys! I don’t mean to sound arrogant in saying that, but there are people who have a lot of experience within the French team, they do a very good job and the French network has managed to demonstrate its value. So finally, I arrive in an environment which is nevertheless quite solid. In addition, I am lucky to arrive in a country of mine !
M.-N.C. : Harley-Davidson was one of the first motorcycle manufacturers to take the Internet seriously in France. Are you on the same wavelength as Jean-Luc Mars on this subject? ?
G. S. : Absolutely! It would be difficult to say the opposite: the net is an essential tool of communication, information, promotion and exchanges today, which makes it possible to provide a multitude of information on motorcycles or on anything else. ‘other. It is a tool that should be used as much as possible, even it is not a question of selling motorcycles on the Internet! We are a passionate brand and it is up to the dealership to transmit this passion to customers and future customers. It is fundamental that someone who is interested in Harley-Davidson can fit into an environment that makes them want to enter our world. I am 42 years old, I grew up without the Internet, with a paper and a pencil. I have the profile of our clients, for whom it is very important to meet someone to talk to! The Internet is fundamental, but it must allow people to find themselves somewhere: at dealerships, at motorcycle events, etc..
M.-N.C. : Last year, Harley-Davidson in France crossed the threshold of 5,000 registrations. For 2008, Jean-Luc Mars thought he could "take the vacuum and brake"to Germany and Italy, where even more Harleys are sold than in France. Do you think you can achieve this goal? ?
G. S. : I like Jean-Luc’s expression! Yes, Italy and Germany are the two biggest markets for Harley and Buell in Europe, since each of them makes around 1000 more motorcycles than France. What if the Italians manage to make 1000 more motorcycles per year, for an equal population and an equal or perhaps even lower economy? Why not the French! I will even have a more ambitious project than to "put the brakes" on Germany and Italy: in France, Harley has something like 9% of market share in addition to 650 cc, whereas we have some. 16% in Switzerland … That’s my goal! In Switzerland, for two years, Harley-Davidson and Buell have been the motorcycle market leaders in addition to 650cc. And since last year, Harley alone has been the Swiss motorcycle market leader over 650cc. It gives you an idea of what I’ve been used to … And I would love to get there again! I’m not saying it’s gonna be done in three months, but I’m saying there are possibilities !
Interview by Eric MICHEL
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