I live in a small town in Southwest Minnesota, population 39 (not counting tractors). Five miles in one direction is a town of a bit over a thousand souls and a Chevy/Buick dealer. Twenty miles away is a town of a couple thousand with another Chevy/Buick dealer. Twenty miles in the other direction is a town of 13,000 with GM, Ford,  MoPar, Freightliner, Navistar, and a Honda/Yamaha/Kawasaki bike/ATV/mower dealer. Forty miles away is a similar sized town with the same car dealers but no purveyors of  trucks or cycles. Seventy miles away in Sioux Falls are the big three plus all the Asian brands, VW, Mack/Volvo , Paccar, and more Freightliner and Navistar shops as well as all four Japanese cycle brands and Harley.

But BMW motorcycles? Since they’ve chased off Judson Cycle Sales, the nearest BMW dealer is 150 miles away. Heck, I’ve got two Guzzi dealers within 100 miles, as well as Motorvation Sidecars.  But thanks to those dealers, you’ll find a higher than average population of Guzzi around Watertown, SD and Mankato, MN. And thanks to Judson’s great service over the years, there’s still all kinds of older BMWs all over southern Minnesota. But one seldom sees a Triumph out here… The nearest dealer is 150 miles away.

Customers, even DIY loving gearhead customers, tend to buy where the manufacturer is represented by a reasonably local dealer. Henry Ford new this, and signed up practically every decent shop as a Ford dealer. Current Ford management forgot that wisdom, and you can see it in all the Chevies runnin’ ’round here.

Some years back I discovered this “power of place’ by an extreme example- Carson, North Dakota. Carson is a little town about 70 miles southwest of Bismark on ND highway 21 (IIRC) amongst a string of slowly dying railroad towns. Carson is the county seat though, so a couple hundred folks need to hang around to keep the courthouse and hospital open and keep the criminals in line, etc.. If you’re a lover of old International pickups and Travelalls looking for rust free restorable examples, you want to make a pilgramage to Carson- I counted over  dozen loitering about town, and  few more on the run. Why the overrepresentation of old “binders”? Turns out the last new car dealer in town was the International dealer… And the nearest Ford, GM, and Mopar dealers were an hour or more away. That IH dealer is still open last I checked, unfortunately Navistar no longer provides new light trucks for them to sell.

Now if somebody at the U.S. importers of BMW or Triumph should by some chance be reading this, about now they’d remark “There’s no buyers out there anyway”. Yah, sure… There’s another multiple BMW rider like me in the aformentioned town of a thousand, and in the surrounding townships are three more! The ag market is booming out here, and more than a few farmers are disposing of some of their extra income at motorcycle dealers. But BMW doesn’t have one out here anymore…

And cycle, car, and truck marketing geniuses, ever here of a place called the Bakken in western North Dakota? Talk is there’s a new millionaire made there every day, the oilfields need hundreds of trucks to haul mud, water, supplies, and oil, and there’s a few thousand workers there with big paychecks burning a whole in their pocket. Heck, even Mack finally has a dealer in Williston. But BMW… The better part of a days ride away.

So marketing geniuses, take a lesson from the tractor manufacturers… All three of them that survive. You’d think they’d be closing down dealers right and left as they “consolidate”. But nooo… The little town of  thousand has two and one is expanding, the town of 13,000 has all three, including seperate John Deere ag and construction equipment dealers. Heck, even the lowly Kubota dealer in that town has two locations! They must be doing something right- My Deere stock keeps goin’ up!

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