Friday, September 2, 2011

SYM finally fixes US Distribution Mess

SYM finally fixes US Distribution Mess
Before I go off on today's topic let me just say I love scooters. Any brand I ever had a hand in importing I did it because it was a good opportunity and I loved the brand. The first time I knew SYM would be a hit in the US was when I visited the UK importer for Malaguti. On the wall was a chart showing the climbing sales of SYM year on year compared to Malaguti. My friend Chris Esposito and I were in Darby ( near where the English Tunnel was built ) we looked at the chart and said the Italians are loosing ground. Later on in Germany I noticed Sachs was only staying open because of SYM scooters not the Malaguti or the motorcycle sales ( both the UK and the Germany Sachs have stopped importing since then and in Sachs case closed )

Later on I was the first guy to bring the SYM lineup into the US legally under the DBA SYM USA back in 2003 soon thereafter we had a guy here in West Palm Beach importing them Grey Market calling himself SYM America.

The Grey Market units came from France and the UK and sadly didn't even have 17 digit VINs on them, by the time NHTSA and Luke Loy (the former head of compliance) found out this guy was already broke and went out of business.

SYM in Taiwan acted like they had no idea about him, but he soon left the market after putting a couple of hundred Peugeots and SYMs in the marketplace. I would get calls from dealers as far as Denver looking for parts on SYM units we weren't importing.

After a long trip to the Florida Keys with the entire staff of the SYM export department I was solidified as their US importer.

The first container sold in one day to Puerto Rico making us a hit in the 50cc 2stroke racing scene down there with the easily upgradable DD50. The Jet Euro 50 and Jet Euro 100cc followed and both were good models in terms of sales. One of our first dealers was Scooter Escapes in Florida which loved the Jet Euro. Sadly, the support and parts we were promised never came. All the while we kept at it.

Two months later at the Dealer Expo I noticed at the booth across from mine TOMOS USA had some SYM built units and I knew the brand was pointless. At the same time downstairs JAG USA  had some SYMs as well. What was interesting at the time is they also had a bunch of Kymco ATVs labeled JAG which started another mess before JAG resurfaced as CPI USA. It was at this point that after importing scooters from Italy, Spain, Taiwan, and China I retired from vehicle importation and stuck to parts. It was just too much drama, with the Asian factories acting like the village bicycle. Since 2005 we watched the managers of JAG go to Carter, then the Buggy manufacturer take over SYM distribution only to watch them go up in flames and now return under distribution by Lance formerly a ZNEN China distributor as finally the official US Distributor of SYM. Michael made a smart move, dumped ZNEN and took a good opportunity so right there you know they are one step ahead of all the me-too generic importers of Chinese bikes. The name of the game is having an original mold and original parts not Generics.

Since the Carter incident we have had hundreds of calls mostly from consumers looking for SYM parts. Many of them had to buy them at full retail from Canada because SYM wasn't honoring warranties, dealer payments, and other issues. That's alright I am sure Alliance will make up for it and they are the face of the brand now hopefully they can get that under control. Let's face it the factory is in Taiwan and some guy in North Carolina who can't run his bike isn't always their primary concern. Just look at the mess that is Daelim and how the Koreans abandoned the US dealer network, it will take thousands to rebuild that trust because they failed to leave parts support in the market after the US importer folded.

For months I have been publicly saying having two distributors was a huge mistake for SYM. Their plans to have Alliance/Lance competing with Carter would have been the end of both companies. I've been basically nudging SYM behind the scenes to keep just one.

For one reason or another it finally went inside their group think mentality and they understood it. The US market can only handle one importer for many legal reasons (liability, warranty, lawsuits this is a motor vehicle), but mostly for marketing purposes. The whole world sees this big nation when in reality the US Powersports Industry is a very small playground. It's gotten a lot smaller in recent years, but the Asian factories still think its a bonanza waiting to happen. They still act like the village bicycle.

I love the SYM product. I put it right up there with Kymco in terms of quality. The factory is five to six times bigger than PGO which had a good run in the US thanks to its branding efforts by Genuine making it the only market in the world where PGO enjoyed a top spot. Yet SYM really could never get into gear. Not when I imported it, not when the Grey Market guy did it, not when Carter did it for some odd reason.

SYM needs to wake up and give its US importer its full support. Stop arguing over warranties ( pay people ) not stonewall the importer over defective parts. Step up to the plate and act like KYMCO which is the reason Kymco dominates right now in Taiwanese units in the USA. Despite all the marketing KYMCO has the numbers to prove they are number one not only worldwide but also in the USA in terms of sales is mainly because of the support they have given the dealer network. SYM has the ability to go toe to toe with them if they desired. If SYM ever wants to be second they need to step up to the plate and I hope they do because its a great factory and a great brand.

Let's support Alliance in their new quest. As someone who has a past with SYM I welcome the new importer and wish them the best. I hope SYM gives them the resources and help they need to support the dealers and US riders.

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