® A Story About Motivation

A longtime Honda dealership that had fallen on hard times hired me as their new Service Manager. Things were bad. Their customer base of some 50 years had sadly all but withered away. I determined to get a feel for how things were in the shop, so I observed and analyzed for a couple weeks before acting on an ambitious reform plan. It didn't take long however to discover issues in this store ran very deep indeed, and most of them out of the scope of my position. The real problem was all the managers needed to be fired, from the GM on down, and eventually they were. Drug deals going on in the store, people everywhere angry and bitter, and brothers-in-law gorging on the overhead -- these were naturally all out of my purview. But what was my responsibility were mechanics spending much of their time on their cell phones, coming to work late, stoned, surly. I went through five service writers and replaced three of the five techs before things began to look even halfwway right in my department. One of the techs was fired for drawing a swastika on a customer's fuel tank. No joke.

But all of that is another story for another article. This story is about a Honda street bike. Sort of. One day I happened to spy a small displacement Honda in a corner of this shop's property. Being familiar with the model, I recognized it even under its tangled bed of weeds, and discovering it had been abandoned five years before, soon it was in the back of my truck. Shop records showed the bike was brought in by a coed from the local university for the problem of hard starting. The record also indicated the service writer had told the lady the vehicle was DOA; the service ticket said "needs engine rebuild." In the face of that she made what was to her the only decision. She abandoned her 7-year-old entry-level Honda and stuck the shop with the estimate time. Years later there I was, cleaning house in this sevice department, when like a CSI investigator I came upon this scene of tragedy. By then I knew too well the abilities and ethics of those I was dealing with, so I didn't believe the service record. Not for a minute.

Events very soon proved that the day when the gal had brought her ride into the shop it had needed little more than a valve adjustment. What happened? Well, the answer is a little more complex than simple incompetence, because the whole store was in trouble. The point is this: people want to view their dealer's technical staff as the experts. The ones who know and can do. They have every right to those expectations. That is the duty people like myself sign up for, as service people in the powersports industry. But because a service writer couldn't get off his butt and away from his space heater for a few lousy minutes, a young college student threw away a perfectly serviceable motorcycle. Now not all dealers or repair shops are like this, obviously. But my daughter enjoyed that bike for years before going off to college herself.

Email me
© 1996-2015 Mike Nixon