The two companies formed an exclusive partnership earlier this month to develop a motorcycle rental program. EagleRider exclusively offers current model year Harley-Davidson motorcycle fleets in the touring and large cruiser motorcycle segments. The new program will include short- and long-term rentals.
EagleRider was founded in 1992 by Chris McIntyre and Jeff Brown with four Harley-Davidson motorcycles in a Los Angeles garage. Since then, the rental company has grown to serve more than 100,000 riders annually.
Powersports Finance spoke with McIntyre about the new partnership, and EagleRider’s plans moving forward. Following are edited excerpts from the interview:
Powersports Finance: How important was this partnership with Harley-Davidson to EagleRider?
Chris McIntyre: This has been a 25-year journey almost — we opened in 1994. So, 20-plus years of trying to work with Harley in a very big, bold strategic fashion. For me, it’s incredibly rewarding. For the industry, I would venture to say it can’t get much better. The industry’s goal is to get more butts on bikes — which would lead to more motorcycle experiences, and in turn help everybody sell more bikes. With the two largest companies, in their respective fields, partnering — EagleRider for rental, tour, and travel; and Harley-Davidson, the undisputed king of touring and cruiser motorcycles globally — it’s a perfect fit.
PF: Why did it take so long to partner with Harley-Davidson?
CM: There are three big things you have to solve in the rental business: financing of rolling inventory; insurance; and a fleet deal. If you would have told me that a fleet relationship, or a really solid long-term relationship with any OEM, was going be diplomatically difficult or it was going to take tens of years, I would have thought you were crazy. I would have thought that, ‘Yeah, insurance is going to be really difficult.’ And I would have thought banking would be a lot of song and dance, but eventually if I got the insurance solved, I’d be able to solve the banking. But I never, ever would have guessed in my wildest dreams that it would take so long for the fleet deal.
I didn’t know the diplomacy in the world of really any vehicle manufacturer. I didn’t know the battles that went on with the metrics, Europeans, and the American brands. I didn’t realize the desire of manufacturers to control every aspect that is tied to their business. I didn’t realize there was all this political navigation in the world of multi-billion dollar public OEMs. But if you are persistent, patient, and believe in your plan that you are putting forth, it all pans out.
PF: How important is your banking relationship?
CM: EagleRider — as part of our growth from four bikes in a garage to 400, and 400 became 4,000, and one store became 100 — as a group it wasn’t because Chris and Jeff were magical founders, we actually didn’t know what we didn’t know and hired talented people. So, that’s what we did and as we grew the company. And one area along the way that we realized was that this is such a capital-intensive business. We all know bikes cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000. So, if we are buying 1,000 bikes, that’s $20 million. As we started getting into the multiple thousand bikes, I knew I needed a very sound banking relationship. We found — very fortunately — an incredible financial partner with private equity firm Main Post Partners.
Main Post banks on entrepreneurs; they bet on people like Chris and Jeff that not only have a good idea, but they believe they are the right people and they need financial strength to explode. That’s what we did, we chose a financial partner and we bought out pretty much every shareholder in the company except for us two founders, and put forth a new business model that is based on not only North American growth but global growth.
PF: Considering Harley-Davidson does not offer leasing options, is this a way for them to offer a similar experience without getting into leasing?
CM: I don’t know what Harley’s plans are on leasing or other unique financial opportunities, I can only tell you that my relationship with the company is incredibly solid. What they have shared with me is very really simple: They understand that today’s economy is an experience economy and they understand that the more people that experience their products and the more that experience motorcycling, the more those can turn into sales. Yes, they want more experiences on Harley-Davidson to convert to motor sales, and whether it is converted to a purchase, a lease someday or converted through something else, they embrace EagleRider’s membership program.