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Wednesday 16 February 2022

Tucker Powersports

Tucker Does Vegas
Words by Robin Bradley
Pictures: Steve Piehl, James Simonelli and AIMExpo

After two years of Zoom and Doom, the powersports industry finally got the chance to come face-to-face with itself again when AIMExpo opened its doors in Las Vegas in January. Leading the charge of the vendor brigade was Tucker Powersports, who had been waiting for an opportunity for event-based dealer engagement since its last Dealer Show at Fort Worth in January 2020 …
In accepting the challenge to be Tucker Powersports' CEO and president, 24-year Harley veteran Marc McAllister was committing himself to sip from what many believed to be a major poison chalice. That was in March 2020, and he became the fifth executive to try to steer the Tucker business back towards the proverbial sunlit uplands in just five years since the abortive "merger" with MAG.

At the time of his appointment, vendors widely welcomed the arrival of a powersports industry insider into what, at the time, had proven to be the hottest of industry hotseats. Someone who could hopefully combine the business dexterity that the Tucker balance sheet clearly needed with a sensitivity for the unique circadian rhythms of an industry that generally defies all logic to those who haven't served their time.

Without the need to get up to speed decoding the often counterintuitive and irrational structures, habits and baggage of an industry that has, itself, been in deep transition, McAllister was able to hit the ground running. The fact that, just two years later, Tucker already has so many achievements and changes to look back on is testimony to the fact that its private equity ownership cartel had finally got the right man.


Marc McAllister, CEO & President of Tucker Powersports

At the time of his appointment, Greg Etheridge, the then Chairman of the company's ownership group and a former Chairman of the MAG Board, cited McAllister's "tremendous experience in powersports and in driving business growth," admitting that "that's what we need at Tucker right now." How right he was, and how right for the role McAllister has proven to be.
Fast forward through what has turned out to have been a way more difficult 24 months than anybody could have foreseen, and with the industry looking for "proof of life" (both in Tucker and AIMExpo terms,) we got it.

"business was being done"

The decision to return to the traditional three-day trade-only format and partnering with an "anchor tenant" such as Tucker just may have finally rescued it.
In doing so, it may also have recused the industry's last best hope of having an independent business nexus to complement the distributor dealer events that have filled the vacuum since 'Indy' and 'Cinci' went south.

In terms of dealer attendees and exhibitors, the numbers for AIMExpo weren't spectacular, the show didn't "knock it out of the park," but they didn't need to be. What the industry needed to see was evidence that the show could demonstrate some kind of pulse and that the concept of an independent dealer expo could be nurtured back off of life support.
And the industry certainly got that. Though unable to make the trip ourselves in the end, we here at AMD have had enough industry feedback to be able to attest to the show having "done its job." As one sage industry veteran said - "there was business being done."
For a market that no longer has the luxury of waiting for the "good old days" to return (they never will and generally were a child of their times anyway), the cojoining of AIMExpo with Tucker (even if it proves to have been a one-off) may yet prove to have been exactly the defibrillator that the powersports expo landscape needed.
As to the changes that McAllister has implemented, in vendor and product terms, the two most striking have been the decision that the ownership group took in 2021 to fold the hitherto standalone Kuryakyn business into Tucker as an in-house brand.
That was a decision that created ripples when it was announced, but, in reality, it was as creative as it was bold for a longstanding industry brand that might otherwise have become an innocent casualty of the 'Great MAG Unwind'

"redefined the Tucker brand"

The second revolves around McAllister's preparedness to redefine what the Tucker brand itself means, reinventing it for an era in which the tribal barriers between the motorcycle industry and wider powersports industry are no longer sustainable.
Indeed, McAllister has driven a UTV through the fences that shaped the market's traditional market segment shapes. Primary among those changes has been taking Tucker (back) into the 'Snow' market, taking Tucker into a boat and leisure craft industry that is now way more than just the traditional PWC footprint, and, above all, aggressively recognizing that the EV market can be a mainstream powersports industry revenue source.
One that sits alongside traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) revenue streams for all of our market's dealerships and retail outlets - not one that competes with it.
There has, of course, been way more to Tucker's profile reconstruction and return to profit than this - and much of it internal - inevitably that has included a certain degree of executive "churn," headcount "rebalancing" and other structural and strategic "realignments."
However, if that is what it has taken to tune the business for the future, then kudos to McAllister and the Tucker team - and kudos too to the MIC's AIMExpo team because yes, "they did it!"
Look for full reports on Tucker's new programs and product additions in the April edition of AMD Magazine.