St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/03/2011 : 7:55 AM
As the letter I discussed in an earlier entry said, HDRE representatives did get together with at least some state coordinators and others during the spring of 2000.
Here are the hand written notes from one of those meetings in one state. I have clearance from the state administrator to use his name but not from the other representatives (one from that state ABATE) to use theirs and, since they were present, am not using any names as it would identify them without their permission. If they contact me with permission, I will come back and state which state and who the state program reps were.
This meeting was held earlier than the letter from Curtin and Weiss was dated. Other H-D documents sent out to dealers at roughly the same time are cited when necessary to put what H-D said to state administrators in context.
It's very likely that other state administrators have notes on their meetings with HDRE representatives. This would be a good time to dig them out of the files and compare them to these and to the letter dated March 9, 2000.
Mike Weiss and Mike Lee represented H-D at that meeting:
The state was told it was primarily a marketing program. That HDRE expected "not to train the people we are currently training."
It may then interest you all to know that according to a summary sheet of testing data given to the state administrator (as well as a secondary dealer flyer) that field testing was on a total of 58 students on the Blast and 64.5 percent of them were, in fact, over 35 years of age and only 38 percent of the men were in HDRE's target group. Iow, even their testing was based on the exact population that normally takes the state program classes. And, in fact, that's still the case: H-D would find it difficult to prove that those who take the course are demonstrably different than those who take the state program courses.
The state asked how they were going to reach this target audience of those who did not intend to ride and the reps said that the Blast ads were going to go to unconventional places and "once big enough, will go national into unconventional markets".
The unconventional markets H-D imagined back then may be clarified by a flyer sent to H-D dealers to elicit dealer participation: "Hockey, Karate/martial arts, Sailing, Football, Colleges/universities, Coffee houses, Surfing, Soccer, Mountain biking, In line skating, On line/Internet, Jet skiing/wave runner, Wind surfing, Mountain/Rock Climbing, Downhill skiing". As far as I can tell, however, marketing to these groups in these arenas has not happened on a local, state or national scale.
H-D would find it demonstrably difficult to prove that they did, in good faith, mount the campaign they promised to convince those who did not intend to ride and, if such a campaign did exist, that it was effective. Iow, that, among those so convinced, they only decided to ride because of H-D/Buell efforts and only would learn to ride because of the existence of RE.
And, oh yes, there was one other place the H-D flyer thought new riders might be found. The last place listed was "Bars." How daring and unconventional of H-D. And this points to an underlying social irresponsibility on the part of H-D given the current concern about DUI and, particularly, motorcyclist DUI. But, in light of all that's to come, this is almost irrelevant.
The notes also state that H-D reps said that H-D has contract with dealers. If we [unclear antecedent but assume the state program] go to H-D and say make so and so go away, H-D will end that dealer's program."
Yet, over the years, when state administrators complain about a site, H-D corporate does little if anything to resolve the matter.
The state asked "who will determine which state requirements are *applicable* to Rider's Edge instructors?
H-D reps said "The state program."
Yet H-D corporate's standardized forms in 2006 read, "The term "Instructor" is used here to refer to individuals who have been certified by both the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) to teach the Basic Rider Course and by Harley-Davidson to teach Rider's Edge courses." There is not only no mention of meeting state requirements but later the forms say that, in some states, Instructor candidates can go to another state, become M$F certified and then return to their state and teach for RE. But later the packet says to maintain their RE instructor certification they must "Maintain certification in the states in which they will be teaching."
However, in Oregon, for example, teaching still goes on at a very few H-D dealerships yet those instructors are not necessarily teaching or certified in the state program.
The state asked were dealers would do their recruiting of instructor candidates and what methods they would employ. H-D reps answered that dealers would recruit their employees and HOG chapters. And that "H-D will look at things and decide how they will proceed in finding candidates."
Instead, in early 2006, Chi Town H-D, for example, sent out a recruiting letter to current IL state program instructors using a list they had no right to appropriate nor had cleared with the regional program before using.
When asked who will conduct quality assurance at RE sites, H-D reps said this mysterious thing: "1. Reservation System. 2. On-site (at least once)." QAV would be "developed as we go. This year at least once." But when state asked who would conduct quality assurance at the site, H-D reps said the "Instructor minimum level" would conduct it.
Hopefully this is a lie and QAV is done both more than once a year and by someone with more training and experience than an Instructor.
When asked "Will the state program have complete access to all aspects of the Riders Edge courses for the purpose of quality control...? And H-D reps said yes added that the state "also can set date from H-D on what's going on in state."
Yet over the past five years, RE has not and does not share data on training, crash rates, pass/fail, etc. in most states where they operate.
H-D reps did NOT answer questions about what criteria H-D would use to determine if the state IP courses "did not meet the "availability" needs for Rider's Edge instructor candidates" or "exactly how does Harley-Davidson plan to sponsor or conduct Instructor-Preparation courses in states with existing state programs?"
H-D reps said that H-D specific training would train the Instructors to "look at students as "customers.""
This, too, as true today, unfortunately, as when Wiess and Lee stated it.
The state pointed out the glamor factor for instructors working for H-D and asked, "If they then can't find instructors to implement the course... Is Harley-Davidson willing to require its Rider's Edge providers to pay no more in instructor's salaries (including "other" incentives) than the state program and/or existing local course provider's instructor salaries? H-D reps said no, that would be "restraint of trade," and the "Dealer can pay what they want, but we [unclear antecedent] can tell them to go away."
However, as we see in the prior entry, Wayne Curtin and the same Mike Weiss that made this promise above wrote in the letter dated a few days after this one (March 9, 2000) "Dealers will also determine Instructor compensation, which is expected to be comparable to the hourly rates paid by local motorcycle safety programs."
This, then, is an immediate variance between what was communicated to at least one state in a face-to-face meeting and what was communicated to all. And, as is well known, HDRE pays instructors far more than state instructors in many state programs despite complaints by those state programs.
During the face-to-face meeting, H-D reps Weiss and Lee also said that "All H-D instructors required to teach at least 1 course for state each year *and* [underlined] be state certified."
However, in the March 9, 2000 letter, Weiss and Curtin wrote, "To stay current, all Instructors who teach the Rider's Edge New Rider Course will also be expected to teach classes for the state motorcycle safety program."
But in the New Instructor packet, there's no mention of *teaching* in the state program at all to obtain or maintain their RE certification. But, if the instructor is de-certified by either the state or M$F, the wording is unclear whether H-D can, at it's discretion, allow "further or renewed Instructor certification" despite the state or M$F.
No matter what anyone may think of the Blast as a training motorcycle, to say one thing, do another is evident in these two wildly opposite statements: Mike Weiss said that Tim Buche "has told at least one state that the Blasts will be available for general use next year."
But Lara Lee in a dealer communication of 2/02/00over three weeks prior to this meeting told dealers that the Blast was not to be part of the loan program in order to draw students to the RE program, "Because we have chosen to focus our rider training efforts of Rider's Edge activities, we will not be offering a loaner program for Buell Blast motorcycles."
The state asked about ranges "that are off a dealer's property" and what H-D's position was on paying rent for the facility? Mike Weiss said, "If we say don't pay rent, they won't."
This, however, hasn't happened. Worse, in at least two states, sites that have traditionally been made available for free for a decade or longer have suddenly started charging rent - and too high a rent to make it feasible for the state program to pay. When the state has to give up that site, the local dealership has taken over the range, which, btw, was painted by state program employees.
H-D reps said during this meeting that "skill test waiver" was "not a requirement but very important."
Yet, as we've seen in several states, HDRE will go to extreme lengths, use political influence, and, in CA at least, pay over $63,000 in lobbyist fees to get exactly that.
H-D reps presented the "key issues for H-D": that the dealers must run the course; H-D had to control the reservation system to create a consumer database; the dealer must be able to charge enough; they must be able to use the Buell Blast; and that the "customized course" must be used or "if not, will take different approach". But what different approach would be wasn't specified in the notes.
What we've seen is that "different approach" has been to hammer away at state funding and legislation and laws to insert themselves into the rider training scene in those states. In the case of CA, it involved M$F taking over the state to force the program to change to the BRC so that HDRE could use their program without meeting the requirements set by the former administrators and CHP. In terms of Indiana, it involved floating a law that would set up a system totally apart from any oversight by the state program in order to force the state to capitulate and allow RE to operate.
Back in 2000, meeting with that state program, Mike Weiss said that the cost would be from $250 to $350 per student and "dealer is expected to lose about $125 to $150 per student."
This contradicts what they told the dealers in a flyer "New Rider Course Financial Considerations". In that, the "Total Estimated operating cost: $250 to $350" is compared to "Pilot dealer fees ranged from $225 $295". The pilot program was the field test, and, according to H-D documents, the actual loss was from $25 to $55.
I guess they just added a one in front of the real numbers when selling it to the state program or did they subtract it when selling it to the dealers? At any rate, there is a wildly variant number given to two different groups. Both make the RE program sound more appealing to the respective parties. Both cannot be true; one has to be a direct blatant lie, but which one?
As is clear from both the previous entry that states what H-D told all the administrators and the SMSA and this one, Rider's Edge was either presented with cynical duplicity when it was introduced or subsequent business decisions have since made the initial presentations duplicitous. Either way, it ended up being a bait and switch operation.
But even at the time, there are several inconsistencies in what was presented to two very different markets the dealers and state programs both of which had to get with the program for H-D to realize their anticipated financial benefit.
Which leads to this analysis, which is strictly my own:
By H-D's action not only communicating through two presentations at SMSA conferences but a letter to all state programs, etc. and spending the manpower, time, effort and cost to meet with state program representatives in many states, H-D actively and intentionally presented the RE program as one specific thing. What they presented, though, is not what they did, which turned out to be the exact opposite in some cases.
This could be the result of abysmal management, communication and practices on the part of the Motor Company from the top down what Milwaukee meant to happen didn't in the field:
This is no excuse because H-D corporate has had ample opportunities and were aware of the problems and did nothing to correct them. Iow, even though H-D corporate knew what was promised was not delivered, they failed to correct the problem even though such failures were presented to them. So, even if H-D Motor Company did not intend to lie in the first place, corporate management owned the lie by failing to correct what the program was first conceived to be to what it had to become for business reasons.
That such a correction was not made suggests Upper Management knew it would be unacceptable to the states, SMROs and their consumers. This, to me, reveals intent to conceal and an intent to have states act under a misapprehension.
Or the bait and switch could've been a failure on the part of the Motor Company of a program that was poorly conceived and instituted with inadequate planning, that, once launched, had to operate very differently than they understood it to be at the time. In this case, the blame would rest on those who failed to adequately conceive and plan RE in the first place. But blame also can also be laid on those who have ramrodded RE into states in such a way that it made the parent company liars.
If this was, in fact, the case, H-D ignored the terms upon which it was presented and has substituted, without working out a new agreement with states, a new set of rules that cause demonstrable harm to the state program. This indicates abysmal middle level management and a deplorable lack of communication both up and down and across (to state programs and dealers).
Or perhaps those who work with HDRE and H-D's M$F board of trustee representative are all renegades operating a clandestine bait and switch and concealing it not only from the states but from upper level management. And perhaps Jim Ziemer is as clueless as Ken Lay is claiming to be. In that case, it speaks of abysmal upper level management and lack of communication with middle management.
And, of course, that raises the question: if Ziemer and the board doesn't know about how HDRE broke faith with state programs, what other hare brained, reckless things are other departments and subsidiaries doing that they also don't know about?
Or, since there is evidence for the different strokes for different folks approach back then, all of this suggests that H-D corporate (and this would've been under Bleustein who is now chair of the board) knew exactly what it was doing at the time and knows what it is doing now and not only allowed but rewarded those who allowed inaccurate information to be presented to the state for the purpose of its own expected financial gain.
The bottom bottom line is: Whether or not H-D intentionally sold a bill of goods in the first place it is clear that what was sold to state programs.