Technical Articles

Buy-Fly London and Paris

In the Fall of 1972 US commercial warehouses were full of left over 1972 Triumph, BSA and Rickman motorcycles.  The losses were mounting with storage and interest charges increasing as each month ticked by. Dr. Felix Kalinski had only been managing director of US operations a few months. One of his first jobs  was the daunting task of clearing the books of these unsold units.  One would think it would be easy to just discount the units, but he was facing a very hostile dealer network.

Dealerships had there own problems with a full showroom of left over motorcycles that were off their 3 month floor plan financing. Many of these had been stripped of gearbox parts needed to fix customer’s bikes under warranty. Parts supply was dismal leaving the service and parts departments idle, a major source of profit. To make things worse the corporation wasn’t paying dealer’s any warranty money. From talks with dealers Dr. Kalinski realized the 1973 dealer meeting was going to be a challenge.

Now to understand a Triumph dealer meeting one must understand that most dealerships were family affairs. The 1973 meeting was different than ones in the past. The usual annual meeting was held in the warehouse, the annual awards banquet was held at the local church hall and the nightly entertainment was held at the local fire house. In 1973 we found our selves booked in at the Hunt Valley Country Club. A meet, and great, was organized in an adjacent area to the meeting hall and when the hall doors were opened and we moved to our seating we were facing three screens with pictures of the Tower of London, a pastoral scene and the Eiffel Tower. The pictures would rotate with scenes of what would be the high points of what was later described as the Buy-Fly program. A professional audio presentation was describing what we were viewing, BUT NOT WHY!

I can remember a prominent mid-west dealer, John Esler, a rather impatient man who’s whispers who could be heard over a 747 taking off,  standing and interrupting the presentation part way and demanding, more than asking, some thing like,”Let’s cut to the chase, what’s this all about.”  The screens froze in place and what was called the Buy-Fly program was introduced.

Remember I said this was a family affair. While the husbands sat there waiting to tear into Dr. Kalinski about their problems the wives started to figure out how many tickets they needed for the family, and their managers. The good Dr., who previously worked for CBS managing their audio-visual branch, turned it from selling motorcycles to selling a trip of a lifetime: First Class trip to London and Paris. They filled two airplanes.

But more was to come out of this trip as they arrived when the workers had taken over the factory. That is a story for another time.