Sherco in Oz: Inside the Success Story

4 weeks ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Sherco Motorcycles, Jarrad Duffy, Future7Media

For a brand that only started producing enduro motorcycles in 2004, Sherco sure has come a long way. This relatively small French manufacturer has always punched above its weight in racing circles, and over the past five years, it has forged a title-winning reputation in EnduroGP, Extreme/Hard Enduro, and World Trials. And that racing success now appears to be translating into bike sales – especially in Australia, where the brand has made significant inroads into the fiercely competitive two- and four-stroke enduro bike market segment.

So to get an insight into Sherco’s upward trajectory and future aspirations, we sat down for a chat with the bloke who’s driven the brand’s expansion here in Australia, Mojo Motorcycles’ Michael Poynton…

TM: It must be nice to be involved with a brand that’s not only withstood the pandemic, but forged ahead with its model development and released a significantly upgraded range of two- and four-stroke machines for 2021.
MP: It’s definitely an exciting brand to be involved with, mate. And it’s been that way since we first got involved with Sherco back in 2014. The whole team in France is just incredibly passionate and they have an infectious ambition; not only for these machines, but the sport at large. Both Marc and Thomas Teissier, owners of Sherco, have made several trips to Australia specifically to understand how they can best adapt their bikes to our riding conditions and market. That feedback goes back to France and we’ve quite literally seen changes to new models based on their findings here. In fact, the Sherco 500 is a model developed specifically for Australia. The feedback from Australian riders is again reflected in the new 2021 models; with a counter-balancer being added to the two-stroke engines, a focus on further weight savings, more performance and improved reliability. The entire team is always pushing the design process to make the best bike they can. And yet, despite all these upgrades, they’ve somehow managed to keep pricing on all models to just $100 above last year’s prices. Plus, we’ve got the 2021 range arriving in dealers in August, ahead of several of our competitors.

Sherco is now sold in 67 countries around the word, and Australia is now the biggest market for Sherco outside of France, right?
That’s correct. Unit sales have grown from only 50 units in 2014 to a great deal more in 2020. We do not report our sales data for commercial reasons. However, what I can tell you is that our growth rate is absolutely astonishing, with the 2021 bikes set to be our strongest season yet – both in terms of percentage growth and unit sales. As we continue to get more and more units out there, the brand continues to grow organically because the bikes are that good. Very rarely do we see customers go from Sherco to other brands. Once you become a Sherco owner, chances are you won’t be changing brands. It’s been a real pleasure to see it grow, and the feedback we are receiving – about the machines themselves and our fantastic dealer base – has been excellent. Add in our Motul Pirelli Racing team and engaged communities at events and online, and it’s definitely an exciting time for Sherco here in Australia.

Tell us a little more about your company, Mojo Motorcycles, and how Sherco sits within the broader business.
Established in 2003, our business has grown to become the largest independent Australian-owned motorcycle and ATV distributor in terms of unit sales. We distribute five different brands, which are manufactured all over the world, and have enjoyed considerable success in both the scooter and ATV/UTV segments in Australia and New Zealand. These brands include Sherco, CFMOTO ATV and Motorcycles, Kymco Scooters and ATV, Landboss UTV, and SWM. Since our humble beginnings – establishing the business whilst at university – my business partner Josh and I have grown the business to now employee 25 staff. We operate out of new purpose-built, company-owned 5000 square metre distribution centre in Altona, Victoria, and also have warehouse locations in Brisbane and New Zealand.

Was Matt Phillips’ Enduro World Championship title win in 2016 a major launching pad for the brand here in Australia?
Without a doubt, Matt’s success in 2016 brought attention to the brand, especially through Europe and here in Australia. We are big fans of Matt here and while these things are sometimes quickly forgotten, the guy topped the world Outright at a time when the EnduroGP was arguably at its peak. All this on a 300cc four-stroke! It’s a testament to that bike; a model that has only gotten stronger since, and is a highly underestimated machine. It also has to be said that Sherco went first and third in the EWC’s 125cc class last year with Kiwi Hamish McDonald, along with class podiums as well. EnduroGP success is really just a snapshot of Sherco’s racing success globally, however, and we’ve now had our riders achieving major class, event and championship wins across Europe, America and domestically here in Australia as well. I think we are sometimes seen only as a hard enduro brand, but Sherco’s efforts in the US and Australia are really changing that perception. Hamish wrapped up the New Zealand Enduro Championship this year; we’ve seen multiple podiums in the top class of the GNCC in America; and here in Australia, our Motul Pirelli race team has consistently seen the podium across the AORC, Hattah and Finke Desert Race to name just a few.

The enduro market segment is now pretty crowded and very price competitive. So is it hard to make a buck with Sherco?
For sure, the enduro segment is ultra-competitive! There has never been so much choice of high-quality machines for customers to lay down their hard-earned on. All brands continue to raise the bar season after season, and I honestly don’t think there is a bad bike out there – only Shercos are better [laughs]. However, Aussies love their dirt bikes and the enduro market in Australia is actually one of the largest in the world. So, if you get it right and can offer the right product, which we believe Sherco has nailed, the real profit opportunity comes from significant volume. We are also fortunate that we are a well-established business, which allows us to invest the profits earned across other segments into establishing the Sherco brand in Australia as quickly as we have.

Like other Euro brands, Sherco offers a special, up-specced version of all models. But unlike those other brands, Sherco’s up-specced ‘Factory’ models are actually bigger-sellers than the ‘standard’ Racing models, right?
That’s correct. And to be fair, I think Sherco has simply provided some really smart upgrades as standard equipment on the Factory models. It’s a result of what I mentioned earlier with Sherco’s design team in France really listening and paying attention to the feedback of its riders across the globe. Our Racing models can be overlooked sometimes as they do generally have better specifications than competing brands and are exceptional value for money. But we do find people tend to shift their attention to our Factory bikes as a result of things like the KYB suspension, FMF/Akrapovic pipes and thermo fans as standard. While there are a host of other great additions on our Factory models, those are generally the difference makers. And, I mean, it’s not difficult to understand why. These components are often the first things a rider looks to upgrade as their riding level improves, or if they simply want a better riding experience. And when you consider the cost of adding these items as an aftermarket accessory, our Factory range actually represents exceptional value for money.

Can you give us an insight into Sherco’s pricing structure in Australia, and how it positions the bikes relative to rival brands?
Sure. The entire Sherco model range is available in ‘Racing’ and ‘Factory’ variants. The difference in price between the two variants is between $1400-$2200, depending on the model. As I said before, the majority of sales in Australia is for the Factory variant, as customers understand the value they represent when you consider what extras are included. We still have some customers who compare our Factory pricing with, for example, KTM’s EXC pricing. But in my opinion, this is an ‘apples with oranges’ comparison. If you want to compare Sherco’s pricing with rival brands, a fairer comparison for our Factory range would be against the KTM Six Days range, where you will see we stack up very favorably. The Sherco ‘Racing’ models go head to head with the KTM EXC range in terms of specification, and when you compare these prices, you will find that Sherco is very competitively priced.

What are Sherco’s biggest-selling models in Australia?
For us, the 300SE Factory (two-stroke) is the best seller in our range. And that probably wouldn’t come as a surprise as Aussies seemingly can’t get enough of the 300cc two-strokes. The 300SEF Factory (four-stroke) is our second best seller, and anyone who has ridden one would quickly attest to why this is the case. It has a real cult-like following and for good reason; it’s a truly exceptional bike and can comfortably take on our competitors’ largest-capacity four-strokes, as Matty Phillips proved to the world! These two models are closely followed by the recently introduced 500cc four-stroke.

Give us a snapshot of Sherco’s dealer network in Australia.
We have grown our network from 18 dealers in 2014 to 36 currently in Australia and six in New Zealand. Taking into consideration the size of our market and also projected sales numbers, we feel the optimal number of dealers in Australia is about 40. So we still have a bit of work to do. Like the staff here at Mojo, our dealers are very passionate about the Sherco brand and have been absolutely instrumental in our growth over the years. The majority of our dealers are enduro enthusiasts, and I think this is a key ingredient for a dealer to succeed with the brand. Sherco is obviously not as mainstream as brands such as Yamaha or KTM, so it is important our dealers understand the Sherco range inside out and can explain what makes Sherco so unique to their customers.

Like the Mojo team, you’re passionate about riding yourself. So, which is your favourite Sherco model?
Mate, I’d have to go with the 300SEF Factory four-stroke. People love 125s, but don’t often buy them because they aren’t practical for certain situations. Our 300 four-stroke is in this unique position where it has those same playful characteristics that people love 125 two-strokes for, but with enough power to make it a legitimately sensible choice for people hitting trails of all descriptions. If everyone had a chance to ride one for a day, I’m sure it would be our best seller. It’s literally that good.

Thanks for your time, Michael. Fingers crossed lockdown ends for you guys sooner rather than later, and you can get back out for a ride.
My pleasure, Andy. Yep, absolutely.

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