Bill Rucker, with cofounder Tim Edmondson, started American IronHorse to turn the art of custom motorcycles into a roaring business. Last year, it did $40 million in sales from models such as the Slammer, the Outlaw, and the Texas Chopper. Its customers include celebrities, moguls, and people who are passionate about bikes. “Each American IronHorse bike is as distinct as the person riding it,” says Rucker.
CEO and cofounder, American IronHorse Motorcycle Co.
Fort Worth, Texas
FROM BILL’S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Seven years ago, my business partner, Tim Edmondson, and I teamed up to create a new breed of motorcycle company that would take the art of custom bike building to a factory level. A couple of factors lead to our decision: Harley-Davidson’s supply and demand challenges and the evolving face of a more discriminating, upscale motorcycle rider.
The result was American IronHorse Motorcycle Co, which today designs and manufactures a line of factory customized, uniquely handpainted, high-performance motorcycles sold through some 80 dealers nationwide. Through the years, we’ve conquered the manufacturing complexities of producing a custom vehicle to bring American IronHorse to where it is today–the industry’s largest factory custom motorcycle operation running a 224,000-sq.-ft. plant with 300 plus employees. And we’ve done it with virtually minimal resources and funding compared to other bike companies, some of which are now defunct. We’ve succeeded in producing the kind of high-styled, trendy bikes that have typically been associated with aftermarket street customization performed by individual mechanics and small shops, not large-scale manufacturers. Each American IronHorse bike is as distinct as the person riding it, each individually handpainted, hand assembled and designed with above-market parts, nearly twice the horsepower of a stock Harley, as well as an unlimited mileage warranty program. Our motorcycles tend to attract image-conscious celebrities or executives, as well as knowledgeable motorcycle riders who don’t want to void warranty or break the bank to upgrade parts or performance on a stock bike. American IronHorse has created a unique manufacturing operation that allows customers to take one of two routes: either start with 7 factory custom models and virtually an unlimited archive of paint designs and colors, or work with our designer in the lab to build a bike/parts completely from scratch. Many at the start said there wasn’t room for another company in the motorcycle industry. What American IronHorse has actually done is to help create a new market appetite for factory-built customized motorcycles.
What was your moment of truth?
In 2000, American IronHorse launched a division that today designs and produces more than 300 proprietary parts and wheels in-house. This has allowed us to control inventory, pricing and quality so we can deliver factory custom models in about 90 days with an average price under $30k. Taking this step really gave American IronHorse an edge and leadership position in the industry. Because of our unique manufacturing capabilities, we can go from a drawing on a cocktail napkin to a prototype in a matter of months. We stay ahead of the trends, anticipate customer demands, beat market prices and innovate motorcycle designs that competitors only follow.(The exact date? 1/1/2000)
What were the results?
American IronHorse today is several years ahead of its competitors for its manufacturing capabilities, talent pool and innovation. Just in the last year, we’ve attracted major industry heavyweights to the company and our support is growing everyday. We continue to see major growth. We truly believe that we are defining a new way for consumers to build and order motorcycles.
What’s your parting tip?
Have fun and never be afraid to innovate even when there’s a giant in the market.