Think inside the box: Control of the motorcycle industry and education Pt. II

The interrelationships between the three trade groups—the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America—at #2 Jenner Street is more complete than almost anyone knew. But the consolidation of power and control in such a small group is just the beginning:

Those on the business end of motorcycling may know that MIC developed “Partners Standard Protocol” that “is the industry standard that allows any dealer to transact business with any PSP certified supplier entirely from within a PSP certified dealership management system (DMS).” It’s an open industry standard that was funded and developed by MIC. The PSP site says that parts order, locator and shipment are supported with more transactions under development. The pull quotes stress that it’s supposed to increase productivity, efficiency and therefore profitability.

It’s unknown why MIC, though, would be the one to develop such a interoperability system—and why they’d pay more than $5 million upfront to do so.

But MIC also owns 100% of TranStand, a for-profit company. However, try clicking on and up comes MSF’s home page. TranStand, according to the “support partner” for Partners Standard Protocol website which identifies it as “a consulting and technology services company” that, in addition to being a sort of Powersports Geek Squad, is advertised to be “In addition to the technical products and services that comprise a complete end-to-end solution, TranStand provides business-consulting services for the entire range of adoption and implementation tasks, including: Stakeholder value propositions; Financial (expense and revenue) alternatives analysis and modeling; Budget preparation and audit services.”

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association “Committee on Excellence” report on 8/31/07, “The reason for the separate entity is to preserve the 501C3 status of MIC.” However, MSF, like RVIA, is a 501C6 trade group and not a chartiable association. TranStand in itself does not support the legal purpose of the trade group and would endanger MIC’s trade group tax status. Thus it is a separate incorporated business—but operates out of the same headquarters as MIC/MSF/SVIA sharing personnel, etc.

The committee report also states that TranStand services would cost businesses $40,000 a year with a 3-year commitment. And it mentioned the endorsements from the marine industry and outdoor power industry. RVIA became an industry partner in PSP.

Nowhere on the PSP site or TranStand page does it mention that MIC developed the standard or owns TranStand. In fact, most of the quotes on the various pages are from MIC members and/or MIC board members, which they didn’t mention either.

And many of those manufacturers in marine, powersports and outdoor power are also the same ones who form the core of power over the three trade groups at #2 Jenner Street: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Polaris.

Those who adopt PSP or use TranStand may not be aware that MIC owns both. However, those who would pay for TranStands services have contractual relationships with the manufacturers behind both PSP and TranStand.

The question would be how much of that information would a dealership, for example, want to reveal to the manufacturers it does business with?

But MIC/MSF/SVIA also paid for the development of a technological product on the MSF side—a software system that not only allows for registration but all the data needs for every site in a program. Like the version for those on the business end, it standardizes all the data. MSF claims it will collect all your sensitive data about your business or state program to help you run it better. In fact, their spiel sounds a great deal like the spiel for PSP and TranStand.

MSF uses this system for the state programs it administers and is attempting to sell this system to other state programs that it doesn’t administer. Yet. In particular, it’s trying to sell it specifically to state programs whose names appear on the list of programs it intends to take over. This, of course, was not revealed to the states it’s trying to get to adopt the software.

It can be objectively noted that MSF has, so far, had difficulty taking over the administration of states it has taken over. If all the data and protocols/standards were the same between the former administrator and the new administrator, that process would be not only easier but faster. Such a system/standard would perfectly describe what MSF is selling to other state programs.

Nor did MSF reveal the connection between its protocol and software program and the MIC’s PSP—nor MIC’s ownership of TranStand.

And, of course, MSF collects all the information on all the students that go through, at least, the state programs it administers. These are students who go on to buy the products and use the services that the companies that use MIC’s PSP and may one day use TranStand to improve their businesses.

Which is not to say that the manufacturers who dominate these industries, the training programs associated with these industries and the organizations that control these industries would use the information it gained in any of these ways to foster or promote or profit their own companies. Otoh, there’s nothing to say that they have taken any precautions to not allow such information gained to be used in other ways.

What this does affirm is that there’s more layers at #2 Jenner Street than an onion has—and there’s consistent and increasing efforts to disguise what they’re doing and how it intermeshes with the profit-motive of the motorcycle manufacturers.

There’s nothing wrong with making money—but if the debacle on Wall Street has taught us anything it’s that there’s wrong ways to make money. At the very least, the motorcycling public—and businesses associated with it—should be aware of both the potential pitfalls and the layers of both vested interests and secrecy that shroud all that comes out of #2 Jenner Street.

Explore posts in the same categories: Motorcycle Industry, Motorcycle Industry Council, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, State Motorcycle Safety Programs

3 Comments on “Think inside the box: Control of the motorcycle industry and education Pt. II”

  1. V-Stromer Says:

    I’m curious. The big five in power behind the MIC/MSF are Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Polaris. Why is H-D not included in this group? Is there some friction between H-D and the MIC/MSF, or has H-D opted out of the power position?

  2. wmoon Says:

    Good question–H-D is not a member of MIC or SVIA which means the Motor Company doesn’t sit on all three boards as do the Five. H-D is also no longer the market share leader–as you can see by Honda taking the Chair at MSF. H-D does wield huge influence in MSF–but doesn’t have the influence on the other two boards.

    I don’t know why H-D opted out of MIC–my speculation is that they want to control their own gov’t relations in a way that benefits it rather than also benefits its competitors. For example, H-D gave in on emissions standards in CA but did it in such a way that it had a huge market and financial impact on small competitors like Big Dog and the custom bike shops.

    But that’s H-D–remember the tariff back in the 1980s? That led to H-D no longer being part of MSF until the late 1990s.

    It’s always wise to remember that these are corporations engaged in an intense and brutal market share war–and those always get worse in recessions. The business of business is business–it’s not good or bad–it just is. And H-D will–and should–look out for what’s best for it rather than what’s best for “motorcycling” and especially it shouldn’t pursue common goals at its stockholders expense. That wouldn’t be good for business.

  3. bottom line Says:

    I started to ride last year and got interested in safety for the obvious reasons. The solutions I came up with for the sake of my personal safety seem to be out of step with all the mainstream voices I’ve been able to find.

    The behavior of the MSF shouldn’t be surprising. Crocodiles haven’t changed in millions of years. What’s disturbing to me are the lack of creative solutions from the government and education safety communities and from the rider communtity. May be somee constructive criticism of them is in order.

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