Catching Up With Honda Canada's Derek Verheyen
Direct Motocross Interview
With the recent signing of 3-time Canadian motocross champion Colton Facciotti, Honda Canada has laid the foundation for their return to the top level of the sport in Canada. We spoke with Facciotti last week to get the athlete's thoughts but we also wanted to hear from the business side of this deal. Derek Verheyen is the man behind this deal over at Honda and he was kind enough to answer some questions from us on how this deal came together and what it means for Honda Canada and Canadian motocross.
Hello, Derek. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this. For those out there who don’t know you, could you please tell us what your role entails over there at Honda Canada?
My title is the National Sales Manager for MC, ATV and SxS products. I'm responsible for Sales, Product selection, Pricing, Marketing and Race promotions for all Honda Powersports products in Canada. (that stressed me out just writing it...)
What is your motocross/motorcycle history?
I'm an avid rider and enthusiast - been on dirt bikes since I was 7. I try to trail ride as much as I can - my moto experience is very limited. The greatest advantage of this job is having access to all the Honda motorcycles in our line up at any time - a true luxury. (this doesn't mean I good...)
Could you take us back a few years and explain why Honda seemed to disappear at the corporate level from motocross racing in Canada?
The economic down-turn affected us all and Honda Canada had to make some tough choices on how to best use our limited budgets. We stayed connected to the race community as best we could during these difficult times and now we plan to return with a strong presence.
Even though this happened, there have always been a high number of Honda bikes at the races. I have to assume the numbers weren’t actually where Honda would like them? What do you hope to achieve by jumping back in at this level? Do you believe in the old adage, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday?”
Absolutely. Additionally, here at Honda racing is in our DNA and we always strive to be the best at what we do. We want to compete for the number 1 plate in MX1 and return Honda back to its rightful place as the top OEM in Motocross in Canada.
I know that other team efforts, like Kourtney Lloyd out at Cycle North Powersports in Prince George, BC with Ross Johnson and Jeremy Medaglia, are also running a Honda-backed teams. Is your plan to spread the support throughout the industry here in Canada? Who will you give support to?
We plan on supporting other Honda programs / teams in some fashion for the upcoming season. We want to see lots of RED BIKES on the track.
I know that Colton has been looking at several offers from around the industry in Canada. How were you able to land arguably the fastest rider in Canada?
We had several meetings and discussions with Colton and explained our goals and ambitions for the upcoming season. His desire to win and our drive to be the best seemed to connect. We all very excited about our new relationship with Colton at Honda Canada and he fits perfectly into our program.
Do you follow the CMRC Canadian Nationals? Can you guys challenge for the title and beat Brett Metcalfe?
Absolutely! We are in it to win this year. Colton has the talent to take Honda to the top of the podium.
Colton has raced for some of the top teams in Canada. I spend a lot of time in the GDR pits and I know Derek Schuster puts everything he has into this race team. What kind of support and attention can he expect from Honda Canada?
We take our relationships with our racers very seriously at Honda Canada and think of them like family. Colton will be an integral part of our marketing and promotion efforts for 2014 and we will grow our brands together. This will take a serious commitment from both parties and we are all in.
As Canadians, we always want to see our riders at more races throughout the year. Can we expect to see Colton at any races south of the border this year?
We haven't planned all the race details yet and we are still in discussions about additional opportunities.
Now that we’re several years into the Honda Powersports business model, would you call it a success in the motocross category or is it something Honda would look at changing?
Honda values all our Dealers and they are reason for our continuing success.
Will Honda Canada be involved in sponsorship of the Rockstar Energy CMRC Canadian Motocross Nationals?
Can't comment yet.
I know that the team is looking to fill the seat of a 250F too. Do you have any thoughts on who that might be or who you’d like it to be?
This is where we put our trust into GDR and Derek to bring the best candidate forward. They are the experts and I have no doubt they will sign a strong contender.
Do you have plans on attending any/some of the nationals this summer?
Absolutely - I have in the past many times and plan get out to even more across the country.
Is Honda Canada, as a whole, excited about this endeavor of is this simply a ‘pet project’ by a select few who had to kick and scream to get it done?
The desire to race and compete at the elite levels of motorcross is inherent at Honda Canada. We see the value in this endeavour and take pride in supporting Canadian race programs and local events.
Do you foresee Honda being in a position to lend out a few bikes (for long-term testing etc.) to the Canadian media sources in 2014? (No special interest loaded into this question at all!)
Of course - they need to reach out to us....
I know that Honda Canada (like some others) uses an agency to do their advertising. Unfortunately, this meant that the people we deal with were actually completely unfamiliar with what Supercross is. Do you see this changing/improving with your return to prominence in Canadian motocross?
We have been lucky to work with a great number of motorcycle enthusiasts who also are a business professionals.
Is the answer to all of this as basic as “We just want to sell more motocross bikes in Canada?”
Not entirely true - but correct. At Honda we have an incredible passion for racing and we love to see the joy it brings to all involved. We want to be the motorcycle company of choice to bring that joy to all riders and the sales will naturally follow. Increased sales means increased budgets, means increased involved into race activities across Canada.
If you could fast forward to the end of the 2014 season, what would you consider a success with this renewed motocross involvement?
We would love to see Colton finished at the top for MXI - healthy and happy. We would like to see more Honda riders at the track than ever before.
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