Industry leader Mel Harris passes

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Personal News Cycle | March 23, 2022

Mel Harris, best known for his years at the helm of Suzuki’s motorcycle division in America, died on Sunday, March 20, 2022, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 76 years old.

Harris rose through the ranks at Suzuki, starting with the company in 1981 as district sales manager in New England, then regional manager in Chicago, before becoming assistant national sales manager, national sales manager, marketing and finally vice president of motorcycles. /maritime operations.

After leaving American Suzuki in late 2008, Harris worked for Quantya Electric Motorcycles, ATK, and most recently SSR Motorsports as Vice President of Operations.

Under Harris’ leadership, Suzuki enjoyed some of its greatest successes, both in the showroom and on the track.

Harris was a strong supporter of racing, and as such during his tenure at the helm of American Suzuki was largely responsible for hiring one of the most impressive rosters of racers in the industry. history of American motorcycle racing.

Travis Pastrana, Ryan Dungey, Jeremy McGrath, Nicky Hayden, Mat Mladin, Ben Spies, Aaron Yates, Greg Albertyn and John Hopkins are just a few of the riders Harris helped get on board at Suzuki.

By far, the biggest blow for Harris came in 2005, when he hired Ricky Carmichael away from Honda. Carmichael was coming off a serious knee injury and many wondered if he would continue to be the runner he was before the injury. With Suzuki, Carmichael won every National Outdoor Championship in 2005, en route to totally dominating the premier class of the AMA Motocross Championship.

Kevin Schwantz recalls the anguish he felt after losing the lead in the 1987 Daytona 200 and how Mel did his best to make him feel better afterwards.

“I had a huge lead three quarters into the race when I crashed,” Schwantz recalled. “I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in it. Mel walked over and put his arm around me and said, ‘You showed them what you had. You were the fastest guy there. Don’t beat yourself up trying to win a race. You will come back for them next year.

“So one of my all-time favorite pictures is of the winner’s circle when I won it the following year, and there’s Mel in the picture with the biggest ear-to-ear smile you’ve ever seen. have ever seen.”

Harris’ son-in-law, Ken Faught, echoed what so many people thought of Mel. “You couldn’t meet a nicer guy,” Faught said. “He was someone who was always encouraging and looking on the bright side of things. He was a great man and we will miss him.

During his career, Harris served on the board of directors of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), as well as vice president and treasurer of the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC).

He is survived by his wife Gail, his sons Scott and Shawn, his daughters Kimberly and Amy and his brother Ray as well as six grandchildren.

A celebration of Mel’s life will be held April 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pole Position Raceway, 1594 E. Bentley Dr, Corona, CA 92883. The public is welcome.

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Suzuki released this statement:

Suzuki joins the rest of the powersports industry in remembering former executive Mel Harris, who died Sunday after a long battle with cancer. Mel was a longtime Suzuki employee. He first joined the company in June 1981 and remained with Suzuki until December 2008.

During his long tenure at Suzuki, Mel held many sales positions ranging from Regional Sales Manager to his last position as Vice President, Sales and Marketing. Mel was also Suzuki’s representative on the AMA board.

Perhaps Mel’s greatest strength was his relationship with Suzuki dealerships. He knew many of them on a personal level and was proud to be a strong advocate for their businesses. Mel was also an avid racing fan and has competed in numerous Suzuki championships in the past.

Many will remember the Suzuki dealer meetings that Mel oversaw. Determined to entertain dealers at all costs, Mel enjoyed trying to outdo himself year after year. Whether he was on stage astride an elephant, in a jetpack or dressed as “Melvis” (Elvis Presley), Mel loved to put a smile on dealers’ faces while providing important product and sales information.

Mel was truly one of a kind and will be greatly missed. Please join Suzuki in offering our thoughts and prayers to Mel’s wife, Gail, and the rest of her family.

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