By Joe Delmont, Editor
Yamaha’s dealer meeting in Las Vegas June 15-17 featured new programs, a retirement party for long-time president Jim Gentz, and new machines such as the all new YZ125 two-stroke, a new TT-R230 that replaces the 225, and an all new Grizzly 80.
Looking to build upon its success in the scooter market where it is a leader with its 49cc Zuma, Yamaha has introduced a big 400cc, four-stroke top end scooter, called the Majesty.
Prices across the Yamaha model lineup will increase about $100 per vehicle on average, Bob Starr, corporate communications manager, said during an interview with Powersports Business. The increases are based upon machine improvements and increased costs caused by commodity price increases and exchange rate changes, he said.
In discussing the new lineup, Starr said Yamaha is building some new two-stroke machines even as the rest of the industry is moving toward four-stroke machines. The YZ125 is all new from the ground up, he points out, noting that with a new engine and new aluminum frame, the bike is 10 pounds lighter than last year’s model. “That’s huge,” he says.
The TT-R230 has new styling, a new carburetor, new frame and new suspension. “It’s a new bike with big improvements,” says Starr.
On the ATV side, the new Kodiak 450 and the new Kodiak 400 get independent rear suspension. “This will be icing on the cake for the Kodiak,” says Starr, and he says the new Grizzly 80 is “really strong.” Based upon the Rapter 80, the Grizzly 80 is being introduced just a few months after the Grizzly 125. Also, the BearTracker has evolved into the Bruin 250 with new styling, new floorboards and an improved reverse shifting option.
On the cruiser side, the Royal Star Tour Deluxe will feature a convertible windshield that comes off easily, as does the backrest. Other cruisers get refinements in chrome and additional features. The Midnight Road Star Warrior comes with all black paint, including the engine and wheels. A red pinstripe on the wheels sets off the entire package. “It’s probably one of our coolest models,” says Starr.
Perhaps the star of the show was Jim Gentz, who retires July 1 as was previously reported. No successor has been named but the company will be run by a management group made up of Bob Bruan, national sales manager; Dennis McNeal, vice president of motorcycle operations; Mike Martinez, general manager of ATV operations, and Starr.
Last year was not a good year for Yamaha as it lost market share generally across the board. The good thing for Yamaha dealers, however, is that profitability remained solid. “In terms of quantity,” says Starr, “the business may not have grown. But the quality of the business was as strong as ever. The bottom line for the dealers is that they remain very profitable with the Yamaha line.”
There were several reasons for the market share decline, he said. Yamaha cut back production on several models because it knew they would be replaced this year, and it wanted to clean out the pipeline. “We tried to scale back production in some areas because inventory was too high,” says Starr. “We cut back on our production of four-strokes dramatically because we saw two-strokes were coming this year.”
Yamaha isn’t accepting the status quo. “We’re focused on getting that (market share) back this year,” says Starr. Market share gains will come from having enough new product and from aggressive promotional programs. Yamaha will basically continue its 3.9%/24 month program but will broaden it to give dealers more flexibility.
This year, dealers also will see improved software programs and customer service efforts to improve the Yamaha brand image. psb
Copyright 2004 Powersports Business