With a new website, new owner's club, increased mainstream advertising, and revamped sales and marketing departments, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC USA) appears to be working to re-energize in the U.S. powersports market.
KMC USA firmly established itself in the powersports industry years ago with its trademarked Jet Ski and Ninja names. The names still exist in the Kawi line-up, yet a changing consumer market and increased competition have chipped away at the OEM's once princely position amongst powersports vehicle manufacturers.
KMC USA distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, PWC, utility vehicles and power products through a network of more than 1,500 independent retailers, with an additional 8,400 retailers specializing in power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the United States, 350 of which are located at company headquarters in Irvine, Calif. The company also has powersports manufacturing facilities in Marysville, Ala. and Lincoln, Neb.
KMC USA reportedly spent $9 million on motorcycle ads in 2004, according to TNS/CMR, which tracks marketing and advertising. The first of Kawasaki's ad campaigns in 2005 supported the company's spring promotional event.
Designed by Foote, Cone & Belding, Irvine, Calif., advertising includes a DirecTV pitch that began April 1 and touts the spring sales drive, as well as a 60-second spot for the Ninja ZX-6R on popular cable channels like ESPN. In addition to a number of print ads, online ads appear on Yahoo! as well as on the Playboy, Outdoor Life, Sports Illustrated and Maxim web sites. Online ads have a downloadable $100 coupon for accessories at participating dealers.
In February, KMC USA announced the launch of Riders of Kawasaki (ROK). ROK replaces the Good Times Owners Club (GTOC) and is designed to enhance member benefits, offering owners of street-legal Kawasaki motorcycles six issues of the new ROK magazine, special promotional packages, VIP hospitality at select national events and a membership kit.
In March, KMC USA launched an all-new Web site at www.Kawasaki.com. The Web site, which incorporates functions from KMC's e-commerce site, www.buykawasaki.com, was created to accomplish three primary goals: 1) integrate the consumer Web sites (www.buykawasaki.com and www.Kawasaki.com) into one cohesive platform to provide a seamless experience for the end user; 2) make navigation more efficient; 3) complete another step in a process designed to ensure consistent images and key messages across all communications media.
KMC USA's most recent strategic move came in April, when the company announced changes to its sales and marketing group. Last year, both disciplines were consolidated into a single working group.
Steve Hamada, President of KMC USA, said that reestablishing the independent structure of the sales and marketing functions will allow the company to bring stronger focus to each of them.
Hamada said internal organizational progress was made more quickly than anticipated, and indicated that the timing for the changes-being made considerably earlier than originally thought possible-gives Kawasaki and its dealer network a better opportunity to take advantage of the upcoming summer sales period.
The two groups had been combined under Tom Orbe, who now assumes full-time responsibility for the sales function as vice president, sales. Tony Murr continues as vice president, marketing, and oversees communications activity. Both Murr and Orbe report directly to Hamada.
KMC USA is the U.S. subsidiary of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI) of Tokyo. KHI was the fourth largest manufacturer of motorcycles in Japan during the past two years, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). With total sales of $10.749 billion in 2004, the company also is involved with the aerospace industry, rolling stock, construction and crushing machinery, gas turbines and machinery, and plant and infrastructure engineering.
According to JAMA figures, Kawasaki produced 206,088 motorcycles in 2003 and 218,202 units in 2004. Suzuki, the next closest competitor, produced 404,644 units in 2003 and 405,249 units in 2004. For further comparison, Honda, Japan's most prevalent manufacturer of two-wheelers, produced 634,077 units in 2003 and 563,244 units in 2004.
In his annual message, KHI President Masamoto Tazaki said the company will further attempt to improve its business model during the next medium-term business plan by striving “to increase customer satisfaction by providing products and services that are differentiated from those of competitors through technology and brand equity.”
“We have positioned Consumer Products & Machinery and Aerospace as core businesses and classified Rolling Stock and Gas Turbines & Machinery as developing businesses for further investment,” Tazaki said. “We are allocating our resources to these businesses on a priority basis to strengthen our earnings structure.”
- Guido Ebert