By Tom Kaiser
Yamaha took a bold approach to its annual dealer meetings with inaugural, simultaneous 40-market meetings held across the country as it unveiled a blend of new and slightly updated models for 2008.
On the sport side, the new Raptor 250 created the biggest splash and effectively replaced the recently retired Banshee and Blaster sport models. With chain drive, a five-speed manual transmission, a chassis designed for sport use and a price tag of $3,899, Yamaha now has filled its entry-level void with a sport quad.
Designed to one-up the entry-level sport machines from the competition, which Yamaha called “repurposed, old heavy utility quads,” the new Raptor 250 will be the lightest weight sport quad on the market. At 330 pounds, it will be 15 pounds lighter than the former Blaster.
The Raptor 250 was designed for younger males 16 years and older who are mostly sport-oriented and seek pure sport models. This buyer seeks to ride hard and customize their machine. They want a quick-revving, lightweight sport quad that can be manually shifted and raced against their buddies.
To that end, Yamaha will introduce two special edition models of the Raptor 250 and a host of GYT-R accessories. The 250 will be available in black-and-orange trim and all black for an additional $500. For the all-black 250 buyers, Yamaha will supply three graphic packages to give the quad a unique look.
“We know that consumers, the younger ones especially, are a little bit more about making things their own,” Yamaha ATV Marketing and Public Relations Manager Steve Nessl said. “Skateboarders or [people] in the surfboard world put all kinds of stickers all over their stuff, and we’re encouraging kids to be creative, to use it as a canvas and express themselves.”
the 450 class
Although some expected updates to the popular YFZ450, especially in the face of increased competition from 450-class newcomers Kawasaki, Can-Am and Suzuki, the heavily raced model will continue largely unchanged, save for new color schemes and standard piggyback reservoir shocks that were previously available only on SE models. The same changes will be applied to the larger Raptor 700R.
Nessl declined to say if YFZ sales have suffered from the increased competition, but said, “I don’t think we’re getting hit more than anybody else. We’re still the No. 1 seller in that category.”
Growing the Grizzly
For the utility lineup, Yamaha released a lower priced version of the Grizzly 700FI, stripped of its breakthrough power steering to enter a lower price point and expound upon the success of the big-selling Grizzly 700. The non-EPS-equipped Grizzly 700 will start at $7,599, compared with $8,199 for the EPS model.
“Obviously the EPS [electronic power steering] is the way to go, but we also understand that not everybody can get up into the $8,000 range,” Nessl said. “The Grizzly 700 does stand on its own merits, aside from EPS, and it seemed like a good move market-wise.”
The mid-size Grizzly 450 also received a new wet brake and 2-inch receiver hitch for improved utility capabilities. The remainder of the utility lineup received minimal changes, including updated graphics treatments.
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There were no Rhino updates announced at the meetings, but Nessl said the company would be releasing new information in September.
Nessl said the company’s first-ever 40 regional dealer meetings, a break from Yamaha’s traditional meeting approach, were carried out without a hitch and provided more hands-on information to dealers than a traditional-format meeting.
“We didn’t just want to do a dealer meeting in a box, do an e-mail or Web
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