By Steve Bauer
DALLAS — In spite of tumultuous times for both Wall Street and the worldwide economic market as a whole, Kawasaki officials stressed the importance of continuing to produce new models and promote aggressive sales and marketing programs to customers during the company’s national dealer meeting in Dallas.
The company announced a 5 percent increase in motorcycle sales for 2007, as well as the introduction of several all-new models, including a return into the luxury touring segment with its new Voyager.
Scott Kiyama, president of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., summed up what has been a tough year for both the company and its dealers: “It’s only been one year since we’ve met together in Las Vegas, but some years feel longer than others,” he said. “And I think many of you will agree that this one has felt like a very long year due to the challenging economic conditions.”
Outpacing the industry
Despite the economic troubles facing the country, Kiyama noted that Kawasaki was able to increase its motorcycle sales in 2007, while the industry as a whole saw a decline.
“Kawasaki’s motorcycle sales have actually outperformed the industry. While industry motorcycle sales decreased 6 percent, sales of Kawasaki motorcycles increased by 5 percent.”
In addition, Kiyama reported that the company’s year-to-date overall motorcycle market share increased 1 percent, from 13 percent to 14 percent.
“The success we’ve been experiencing with our motorcycle sales is something that we’re confident will transfer into other segments of the market,” he said. “Our focus is to first, continue to introduce industry-leading products, second to offer industry-leading sales programs and finally to invest in strong marketing programs. If we are able to maintain those three objectives, then we will be in a strong position in the near future.”
Response to price increases
Addressing the recent cost increase on many of its models, company officials explained that the cost of raw materials has soared in the past year, along with production costs. For example, officials stated the price of steel that Kawasaki purchases has increased 100 percent in the past year alone.
“Unfortunately, the impact that increased costs have is that we must pass those onto our consumers,” Kiyama said. “It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but one we hope will be short-lived. We ask that our dealers take the time to explain this to consumers, reinforcing the fact that these price increases are a result of higher production costs for Kawasaki.”
From 2001-2006, U.S. media consumption has taken a dramatic turn. As television (minus 13 percent), newspapers (minus 11 percent) and magazines (minus 5 percent) have all experienced declines, Internet consumption has grown 41 percent, while mobile consumption has increased a whopping 1,264 percent.
According to Kawasaki officials, the numbers represent a dramatic shift in how consmers receive information and make purchasing decisions on powersports vehicles, and the company has vowed to place more emphasis on marketing itself to consumers via the Internet and mobile devices, such as smart phones.
New entry for luxury touring market
Kawasaki showcased its commitment to developing innovative new products with its first full-dress V-twin touring motorcycle, the Vulcan Voyager 1700. The vehicle features a large frame-mounted front fairing and windshield, ample storage, a new 1700cc, long-stroke, liquid-cooled, V-twin engine and a compact, lightweight frame.
“We’ve heard from so many of our customers about their desire for a luxury touring bike from Kawasaki, and we’re excited to be able to give that to them,” said Patrick Kelly, director of product planning and research for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. The designers were able to infuse abundant technology into the new bike. “We wanted the Voyager to match the ’60s muscle car inspiration that you see in a lot of automobiles today, with its study of muscular curvature. The attention to detail and craftsmanship on both bodywork and engine are as pleasing to the touch as they are to the eye. We’re very excited about being able to provide a quality option to our customers in the luxury touring segment.”
Although the bike was presented to dealers at the show, Kawasaki declined to detail the bike’s availability or MSRP.
“We’re not going to commit to anything at this point in regards to when the bike will be available or its price,” Kelly said. “We have ongoing enhancements we’re still working on to the product and the entire line. That was a decision we made before the dealer meeting to not say much at this time, but we hope the launch will be sooner rather than later.”
Kelly added that the Voyager is a perfect example of the company’s committment to continued R&D into new products and vehicle segments to help Kawasaki continue to grow despite the market.
“We’re very excited about all of our new models, not just the Voyager,” he said. “And we want to send a message to our dealers that there is a great deal of growth potential even during these tough times, and we’ll do all we can from a development and marketing standpoint to give our
dealers every opportunity to be profitable.”