LAS VEGAS — After a one-year hiatus, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. company officials and its dealer network gathered to reflect on an economic and industry atmosphere that has seen two enormous changes.
First, the massive falloff in new unit sales from just a few years ago, which one Kawasaki official estimated could reach approximately 1 million units by the end of this year.
Second, a change in the U.S. market share, specifically for metric motorcycles.
“Even though the U.S. has yet to show significant signs of recovery, Kawasaki has been able to accomplish some historical milestones,” Hiroshi Takata, a division president for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.’s parent company, told a dealer audience estimated at more than 1,000.
Kawasaki officials not only revealed they had overtaken their competitors to become U.S. motorcycle market share leaders among the metric brands, but told dealers they will enter into a new two-wheel category in the coming model year. Kawasaki’s Vulcan Vaquero and its 108 foot-pounds of torque will hit the bagger market, a category that company officials estimated at near 20,000 units annually.
“It’s very unique in a way,” Odeon Dy, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.’s director of market and product strategy, told Powersports Business of the bagger market. “It seems to be transcending the age barrier.”
Kawasaki also revealed other notable lineup additions, including a new Ninja and a PWC that adds a new level of horsepower to the segment.
But what company officials stressed was the brand’s emergence among metric, two-wheel consumers. Kawasaki said it has become No. 1 in the sport bike market, gaining more than 5 percentage points this year alone, and is also tops in the dual sport and traditional/standard categories as well.
Takata, the Kawasaki Heavy Industries executive, believes these market share shifts in 2010 have come as competing brands have concentrated on emerging countries, rather than the North America market. Takata called this “a mistake.”
“We need to be committed and in it together,” he told dealers.
Part of Kawasaki’s commitment includes programs aimed at improving dealership cash flow, a huge issue in a challenging retail market. Those new efforts include the “K Deposit” program, where dealers who sell a unit that has a factory-to-dealer incentive will get their incentive cash from Kawasaki within 24-48 hours of the consumer’s purchase. The program is expected to be implemented by the end of the year, Kawasaki National Sales Director Bill Jenkins told Powersports Business.
Kawasaki also provided some aggressive wholesale financing in hopes of again easing dealer cash flows and stimulating its retail sales. The financing options include interest-free flooring on Jet Ski and specific motorcycle models through October 2011 and deferred interest on existing inventory if certain stocking conditions are met.
“Some people could interpret (the new wholesale offers) to have the dealer stock actually more product,” Jenkins said. “But it isn’t. The threshold to meet these (stocking levels) have been dramatically reduced.
“We’re not trying to get a dealer to order 20 of one model on this program. We’re trying to get them to order a broad range of Kawasaki product so when the consumer comes into the store, they have choices. As I stated, the J.D. Power 2009 Competitive Information Study said the No. 1 reason that a consumer purchases is because the dealer had the unit in stock. That is critical.”
Besides the new deposit and wholesale flooring programs, Kawasaki also announced its:
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