Regional meetings serve
as launching pads
By Liz Hochstedler
Yamaha regional sales managers admitted that the West/Northwest regional dealer meeting — and the other four regional meetings for that matter — wouldn’t have the pyrotechnics and pomp and circumstance that normally surround a national meeting. But dealers were nonetheless impressed with what they saw and heard during the September event in Las Vegas.
Yamaha hosted five dealer meetings simultaneously in mid-September to show off new 2012 models and introduce dealer initiatives, such as its new RIDE program.
“This regional meeting format was chosen primarily as an efficient means for both our dealerships and for us to introduce our new products and marketing initiatives for the important season ahead,” said Bob Starr, general manager of national communications for Yamaha Motorsports Group.
Four of the meetings were held in a location within their region, while the West and Northwest dealers were hosted at a combined meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.
On meeting day, Yamaha rolled out two new ATVs, new and updated Star Motorcycles and updated sport bikes. Dealers in Las Vegas were also treated with a social media lesson and the presence of racers Kenny Roberts, Josh Hayes and Melissa Paris.
The ATV that garnered the most attention was the new 2WD Grizzly 300, which will retail for $4,099. Yamaha also launched the sporty YFZ450, which weighs 381 pounds wet and will retail for $6,799. The all-white sport ATVs will continue to come with optional custom graphic kits, and for 2012, seven additional looks were added, for a total of 11.
Yamaha also pledged to remain committed to the side-by-side category. Rhino production, which increased by 50 percent in 2011 over 2010, will increase another 50 percent in 2012.
“We’re increasing production, so you guys can hopefully increase your sales,” said Van Holmes, public relations manager for ATV and side-by-side.
Yamaha is pushing forward a stronger marketing plan for the Rhino, and both side-by-side and Grizzly ATV advertisements will feature “Real World Tough” and “Assembled in the USA” messages. No ATVs or side-by-sides will see price increases for the 2012 model year.
For the Star Motorcycle line, Yamaha rolled out a new limited edition Raider SCL, of which only 500 will be produced. Updates were also announced for the Stratoliner Deluxe, Roadliner S, VMax, Stryker and V Star series.
The R1 also receives several updates for 2012, and it was applauded by Hayes at the Las Vegas meeting, only nine days after he won his second consecutive SuperBike championship aboard an R1. The 2012 R1 and R6 will come in limited edition 50th anniversary paint schemes for 2012, celebrating Yamaha’s 50th year in World Grand Prix Road Racing along with standard model colors Roberts joined Starr on stage at the West/Northwest show when the limited edition R1 was rolled out.
Despite excitement surrounding the model launches, the event was not focused solely on those introductions. Joe Dagley, division manager of training and founder of Yamaha Motor University, also announced the new RIDE program. RIDE stands for Rider Instruction Demonstration and Events.
“What we’re encouraging you to do with RIDE is become the center of motorsports activity in your community,” he said.
With the instruction aspect, Yamaha is looking at a three-step process. The first step is for dealers to promote rider instruction within their communities; the second is for dealers to partner with local training programs; and the third involves dealers’ staff members becoming Motorcycle Safety Foundation certified, so the dealership can host its own classes. Only a select number of dealers are expected to reach the third step, while the others are expected to aim for at least the first, if not the second. Dagley said currently only 5 percent of Yamaha’s dealers are involved in rider instruction at any level.
“There are literally thousands of people every year looking for information on how to get into the sport,” he added.
For the demonstration portion, Yamaha is encouraging its dealers to allow for test rides and host Yamaha demo events. Dagley pointed out that though test rides are often controversial and looked down on by some dealers, data from Pied Piper Management shows the average dealer sells 25 more motorcycles per year using test rides.
“We’re closing sales through demos, not offering joy rides,” Dagley assured.
RIDE also urges dealers to host more events at their stores, to spur community involvement in the sport and encourage locals to look at the dealership specifically for expertise.
“Start to think about selling motorcycling and ATVing,” Dagley said.
The RIDE program involves three hours of online training for the dealer principal, which can be spread out into several increments. A dealer website has already been launched, and a customer RIDE site is coming soon. Yamaha has also developed POP for RIDE.
“RIDE is not a complicated program,” Dagley said. “I encourage each of you to take a look at it.”
Dealers have also been asked to increase their number of follow-ups, so CSI surveys will be returned. On average, Yamaha dealers follow up with sales 70 percent of the time and 30 percent of the time for service. Yamaha donates to Feed the Children each time a CSI survey is completed, and for customers, offers an online coupon and a chance to win one of two iPads per month. Positive CSI surveys can help dealers achieve Pro Yamaha status. Yamaha provides a survey response report, so dealers know which of their customers have and have not taken the survey.
Yamaha reported success with the regional meetings, even before final attendance was tallied.
“The initial response we have heard collectively from all five meetings has been quite favorable both in terms of our new Yamaha and Star products and the format that we chose to engage our dealerships,” Starr said.
One dealer even told Starr that the event was well worth his investment and said he left the event feeling energized.