OEM packs a punch with unveils at national dealer meeting
When Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A. set out to host its first national dealer meeting in five years, the OEM didn’t want to leave a stone unturned. In a Las Vegas event for 2,200 attendees that included celebrity and racer appearances, a western-themed party, lights, cameras and more, Yamaha exuded excitement for the coming year.
On top of the showy appearance, the company, of course, conducted serious business, launching two never-before-seen models along with updates to a handful of Yamaha favorites. The company also announced pricing decreases on some models and price protection on all.
The reason for the excitement was laid out early when Hiroyuki Yanagi, CEO and president of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., rode a Bolt on the show stage, proclaiming, “We feel the market is ripe once again in the U.S.”
With pre-show rumors of a side-by-side unveil confirmed by the Yamaha Outdoors Twitter feed hours before the show, the new Viking UTV took center stage near the end of the 80-minute presentation. (See more on that model in the Focus section.)
But dealers were also excited by other announcements, including those of all-new motocross bikes, an updated Grizzly 700 and very little, if any, price increases on new models.
Despite being a complete surprise revealed after the Viking, the new FZ-09 847cc liquid-cooled three-cylinder motorcycle drew anticipation, as dealers waited eagerly to see it in the display area following the presentation.
Yamaha was also eager to announce its new off-road initiative aimed at supporting amateur motocross riders. The new Blu Cru program offers riders technical information, riding and maintenance tips, rider credits and discounts and improved contingency at the amateur level, as well as a special social media presence.
“We really feel that the key to the growth in the off-road and the motocross segment is supporting the amateur level,” said Bob Starr, general manager, motorsports communications, Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A.
Also revealed was Yamaha Extended Service (YES), an all-new prepaid maintenance extended service program, as well as a dealer customizer program for cruisers, which will be launched in the fall. Taka Fujimura, vice president of marketing, said all marketing initiatives going forward are aimed at a goal that is to Create Dealer Traffic (CDT).
“Not only do we have new product, but there’s new software to go with it. We talked about it in terms of marketing support and pricing support as well too, and that’s a key thing,” Starr said.
Pricing was an aspect that stuck with dealers during and after the presentation. The new Viking was revealed with a $11,499 base price, mirroring the 2013 Rhino. The updated 2014 Grizzly 700 starts at $8,899, the same price as the 2013 model, and many of Yamaha’s large cruisers will see a drop in MSRP, with the VMAX decreasing by $2,000. The Grizzly 450 is also seeing a reduction in price, with a $300 drop in EPS model prices, and a $500 decrease for non-EPS models.
“For years dealers have seen pricing going up, up, up, up, and this dealer meeting was the case where it was not the same, not business as usual,” Starr said. “They could see this is different; this is a new Yamaha. This is time for them to celebrate, time for them to be successful with Yamaha once again.”
Next on that step to success are even more models planned for the coming years. Yamaha has completed the ATV production transfer from overseas to Newnan, Ga., with the YFZ450R added to that facility’s output. With the new Viking and other side-by-side models to be developed in the near future, Yamaha also opened a second assembly plan in Newnan, with a plan to add 100 jobs this year and up to 300 more over the next five years.
This increased production will allow Yamaha to produce twice as much product as it has in the past. Five new side-by-side models will be introduced in the next five years. On top of that, Star Motorcycles will reveal eight new bikes over that same period.
This commitment to innovation came straight from the top, with Yanagi, Starr said. It also stuck with the dealers as they left the presentation and headed into the display area to view the vehicles first hand.
“Maybe the future looks good because the last five years have been very difficult, so the next five hopefully maybe we’ll see a little light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jonny Johnston, owner of Cambridge Motorsports in Cambridge, Md.
Yamaha’s goal was to have dealers leave with an optimistic feeling heading into this selling year and further ahead. Starr said one single-line Yamaha dealer he talked to was considering taking on another brand, but with the latest announcements was happy to stay Yamaha-only. The continued development of product is key to keeping dealers and customers happy.
“It’s extremely important, and I think that started with our president Yanagi’s commitment up front that we feel the market is ripe, and given that the market is indeed ripe, we need to supply fruit, if you will, for the market to enjoy,” Starr said. “I’m making an analogy that’s kind of goofball, but it’s true, and with the commitment that we have from our factory, I think our dealers will see a tremendous benefit over the years and will be that much happier that they are Yamaha dealers.”
See sidebar to this article: Yamaha dealers raise big money for Oklahoma at auction