Yamaha Motor Finance targets younger buyers
Yamaha Motor Corp. USA (YMUS) in late March announced that it had established Yamaha Motor Finance Corp., USA to provide “an all-new captive finance solution through Yamaha’s national network of dealer partners.”
“Yamaha Motor Finance is an exciting new tool that will help our dealer partners expand their business and grow future retail sales by supporting an otherwise underserved consumer group,” said Terry Okawa, president and CEO of YMUS.
“Yamaha Motor Finance will primarily focus on younger, first-time buyers and those re-establishing their credit,” Kim Ruiz, president and CEO of Yamaha Motor Finance Corp., added. “By focusing on this underserved market, Yamaha Motor Finance can help customers establish a good credit track record while attracting them into the Yamaha brand.”
Yamaha Motor Finance hired Jeff Young to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer, managing the daily operations. Prior to joining Yamaha, Young served as president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors’ financing arm, and prior to that he served in various roles at Ford Motor Company.
Following the grand opening festivities at the company’s Cypress, Calif., headquarters, Powersports Business editor in chief Dave McMahon caught up with Ruiz, newly appointed president and CEO of Yamaha Motor Finance Corp., USA, to learn more about the new business. Ruiz is also vice president of finance and accounting for YMUS, where she has been employed for the past nine years. Prior to her tenure with Yamaha, Ruiz spent 12 years at Isuzu Motors America, where she had similar dual roles as a VP, as well as CFO of Isuzu Motors Acceptance Corp.
PSB: What kind of feedback have you received from the brief timing since the launch of Yamaha Motor Finance?
KR: Feedback has been great, very positive. We’ve only been running the program for about two weeks and only with a limited number of pilot dealers, so it’s very early in the game. But the feedback has been very positive. I think the dealers view the program as a way to help their younger buyers get approved for financing that they wouldn’t otherwise have qualified for.
PSB: I know you have plans to roll out Yamaha Motor Finance to dealers in all states by early 2016. Where geographically did the initial launch occur?
KR: We initially selected a handful of pilot dealers close to our headquarters in Southern California. We did this with local dealers, so we could actually be at their facilities and work closely together on the rollout. It’s worked out very well, and the dealers have been very generous with their time and support.
PSB: I would imagine this newest financing product has been a hit with those dealers who got to experience it first?
KR: Yes, it has been well received. Obviously these customers are a little harder to get qualified, so our dealers are looking for any type of financing option they can use to try to get someone on a bike or side-by-side, or any of our products. They just need the right programs to get them qualified. The dealers think this program is going to fill an underserved niche, not just for us but for their customers as well, and be a means to get more people finance approved.
PSB: How and why was it decided that there was a marketplace for Yamaha Motor Finance?
KR: We’ve been looking into this for many years. This wasn’t just a flash-in-the-pan idea. We’ve been looking at it, but we’ve also had the recession and different things going on, so we had to look for the right timing. We feel that now is a good time. We’re expanding our product offering; we have a lot of new entry-level motorcycles and side-by-sides in our lineup, and we think this is a really good fit for these first-time buyers. We believe our new finance program will help some of these customers get onto these products that they desire so much.
PSB: It’s no secret that dealers continue to have problems getting paper written for the young, first-time buyer with no or bad credit. How much do you think dealers will benefit from Yamaha Motor Finance? Can you share any credit score numbers that you’ve seen were getting unmet, and that hopefully will be remedied?
KR: Credit scoring is the secret sauce for all the finance companies, right? Our prime customers have a lot of options available to them. Anyone with credit scores in the high 600s and above really doesn’t have any trouble getting credit today through their banks, credit unions — and the prime programs we offer through Synchrony Financial and Capital One. We’re looking at customers in the next band just below that. That’s our sweet spot for customers we want to finance.
PSB: With your Isuzu background, I assume you know Joe Isuzu from the old TV commercials?
KR: [Laughs] Yes, I do, in fact. He was a really great guy, a lot of energy there!
PSB: What will the launch mean in terms of adding employees?
KR: Besides Jeff and myself, we’re going to have a seasoned team of professionals. We’ve done a lot of hiring here in the last six months to get the team ready for launch. We handle almost everything in-house, from underwriting and funding to risk management, compliance, treasury and accounting. The team is comprised of a lot of recently hired talent along with associates from our existing retail finance team that are experienced with our existing Synchrony and Capital One relationships. We have a really nice blend of folks who have a lot of experience with the Yamaha culture and DNA, and also professionals coming in from the finance industry as well.
Of course the number of employees will increase as our portfolio grows, and by the end of 2015, we’re hoping that we’ve hired a significant number of employees.
PSB: Just to make it clear, the consumers that you’re financing are entirely different than those being financed by Capital One and Synchrony Financial, correct?
KR: Yes, our program is a really a complement to the existing relationship we have with Synchrony Financial and Capital One. Our program will focus primarily on the customers that were declined by Synchrony and Capital One or did not meet their minimum credit criteria. So we are actually in a good spot — if an application is declined, we will get those applications sent to us immediately from the dealers, and we can go through and take a second look ourselves to see if we can finance them.
PSB: How important is it to Yamaha overall to be able to get that young, first-time buyer, whether on a sport bike or WaveRunner, to have a good buying experience with Yamaha in order to keep him or her coming back to the brand for their second, third, fourth purchase?
KR: That was one of the primary goals when we set up the finance company — to enhance the customer’s experience and strengthen our brand’s lifecycle. We want to create customers for life; we believe we have a product for every customer, and now we hope we have financing for most of those customers as well.
PSB: How easy or difficult is it to launch a finance company and get certified or approved in each state in a timely manner?
KR: Without a nationwide banking license, it’s more challenging to set up a finance company under each of the different state regulations, but that’s the process we’re going through now. For example, California requires no license, whereas as other states such as New York have a very extensive extensive licensing process that takes quite a long time, up to nine months. We expect to be licensed in all states by the end of the year, and all Yamaha dealers will be eligible. All they have to do is enroll and sign up with us, and they’ll be ready to go as soon as we’re licensed.
PSB: It seems to me like the timing is ideal.
KR: We feel that now is the perfect time to launch this initiative. The U.S. economy is recovering, our product line is very strong and expanding, and we feel like our customers are really eager and ready to buy. This is the right time, and ultimately our dealers and customers will both benefit. We’re really excited about this new venture.