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Yamaha shows its innovation at AIMExpo

By By Liz Keener

OEM celebrates new models, 60th anniversary

Viking, Viking VI, Wolverine, Kodiak 700, Grizzly 700, YXZ1000R, Bolt R-Spec, Bolt C-Spec, SR400, YZ250F, YZ450F, YZ250X, YZ250FX, YZ450FX, R3, R1, FZ-07, FZ-09, FJ-09. It’s a long list; forgive me if it’s not complete. These models have all been newly released or significantly updated by Yamaha within the past two years.

The 2016 FJ-09 has been helped grow interest in Yamaha products in recent months.

The 2016 FJ-09 has been helped grow interest in Yamaha products in recent months.

The mere number is astonishing. And the innovation reaches across all of Yamaha’s segments — utility side-by-side, utility ATV, sport ATV, cruiser, sport bike, entry level and flagship performance models, and with the YXZ1000R comes Yamaha’s first true sport side-by-side.

Bob Starr, general manager of national communications for Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., told Powersports Business that the new models aren’t only meant to create exciting news, but also to drive new and returning customers into Yamaha dealerships.

“We truly want the best for our dealers. We want our dealers to be profitable. We want our dealers to support the Yamaha brand, and I think things were just aligned very well,” he said. “Since the Lehman collapse in the late 2000s, it’s been a challenge to kind of give the dealers a fresh outlook on the motorcycle and motorsports business. But we’ve regrouped, and this is our way of showing that we believe in the future and new products and new business practices.”

The 2016 Bolt R-Spec from Star Motorcycles has added more to the Yamaha “wow factor” recently.

The 2016 Bolt R-Spec from Star Motorcycles has added more to the Yamaha “wow factor” recently.

As new models reach dealerships, customers are coming to not only see them, but to buy. As YMUS vice president of operations Dennis McNeal told us this spring, the R3, R1, FZ-07, FZ-09 and Bolt models have all been performing well.

“The models that we’ve introduced in the last year and a half are staggering,” Starr said. “Just a whole string of models, and the dealers see that and are experiencing the benefits of floor traffic and sales, so it’s been great.”

On top of all the new models, Yamaha Motor Company had a big milestone to celebrate this year, as it hit 60 years as a company. To pay homage to that history, the OEM introduced 60th anniversary paint schemes on select Special Edition models. Those receiving the yellow and black graphics package include the YZ250F, YZ450F, R6, R1, Super Ténéré, Raptor 700, YFZ450 and the YXZ1000R.

“The dealers are all excited that we have these colors. They probably wish we had more, but we’re doing it on select key models,” Starr said.

The yellow and black paint coloring honors Yamaha’s racing heritage that bloomed when Kenny Roberts and Bob Hannah were racing in the 1970s and ’80s. Though many current customers weren’t yet born or weren’t yet old enough to follow Roberts and Hannah, Yamaha has found that enthusiasts appreciate the heritage and are interested in snapping up the anniversary models.

Starr called the 60th “icing on the cake” when looking at the past few years and how the OEM has grown its lineup and its business.

It was evident during the consumer days at AIMExpo that Yamaha has been drawing interest with its full lineup. The booth was frequently full of potential customers and loyal Yamaha fans — from young children checking out the PW50 to seasoned enthusiasts drooling over the YXZ1000R.

The 2016 R1 with Yamaha 60th anniversary badging.

The 2016 R1 with Yamaha 60th anniversary badging.

Yamaha has been exhibiting at AIMExpo each of the show’s three years, and Starr says the OEM is a big supporter of the event.

“We believe in the concept and the timing and the location — those three things. The concept of having a big, national show with global implications that also features the aftermarket is good. The fact that it’s here in Orlando is also a big part of the market area for us,” he said.

He added, “Consumers don’t have the chance to see this — plus the aftermarket at this expanse — that show the vibrancy of the market [anywhere else]. And if you’re a consumer, and you come in, and you see this, you go, ‘I think I want to buy something,’ and that’s important.”

Starr has talked to AIMExpo executives Larry Little, Mike Webster and Cinnamon Kernes since the Motorcycle Industry Council acquired the show, and he says that under the MIC’s leadership, he expects the show will only improve in the years to come.

In addition to exhibiting at AIMExpo, Yamaha was also the title sponsor of the Yamaha American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which took place Saturday, Oct. 17 at the show. Starr said with Yamaha’s deep connection to new inductees Keith McCarty and John Kocinski, along with AMA Hall of Fame Legend Wayne Rainey, it only made sense for Yamaha to sponsor the event.

“We’re humbled that those three gentlemen represented our brand at various times, and it’s a tribute to [Yamaha’s] growth,” Starr said.

Yamaha, of course, continues to support a number of racers with bright futures ahead of them, as was evident by a multi-racer Saturday autograph signing. And the OEM is looking to continue to support growth in the industry, as it introduces new models to its lineup.

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