Spark competitor in rec lite segment enters with $6,599 starting MSRP
Dealers were in for a treat when they gathered last month at McCormick Place in Chicago for Yamaha’s Boat and WaveRunners Product Premier. Yamaha’s all-new WaveRunner EX series is designed for buyers seeking an affordable entry to the sport of personal watercraft, and Yamaha is banking that its reputation for durability, reliability and quality will be a formidable match against the Sea-Doo Spark in the rec lite segment.
BRP’s entry-level model has spurred growth of the PWC segment over the past 18 months, but Yamaha wasn’t necessarily getting caught in the wake. In fact, WaveRunner sales, up 12 percent in 2016, have outperformed a PWC industry that has seen sales rise by 10 percent compared to the first half of last year.
“It’s been a while since everybody’s been up. Up is up, so that’s good for everybody,” Yamaha Watercraft Group general manager Bryan Seti said during the 2017 WaveRunner press intro, also in August, at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds on Lake Oconee in Georgia. “Yamaha is growing for one reason — because we’re bringing new product to market. The products we’re unveiling here, these products are in categories where we’re losing customers. We’re losing some customers to Spark, some customers to Sea-Doo. These products today are specifically targeted to those customers in areas in which we had not played. So our growth is coming from new products and new technology, not just flooding the market with more of the same product.”
The VX Series continues to be the brand’s top-seller, with the FX Cruiser SVHO also taking the No. 1 spot in the PWC luxury performance category. Strong sales for WaveRunner led Yamaha to expand its outside sales force from a staff of eight, to now 12. A new WaveRunner operations team has been formed that serves as a conduit between the marketing team in Kennesaw, Georgia, and the factory in nearby Newnan.
“It’s allowing us to meet market demands a lot more than in the past, when we were definitely more manufacturing-driven,” Seti said. “We’re also working with the Japan office on supply chain management, trying to reduce lead times to one-half or even one-third on engines and jet pumps, and really anything that we get from Japan, so that we can be more responsive to the market.”
WaveRunner dealers will also welcome a new consumer-facing website, launched during the Chicago meeting, that will enhance the customer’s path of purchase with some intriguing technology.
But websites were far from anyone’s mind when Yamaha hosted the press intro. Not with guys like Brian Baldwin, current IJSBA world champion in the Pro Runabout Stock class, and Danny Hampson, the 2015 Pro Wakeskater of the Year who also can wow at wakeboarding and wakesurfing, ready to show off the new models and generally talk Yamaha boats and WaveRunners.
The EX was everything I needed and more to have a whale of time in front of the multi-million dollar homes that grace the shores of Lake Oconee. It’s replacing the V1 series that launched in 2005, and Yamaha Watercraft Group product manager Scott Watkins said to count on seeing the EX Series to have a similar decade-plus lifespan. It’s as nimble as you need it to be, and with a top speed of about 50 mph, it’s also plenty fast for me. We experienced the then-new TR-1 HO engine at the same event last year, and with slight modifications, the engine’s 100 horsepower offers plenty of fun. Service department techs will like the fun that comes with removing the subcowling in less than two minutes (six bolts) for easy engine access.
“This model is going to last for years,” said Watkins, now in his 23rd year with the company. “It’ll last as long as any watercraft we’ve ever built. It’s over $1,000 less than our lowest priced model we had last year, and it performs every bit as a good and better.”
As for the all-new GP1800? It’s replacing the old FZ series. And when someone tells you prior to a test ride to get ready before you pull you throttle, it’s wise to do so. We’re talking a new kind of confidence-inspiring fun. I did manage to see the start of a number that began with a “7” on the speedometer, but a big old grin across my face prevented me from seeing the number on the right. The power-to-weight ratio rears its beautiful head from the get-go, and it’s all you can do to not stop, simply to see once again how quickly it gets you moving.
“It comes from a world championship-design history of the original GP back in the mid-1980s,” Watkins said. “This thing is truly that good. It makes you feel like a hero at high speed.”
Here’s a look at the all-new additions to the 2017 lineup:
EX Series enters rec lite
The EX models (EX, EX Sport and EX Deluxe) are shorter in length, lighter in weight and more affordable than any three-person WaveRunner that Yamaha has offered in the past. A benefit for consumers is that the EX Series features a 13-gallon fuel tank, nearly double the capacity of competitive models in the rec lite category, the company said. It’s powered by the TR-1 three-cylinder marine engine. The 1049cc power plant is 40 percent smaller, 20 percent lighter and provides better fuel economy than Yamaha’s previous four-cylinder MR-1 engine.
An all-new hull design delivers excellent stability for one-, two- or three-up riding and towing, and responsiveness and predictability for one-up riding. It’s also ready to pull towables.
The EX Sport, meanwhile, includes mechanical reverse, a rebounding step, mirrors and advanced graphics.
The EX Deluxe adds Yamaha’s proven RiDE system (pull the left lever to decelerate/reverse, pull the right lever to accelerate and release both levers for neutral), which continues to attract new riders. Also part of the package are metallic paint and a two-tone cut and sew seat.
The EX hits the market with a retail price of $6,599, with the EX Sport at $7,599 and the EX Deluxe at $8,599.
All-new GP1800? Hold on tight!
Also new to the 2017 WaveRunner lineup is the GP1800, an all-new machine designed for closed-course racing and experienced, high-performance enthusiasts. It’s powered by the Yamaha Super Vortex High Output (SVHO), 1812cc marine engine and features Yamaha’s NanoXcel 2 hull and deck material, along with the RiDE system.
Yamaha calls it the quickest, fastest and most precise handling WaveRunner that Yamaha has ever designed. Along with it comes more torque than any other WaveRunner engine. The engine is the same supercharged 1.8-liter motor that has powered the Yamaha FZR to numerous world and national racing championships in recent years.
The SVHO engine features a high-performance intercooler, increased supercharger air intake capacity and boost, and a modified fuel injection system for increased fuel flow.
Under the waterline, the SVHO engine is matched with a 160mm eight-vane pump for maximum thrust volume. Combined with the light hull, the result is a power-to-weight ratio not seen before in a personal watercraft, Yamaha says. The GP1800 shares the same race-proven hull design that’s on the Yamaha VXR.
The GP1800 brings a retail price of $13,999, topping the old FZ series retail of $14,799, which didn’t have RiDE or electronic trim.
FX Limited for family fun
Another all-new addition to the 2017 lineup is the FX Limited. It comes with a complete watersports accessory package that includes a color-matched tube and towrope, a tube inflator, a tube holder and a solar battery charger.
It’s powered by Yamaha’s SVHO engine and 160mm pump, and comes equipped with RiDE, Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode. An exclusive trim level includes special colors and graphics, an enhanced Yamaha logo and a 12V plug for electronics. About 85 percent of people take a phone with them on their watercraft, Yamaha reported.
Delivering the most power and torque in the WaveRunner lineup, the SVHO is the same 1812cc motor that’s featured in the all-new GP1800. Other highlights include the NanoXcel 2 hull and deck and a 160mm eight-vane pump.
Yamaha’s FX models are the best-selling models in the luxury performance category, and the FX Limited figures to capitalize on the following key features to build on that success:
• Adjustable handlebars and adjustable trim
• Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode that set and hold a consistent speed while cruising or towing and setting a no wake speed.
• Storage under the hood, watertight storage at the helm, a helm storage box, watertight storage under the rear seat and a stern swim platform storage for wet items.
• Yamaha’s exclusive pull-up cleats.
• Yamaha’s exclusive remote transmitter security system and Low RPM Mode, which can reduce fuel consumption by up to 26 percent.
• Yamaha’s Command Link instrumentation controls
• Multi-function electronic information center that includes speed, RPM, fuel level, low fuel warning, hour meter and water temperature.
Pricing for the remainder of the 2017 Yamaha WaveRunner lineup is as follows: SuperJet, $8,499; VX, $9,599; VX Deluxe, $10,299; VX Cruiser, $10,599; VX Ltd, $10,999; VX CR HO, $11,199; VXR, $11,999; FX HO, $13,199; FX Cruiser HO, $13,699; FX SVHO, $15,299; FX Cruiser SVHO, $15,999; and FX Cruiser SVHO Limited, $16,899.