Chicago meeting brings plenty of positive outlooks
What will the “nEXt 30” years bring to the Yamaha Watercraft Group? That was the question posed by Yamaha executives — including Mr. Kimura, executive vice president and representative director of Yamaha Motor Corp. Ltd, and Mr. Okawa, president of Yamaha Motor Corp. USA — during the Yamaha Boats and WaveRunners 2017 Product Premiere at McCormick Place in Chicago in August.
In front of more than 330 U.S. dealers and nearly three dozen from Canada, Yamaha officials told of their plans to build it into a strong No. 1 brand, based on its strengths: reliability, products, innovation and dealer network. Strengthening its global supply chain operations in order to bring products to market faster also fits into that equation, Yamaha Watercraft general manager Bryan Seti told the dealers. Yamaha Watercraft president Dean Burnett then shared news that, while the PWC industry has experienced 9 percent growth in 2016, Yamaha WaveRunner sales are up 10 percent. The VX series is the brand’s top-seller, with the VX Limited particularly difficult to keep in stock. Similarly, Yamaha’s jet boat sales, up 7 percent, are outpacing the 6 percent growth seen industry-wide in 2016. An increased sales force, reduced territory sizes and a new operations group have combined to help the sales growth.
Looking ahead, the all-new EX Series and GP1800 figure to give dealers a jump-start into the next three decades of WaveRunner products. The all-new $6,599 starting MSRP PWC certainly caught the attention of dealers on the showroom floor following the reveal.
“They’re hitting a lot of niches in the market, things they might have been missing,” said Jeff Nielsen of Nielsen Enterprises in nearby Lake Villa, Illinois. “They played on their strengths with this 2017 lineup. The VX Limited as really good for us, and now putting that in the FX Series with the Limited should be great. The new EX is good for consumers — that competition stays up between the [Sea-Doo] Spark and EX.”
Jeff and his father, Ted, have been to their share of dealer meetings. This time, due to the location, they were able to get other members of their staff to experience one. In all, there were 15 employees from Nielsen’s who made the journey downtown from the northern suburbs.
“It’s really good to be able to take them to the dealer meeting,” Jeff Nielsen said. “It means a lot to them to be able to see the new product, be on the cutting edge.
Nielsen’s had a “great summer; very, very strong in watercraft sales,” Ted Nielsen said. “We’re not back to those years when we would sell 1,000 new watercraft and 100 used. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen those numbers, but things are looking up.”
Part of that growth has been the result of a division of the dealership’s segment offerings. The dealership opened a separate showroom, located about 1 mile from the original store, that houses watercraft and marine products only. It offers a complete showroom and service department to cater to the watercraft and boat buyer.
Another watercraft and marine dealer, Rory Duquette of Lakeview Marine in Webster, Massachusetts, found a lot to like from both Yamaha lines. After being an original WaveRunner dealer, the dealership stepped aside from 2009 until last year.
“I’m impressed,” said Duquette, a White Diamond dealer based on the store’s unit sales volume. “The smaller watercraft are going to be a great fit for the consumer, and all-in-all, it’s a great lineup. People miss the old fun little machines like the new EX.”
Duquette noted that performance units such as the all-new GP1800 also figure to make an impact. That segment of watercraft makes up about 20-30 percent of his sales.
“We’ve had steady growth from WaveRunner, and business has been good across the board,” he said.
Ron Seidner, owner of Bert’s Mega Mall in Covina, California, also liked the EX, and that “it’s at a price that comes in low enough. I think the biggest advantage it’s going to have over the Sea-Doo Spark is the Yamaha financing. We can tell our customers that we also have a Yamaha for $400-$500 more with a full hull; it’s not plastic.”
Bert’s also sells Sea-Doo, and Seidner has seen strong sales of both brands.
“The market has been good. We had a great watercraft year and a great boat year, selling Scarab and Yamaha sport boats,” he said.
River Valley Power & Sport, with locations in Red Wing, Rochester and Wayzata, Minnesota, also plans to capitalize on the all-new EX Series.
“We sell about 50-50 Yamaha and Sea-Doo,” owner John Wooden said. “The Spark lineup brought buyers back, and they grew the market. It’s good to see what Yamaha did. Now when someone who wants to add to their dock and comes in and asks ‘What’s the average price of a watercraft?’ we can tell them they’re affordably $6,399, $6,499 and up. The EX is a game-changer, just like the Spark was a game-changer.”
As for the GP1800?
“That buyer just comes in and says he wants the biggest, baddest, boldest, fastest thing you got. Price doesn’t matter,” Wooden said.
Wooden, a Yamaha PWC and boat dealer for the past 20 years, also liked the new 19- and 21-foot jet boats. “They have real nice price points all the way through the lineup,” he said.
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