Yamaha Watercraft Group president saw WaveRunner record sales
Dean Burnett once wrenched on boats in the service department of his dad’s boat dealership. After being named president of the Yamaha Watercraft Group in 2015, Burnett now has a year under his belt at the helm of the brand’s WaveRunners and jet boats, and needless to say, it’s been quite a one-year whirlwind.
“The year as absolutely flown by,” Burnett told Powersports Business during the Yamaha Watercraft Group dealer meeting in Chicago earlier this year. “We’ve had a really good year, up 10 percent from a retail standpoint, so it’s been a good year for the dealer and a good year for the factory, both jet boat and WaveRunner.”
Burnett has had his share of successful years with the Watercraft Group, a division of Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. Burnett came to his latest position after being a vice president of the Yamaha Marine Group division, replacing Mark Speaks.
“Yeah, you could say I was born into the business,” Burnett said. “My dad had a boat dealership in Louisville, Kentucky, for 20 years, so I grew up in the boat dealership. Grew up in back shop actually. I was a Yamaha tech. And then my first job out of college was working for Yamaha in California.”
His five-year stint in sales to start with the company allowed him to hawk a pair of inventive product to dealers — the WaveRunner WR500 and WJ500, the first sit-down models in the market. Now, with the launch of the WaveRunner EX, the company is bringing to market an entry-level product that is expected to continue to drive expansive sales gains.
Burnett has guided the sale of successful products from a variety of employment levels, but it somewhat comes with the territory.
“Our summer vacation was around houseboats, with watercraft, boats, outboards, fishing, skiing all part of it. I grew up with the water gene,” he said. “So that first job for me, going out to work in California, was a dream job. I hadn’t been further west than St. Louis at the time. It was a phenomenal job. Someone told me ‘You can float around the industry or you can work for one company the rest of your life, and this is a great place to land.’ And it is a great company.”
With dealers excited to get sales started on the 2017 lineup, Burnett sees the PWC industry ready to continue its growth trends.
“When the industry fell off a cliff in 2008, it started all of us in the industry on a path of ‘We can’t just give this market up to the used market.’ So the things that BRP did, the things Kawasaki’s done, other things going on in the industry… those things have all spurred the competitive nature in every company. Without all us looking for new ways to entice new buyers, getting people to buy new, none of us would have developed product that has led to the industry growth.”
Expansion of the company’s boat manufacturing facility in Tennessee will be the largest of its kind in company history, and the debut of a host of 2017 new models on the WaveRunner side, including the all-new EX Series and the highly anticipated GP1800, Burnett’s operation will be providing dealers with plenty of sales potential.
“When I found out that the EX was at least on the drawing board when I got here, we tried to push it as fast as we possibly could,” Burnett said. “It’s giving our dealers an opportunity to get those entry-level buyers to buy new. I absolutely love the market right now and the products that all of us are bringing to market.”
Retail sales for WaveRunner dealers peaked during the mid-summer months, with July and August setting retail sales records.
“We are very committed to jet boat and WaveRunner,” he said. “Our dealers are excited. Our message has always been good, healthy sustainable growth. We are adding new WaveRunner and jet boat dealers, but we are not adding helter skelter. We’re making sure we add the right dealers, and that they’re not right down the road from each other. Having been in the business 30 years or so, we’re looking to provide that good, healthy, sustainable growth for our dealers.”
Dealers already are keen on being able to sell a pair of EX Deluxe PWC — which come with the braking and reverse RiDE system — at $8,599 apiece.
“Our customers will pay that for two of those on the trailer, because it makes sense,” Burnett said. “It can be traded in, repaired, repainted, it’s made of fiberglass, it’s solid. It’s stable and fun, and really reminded me of the WR500. It’s just truly fun to be out riding on.”