By Steve Bauer
From its dealer initiatives like the Pro Yamaha program to the launch of several innovative products such as the Star Raider and Rhino 700 FI, Yamaha took a unique approach in 2007 between balancing its new product introductions with customer service initiatives.
Powersports Business talked with Bob Starr, Yamaha’s motorsports general manager, national communications, about the company’s renewed focus on dealer service and customer satisfaction in 2007, and how the company expects its new approach to affect business going forward in 2008.
PSB: Can you talk about how your new dealer initiatives are going now, three months after they were introduced at the national dealer show? What has gotten the best response from dealers? And are there any programs that you are considering making changes to based on dealer comments, etc.?
Starr: Our dealer meeting in September was extremely successful and the new hardware and software we introduced both have been well received by our Yamaha dealers. Additionally, the new Rhino 700 FI and the Raider from Star Motorcycles have begun to ship and retail for both models has been fantastic. The Pro Yamaha initiative rollout exceeded our expectations and many dealers have embraced the concept and are now eager to become a Pro Yamaha dealer.
PSB: Do you see the company continuing to conduct a regional dealer meeting in 2008 similar to what you did this summer? How was the feedback from dealers, and are there any changes that you plan on making for next year or beyond?
Starr: We will continue to introduce our new products and programs in the most informative and efficient manner as we can. Whether that means national meetings, regional meetings or other methods, each introduction will be what is appropriate for the programs and models to be introduced.
PSB: With more competition in the UTV
market than ever before, do you see Yamaha developing new product to complement the Rhino, or do you believe that your dealers and customers don’t want any changes made to
that product line?
Starr: The side-by-side category has grown tremendously over the last few years and we’re pleased that not only did our engineers best define the category with the original Rhino, but they have upped the ante significantly with the introduction of the 700FI as a direct response to dealer and customer feedback. We believe that this market will only continue to grow and demand new products, and we are of course looking to continue our dominance in this profitable category.
PSB: With MIC retail sales numbers once again showing a decline in most areas of the market, what is Yamaha doing to continue its success in a slow market, especially looking ahead to 2008?
Starr: As you know, we firmly believe that the key to our company’s future success lies in improving both our dealer and customer satisfaction levels, and to that end many of the dealer initiatives that were introduced in Orlando (at the national dealer meeting) were done so with that in mind.
PSB: How would you sum up Yamaha’s year in 2007, and what are the company’s expectations sales-wise going forward in 2008? Do you expect the new dealer initiatives to play a prominent role in that success?
Starr: There’s no question the 2007 model year was one of change for the entire powersports industry. However we are most optimistic about next year and beyond. We feel that we are introducing many new and valuable tools to help our dealers succeed and retain their customers as the business continues to evolve into the future.