By Steve Bauer
Even with one of the worst Octobers in the history of the U.S. economy, not to mention rapidly slowing growth on a global scale as well, Yamaha’s motorsports division believes it is in a prime position to not only survive but continue gains in new unit sales. The company has gained market share in both the ATV and motorcycle segments in 2007 and 2008, and hopes to continue that momentum into 2009 with the introduction of two new sport bikes, the FZ6R and YZF-R1, which are designed to attract both new and returning riders.
One initiative the company first introduced to its dealers in the fall of 2007 — its Pro Yamaha program — is not only meeting expectations, but has taken on a much more important role in attracting consumers to dealerships. The momentum that the program has provided in terms of increased customer satisfaction has been a boon to the company’s sales.
“Our strategy for success in this current marketplace is fairly straightforward,” said Henio Arcangeli, president of Yamaha’s Motorsports Group, commenting during the dealer meeting. “First, build the best products and support them with the best marketing. Second, retail those products to our best dealers, and third, maintain a relentless focus on customer satisfaction.”
Powersports Business had the opportunity to interview Arcangeli about the company’s Pro Yamaha program, specifically how much it has grown in two years time, its growing importance in Yamaha’s strategic goals for 2009 and beyond and what the company expects next year in terms of selling opportunities.
Powersports Business: What percentage growth have you had in terms of new dealers signing up for the program since its inception at the 2007 dealer meeting? In other words, comparing the two years, have you continued to see new dealer signups, and by how much?
Arcangeli: The Pro Yamaha initiative has been a “home run” so far and exceeded our expectations. More and more of our dealer partners are embracing this initiative as a strategy to improve their business operations and grow their long-term profitability.
Since the initial roll-out of Pro Yamaha in late 2007, we have seen overall interest and participation more than double since last year.
PSB: Yamaha has made it very clear that customer satisfaction at the dealer level is imperative to better sales results. With sales harder to close because of the recent economic crisis, are you seeing that the Pro Yamaha program is paying off in ways you might not have considered in the past?
Arcangeli: Absolutely. In addition to improved customer satisfaction, initial results clearly show that dealers achieving Pro Yamaha status are outperforming others in terms of overall sales (units, parts and accessories) than non-Pro Yamaha dealers.
PSB: What have you had to change about the program that needed adjustment and what has worked better than you expected?
Arcangeli: We’ve actually had to change very little with the program since its inception.
PSB: Why would some dealers be hesitant to join Pro Yamaha, and what’s your message to those who are not currently participating in the program?
Arcangeli: Pro Yamaha is a unique initiative to help improve dealership operations and long-term profitability through proven processes and actions. Dealers that employ these processes and achieve Pro Yamaha status receive a variety of monetary benefits from Yamaha. In a way, it is like asking a person to eat a balanced diet and exercise and we will pay them a bonus for doing so. It’s a clear win–win strategy.
For dealers that have not attempted nor achieved Pro Yamaha status, I’d ask them to talk to their fellow dealers who have and hear for themselves how this initiative has positively changed their business.
PSB: With 2008 coming to a close, where does Yamaha see itself in terms of growth potential despite what many assume will be a tough year?
Arcangeli: We believe that Yamaha is in one of if not the best positions in the marketplace as we approach 2009. Leading with new and innovative products in all the key segments we compete in, strong marketing programs and a focused dealer network, we believe we can be successful in a tough marketplace.
PSB: Your message at the dealer show was that Yamaha was going to continue to move forward in spite of what has been a tough time sales wise. With everything that has occurred since that show in September, has your business plan changed?
Arcangeli: We have made some adjustments to our operating plan, but continue to be confident in our business opportunities based on our strong products, programs and collaboration with our dealer partners.