Like Yamaha ATVs and side-by-sides, you could say I was assembled in Newnan, Ga.
And there is never a more refreshing work trip to take than the ones that bring me back to my hometown of Newnan. As you can read about elsewhere in this edition, Yamaha revealed its Wolverine R-Spec side-by-side last month at its manufacturing headquarters in Newnan.
It’s incredible to see the growth that companies like Yamaha itself and a nearby Kia factory have brought to my old stomping grounds. In the late 1970s when I was tearing up the place, attending Max Bass football camps at the high school (“I’m a Cougar born and Cougar bred, and I’ll be a winning Cougar until I’m dead!” was the battle cry) and riding my BMX bike on parts of the 280 acres that now builds and tests Yamaha ATVs and side-by-sides for the world to later ride, who knew I’d return as the editor of Powersports Business?
Sure, I remember devouring every word of in the weekly Times-Herald, checking to see if my name was on the honor roll listing, and waiting to read the next great column from late sports editor Johnny Brown.
As I tell my kids every time I return, “It’s not your Dad’s Newnan anymore.” Yamaha events are known for their hospitality, so it was no surprise that upon arrival in Newnan, our dinner plans had the two dozen or so assembled journalists embarking on a trip to downtown Newnan.
Wow, those were some familiar sights I saw looking out the van window. First, there was the Alamo theatre, where I think I saw “Grease” about seven times when it debuted. The marquee remains.
The Coweta County Courthouse was next. As much of landmark as you’ll never upon returning to the “City of Homes.” If my parents bought me one Donmoor from Mansour’s across the street from the courthouse, they bought me 50. And if then it was usually off to Belk’s on the other side of the square for pants, with a stop in between at the Carnegie Library. Trust me, if you couldn’t find it in one of the shops on the four sides of the courthouse, you didn’t need it.
As for Newnan’s sesquicentennial parade in 1978, my feet had a firm spot on those downtown sidewalks.
So it was more familiar territory when we had dinner and learned more about the Wolverine and the industry at a restaurant called The Cellar at the Firestone. Yep, we used to get our cars serviced there.
Finally, as I was shuttled back to reality, there was nothing more familiar than the DQ on the east side of Jefferson St. and the Wishbone Fried Chicken on the other. As a kid, that was a dreamlike 1-2 offering.
And if you think I made a quick trip in and out of Newnan without making a stop at Sprayberry’s for barbecue, you would be mistaken.
Like Yamaha and Wishbone and the town square, it’s a hometown landmark.
Plant 2 growing
I might have ridden doughnuts on my bike as a kid where Plant 2 currently sits at the Yamaha factory in Newnan. These days, however, the facility is cranking out ATVs and UTVs like hotcakes.
The Viking and Viking VI, of course, were the first two units added to the side-by-side plant, and now the Wolverine R-Spec is on the assembly line. We were treated to a rare factory tour thanks to folks like executive VP Mike Chrzanowski, Plant 2 operations manager Robert Christensen and corporate planning manager Alea Harris. Heavy lifting by those three allowed three groups of industry, enthusiast and farm/ag media to get an inside look at how Yamaha makes UTVs.
And they know a thing or two about that topic. The 3 millionth vehicle recently came off the factory line, and all the assembly, welding, painting and plastic is performed on site. Plant 1 provides plastic molding, ATV welding, metal painting and PWC assembly, with Plant 2 dedicated to ROV product. A weld shop (tube bending, frame welding), painting, powder coating and assembly all are part of what we saw in Plant 2. The precision and accuracy with which tasks are being performed on the line was truly mesmerizing.
Even with the Viking, Viking VI and Wolverine R-Spec now filling the Plant 2 assembly lines, there’s plenty of more on the way. The Wolverine R-Spec is third of five side-by-sides to be launched in consecutive years, and the aforementioned executives pardoned their construction on the factory floor as the line was being expanded for future products.
Perhaps the most excited person after the Wolverine R-Spec unveil was Justin Lasater. He’s the ATV/ROV product planner for parts and accessories in the Customer Support Group, and helped steer more than 35 accessories for dealers to sell to their Wolverine R-Spec buyers. As noted here and elsewhere, UTV customers aren’t afraid to spend nearly $2,000 on accessories for it. While the roof comes standard, a folding windshield, front grab bar and spare tire mount figure to help dealers add lines to their invoices. Other key accessories include: wind deflector, WARN winches, rear grab, rear window, cargo box, gun boots and mount, overfenders and a rear camo window.
Don’t be surprised if dealers are as excited about those sales prospects as a guy returning to his new, old hometown.
Nifty 50 growing, too
Congratulations to our Nifty 50 winners, who take over the Focus section in this edition. Once again, managing editor Liz Keener oversaw a program that continues to generate more entries every year. The innovative products are another sign that the industry is heading in the right direction.
Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or email@example.com.