Nov. 8, 2010 – Q&A with Kawasaki’s product strategy director

LAS VEGAS — Odeon Dy was one of a number of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. executives who addressed the OEM’s dealer network at its recent national meeting.
After the executive presentation, Dy, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.’s director of market and product strategy, spoke with Powersports Business about some of the key market categories the OEM is focusing on for its 2011 lineup. Dy has been involved in auto and powersports product and marketing planning for 20-plus years, including the past four with Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
PSB: Kawasaki’s 2011 lineup will feature the Vaquero, a bagger. Can you explain the size of this market and its importance for Kawasaki?
Compared with the rest of the on-road bike market, the bagger segment has shown tremendous resiliency, Dy said. Kawasaki showed a slide during its dealer meeting that outlined an annual U.S. bagger market volume of about 20,000 units. That market saw some decrease last year, but Dy said Kawasaki has seen the market recover this year and predicts more resiliency in the future. “It’s outperforming much of the other segments that are out there,” he said of the bagger market.
Why enter into a market that has been dominated by Harley-Davidson? Dy points to two appealing demographic traits of this market. First, roughly half of the buyers are under 50 years old, a surprising find since the overall cruiser segment is viewed as pretty gray.
“If you continue to drill down, 25 percent of the customer base is below 40 years old,” Dy said of the bagger market. “So that’s really a prime demographic.”
Further, the average household income for the bagger buyer is more than $100,000 a year. Young and well-to-do — two legitimate reasons to enter the category.
PSB: Will accessories be launched at the same time the Vaquero comes to showrooms?
Yes. Dy confirmed the bike and its accessories will arrive together at the U.S. marketplace, noting the importance of having a selection of add-ons to the bagger buyer.
“It’s almost part of the purchase decision. ‘OK, what I can get in addition to the product?’” Dy said of the bagger consumer mindset. “That’s why we’re putting a lot of focus into that area. The way we positioned it to our parent company in Japan is accessories are really part of the product. If we do not have it, the product is incomplete in some ways.”
PSB: The horsepower competition for the PWC segment seems to have survived the recession. From an OEM perspective, is it important to be a leader in that category?
“Absolutely,” Dy said, although also noting another key element to the new Ultra 300LX.
“When we were doing the brainstorming process and constant back and forth with our engineers in Japan, of course being able to say you have the most powerful PWC in the world is one thing from a marketing standpoint. But really what is the practical part of this? What is the functional part of this? That’s one of the things that we also tried to address.”
The new Ultra’s powerplant provides 50 percent more boost, Dy said, noting the immediacy of that power means a smoother ride and better handling for the consumer. “For the uber-enthusiast, you have a lot of power,” he said. “For the recreational market, families going out to the lake or the ocean, there is a lot of practicality there in terms of how nimble the (Ultra) is. We have a lot more thrust, and turning it will feel lighter.”

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