HOT NEWS – June 7, 2004

Yamaha’s Jim Gentz to retire
Jim Gentz, president of Yamaha Motorsports Group, Cypress, Calif., plans to retire July 1.
Gentz has worked for Yamaha Motor Corp. for 37 years. He has served as Motorsports Group president for nearly a decade, overseeing sales increases and steady market share growth in Yamaha’s motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, generator and accessories business.
Until a new president is named by Yamaha headquarters in Japan, the company will be run by a group made up of Bob Braun, national sales manager; Dennis McNeal, vice president motorcycle operations; Mike Martinez, general manager ATV operations, and Bob Starr, corporate communications manager.
No indication, says Starr, who the replacement for Gentz will be nor when that person will be named.
Gentz plans to retire to his Wisconsin lake home.
Aprilia gets new financing
Aprilia SpA, the Italian manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters, has negotiated new credit lines for 30 million euros, and has renewed existing lines, for a total global line of credit of 180 million euros. The financing agreement was reached with a consortium of seven financial institutions, including Interbanca and Caretti & Associati. This new round of funding allows Aprilia to resume full production as the main riding season gets underway in most parts of the world.
At the same time, Aprilia announced that Ivano Beggio stepped down as chairman of the Aprilia group, handing the post to Candido Fois, a professor of commercial law at the University of Padua. The move comes in the wake of the financing deal Aprilia reached on May 6. Beggio’s resignation reportedly was required by the banks.
The troubled motorcycle and scooter group posted a net loss of 43.1 million euro ($51.1 million) in 2003. Aprilia’s sales stood at 533 million euro ($632.1 million), a 1.7% increase over the previous year. The company posted an operating loss of 5.7 million euro ($6.8 million).
Aprilia, which offers more scooter choices than any other manufacturer in the U.S. market, posted its best April sales month ever, increasing 30.6% over April, 2003. The new round of funding allows Aprilia to continue its growth and push reorganization initiatives to cut costs and improve operational efficiencies.
Aprilia is Europe’s second largest motorcycle and scooter manufacturer. It’s privately owned and has eight subsidiaries. Aprilia USA’s 128 U.S. dealerships offer a full line of performance motorcycles and scooters, as well as electric bicycles.
Kawasaki Reorganizes
Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA (KMC), Irvine, Calif., has undertaken a reorganization, which officials say will increase efficiency and improve coordination of its internal operations.
Among the major changes in the reorganization, which began May 10: sales, marketing and planning functions have been combined into the Sales & Marketing Group under Tom Orbe, executive vice president; post sales functions of Operations and Technical Services have been brought together into Product Operations under vice president, Dave Dora; Information Services, Legal and Human Resources are now grouped into Corporate Administration, directed by executive vice president, Bob Shepard; accessories functions have been distributed to their respective Sales & Marketing and Product Operations areas; and Vehicle Operations has been integrated into the Sales & Marketing Group.
Powersports Business has also learned that Tony Murr, a 20-year veteran of KMC and recent national sales manager, is now vice president of marketing; Rodger Howe is vice president of sales; and Barry Beehler, reportedly in charge of special projects, continues to serve as assistant to the president.
Ultimately, the reorganization decreases layers of management and reduces the number of executives reporting directly to KMC President Steve Hamada from 11 to six, KMC says.
“Unfortunately, the new organizational structure did result in the elimination of some positions,” said Jan Plessner, KMC media relations manager. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the U.S.
Polaris Hikes Prices
Polaris Industries, the Medina, Minn., manufacturer of powersports machines, has placed a surcharge on all of its units, effective April 26. The move is in response to rising raw materials costs., a company spokesman said.
Polaris’ adult machines now carry a $50 surcharge and its youth snowmobiles and ATVs carry a $25 surcharge.
Increased costs for steel, aluminum, plastic and oil caused the move, the company said. “All of the raw material costs are going up very quickly,” said Marlys Knutson, Polaris representative. “We are certainly going to monitor the costs on a weekly basis,” she said.
UTI to build Campus
Universal Technical Institute, Inc., has received the go-ahead from Pennsylvania officials to build a new 2,000-student campus in southeastern Pennsylvania.
UTI’s new 160,000 sq. ft. facility in Exton, Pa., is expected to open in July 2004. With 200 staff members, the campus will offer programs in automotive technology designed to teach students how to diagnose, service and repair automobiles.
The company, which also operates Motorcycle Mechanics Institute and Marine Mechanics Institute (MMI) and NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI), says it plans to invest a minimum of $20 million into its Exton campus during the next 20 years.
UTI offers undergraduate degree, diploma and certificate programs at seven other campuses across the United States, and manufacturer-sponsored advanced programs at 22 dedicated training centers.
Media School For Racers
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio, is set to begin a training program through which racers will learn how to handle themselves with the media.
Curriculum at The Parker Johnstone School of Media Training will be taught in one-day courses scheduled from June to the end of October.
“There are a number of driving schools that teach proficiency behind the wheel, but none that covers that most important component of today’s race car driver: how to deal with the media, sponsors and public relation activities,” said Michelle Trueman, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“A driver’s career depends as much on how they conduct themselves out of the car as in the car. And Parker’s experience, as both a championship driver and his recognized ability in the broadcast booth, will give the students the benefit of his expertise on both sides of the microphone.”
For details, call 614/214-6359 or 760/591-4390.
Chinese Firm Plans to open Office in New York
Guangzhou Haojian Motorcycle Industry Co., based in China’s Guangdong Province, reportedly plans to open a 10-person U.S. office in Buffalo, N.Y., by June.
Guangzhou Haojian specializes in small displacement engines. The company’s Sukida line sells 50cc ATVs and 150cc street bikes. Jay H. Kim, owner of Buffalo-based trade consulting firm Elim International has been named chief executive officer of the new venture, called Elim-Sukida.
The first task for those spearheading the new venture will be to analyze the U.S. market, Kim told the Buffalo News.
Cycle Sales Up in Italy
Registrations of new motorized two-wheelers in Italy for the first four months of 2004 were up 11.5% over the same period last year, reported Associazione Nazionale Ciclo Motociclo Accessori (ANCMA), the Italian trade association for two-wheelers and related equipment.
New registrations in the first four months of 2004 were 145,116 units. The increase was mainly attributed to the 60.1% growth in the sales of scooters powered by 250cc engines and a 34.9% in 400cc to 500cc scooters. New motorcycle registrations in April 2004 totaled 20,500 units while new scooter registrations were recorded at 31,329 units.
Total two-wheel motor vehicles sales including motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and vehicles without numberplate stood at 204,538 units, up 7.7% year-on-year. Sales of motorcycles powered by 1,000cc engines grew by 27.5%, while 750cc engine motorcycles sales increased by 29.3%.
Auction web site
promotes equipment swaps, a recently-opened powersports-specific online auction site, presents product from five main categories — snowmobile, ATV, motorcycle, PWC and power boats.
“We found there was a need in the powersports community for a central place to swap equipment and gear simply and without confusing fee structures,” said co-founder Wade West.
Base fees for any auction are 40 cents, with various listing upgrades available. charges a flat 4% closing fee, and caps the closing fee total at $40 for any sale above $1,000.
Suzuki Sales P.R.O. unit wins national award
The innovative Suzuki Sales P.R.O. (Professional Retail Outlet) developed by American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) has been named “Most Creative/Best Use of New Technology in a Kiosk Application” at the third annual KioskCom 2004 Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards, organized by KioskComLLC.
The concept was developed in house by Steve Bortolamedi, dealer network manager; Rod Lopusnak, marketing manager; and ASMC Motorcycle/ATV Division Vice President Mel Harris. Suzuki Sales P.R.O. debuted at the 2002 Indianapolis Dealer Expo, then was presented to ASMC’s motorcycle and ATV dealers at the 2003 Suzuki dealer meeting. It’s now used by 60% of Suzuki’s dealer network.
India’s Cycle sales Grow
India’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, Hero Honda Motors, owned by the Munjal family and Honda Motors of Japan, says it sold 196,000 units during April, 46% more than the 134,000 units sold during the same month last year.
Meanwhile, Bajaj Auto Ltd., reported the sale of 90,532 units during April 2004, 27% more than it sold during April 2003. Its exports for the month jumped 60% to 16,838 units.
TVS Motor Company Ltd, India’s third-largest motorcycle maker, said it sold 46,881 small-displacement two-wheelers during April, down 19.6% from the 58,291 units moved during the same month last year. psb

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