At one point during the presentation (which involved several executives), Hiroshi Takata of Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries explained to the audience why he believes Kawasaki has gained market share among the Japanese importers. “This new normal that we are all experiencing has demanded focus and strategic action for all of the OEMs,” he said. “Instead of reinforcing their sales and marketing effort in the U.S. market, our competitors are beginning to shift their priorities to emerging markets. I believe this is a mistake. For us, the U.S. is still the most important market.”
Inventories at the dealership level have dropped sharply, Jenkins said. According to a bar graph shown to dealers, motorcycle inventory was down 37 percent at the end of September (the graph did not indicate to which time period the comparison was made). ATV inventory was down 48 percent. Jet Ski, 51 percent. Mule, 27 percent. And Teryx, 21 percent. The overall drop was 38 percent.
Jenkins said that these adjustments were necessary to adapt to the smaller market. He noted that U.S. unit retail sales of all brands of motorcycles and ATVs have gone from a high of 1.8 million in 2005 to a projected 750,000 by the end of this year. “We were able to navigate through the turbulent times together because of our collective commitment to one another,” he said. “Now as we move from the Great Recession to the new normal, we need to stay committed to one another.”
Jenkins evoked what he called the Five P’s: product, price, promotion, programs and placement, only the last of which, he said, is the responsibility of dealers. “According to the J.D. Power Motorcycle Competitive Information Study in 2009, ‘Had the bike I wanted’ is the main reason owners purchase from a specific dealer,” he said. “So the old adage applies: You can’t make a sale from an empty shelf.”
Kawasaki’s only other request of dealers during the presentation was that they develop a “customer-centric environment” within their stores. “Our district managers are going through extensive training to help you and your staff with the customer experience process,” Jenkins said. “They have been given the directive to treat each an every Kawasaki dealer as if it were their very own. So we’re asking for a proactive commitment from you, and we do so based on a belief that the market will once again rebound. … By taking this approach, we will maximize customer growth and fortify customer retention.”
The focus of the presentation, however, was on what Kawasaki has done and will do for dealers concerning the other four P’s: product, price, promotion and programs. The company had plenty to say about all four, much of which directly affects dealers’ pocketbooks.
Kawasaki’s new quick-and-nimble leadership
Jenkins claimed much of Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA’s newfound dealer support is the result of a reorganization of the subsidiary’s top brass in 2009. Tak Teranishi (right) became its new president in March of that year. He had previously served since 2005 as director of marketing and planning for Kawasaki Motors Europe. From 1994 until then, he’d been president of Kawasaki Motors France.
Jenkins, who along with other executives was appointed by Teranishi, said Teranishi “hit the ground running and started implementing a new vision for the Kawasaki team and brand. He wanted us to get back to basics, to be once again the brand that is innovative, a punch in the face, the authentic rebel. He challenged us all to work closely together to revitalize, to re-energize, the Kawasaki DNA.”
Jenkins himself has long history with Kawasaki: He started out as a salesperson, then was a general manager for seven years, then a district manager for 15 years, then a regional sales director for six years. “I know our business,” he told the dealers. “I know what you go through day in, day out. I’ve seen the highs, and I’ve certainly experienced the lows. I know how much skin you have in the game. So you have my personal commitment that as we move forward in it together, your voice, your concerns will not go unheard or unattended.” (continued)