ISSUES "APOLOGY" OVER NINJA 250R SHORTAGE IN U.S.
Dealers attending Kawasaki's September dealer meeting seemed most impressed by the full-dressed Voyager, the fuel-injected Teryx, a 250cc supermoto, and a ZX-6R that's 22 lbs. lighter and more powerful than the previous version.
Other new or updated vehicles debuted at meeting include the Ultra 260X, which Kawasaki claims to be the most powerful PWC in the U.S.; the Jet Ski Ultra 260LX, a touring version whose deluxe seat also makes its way to the returning Ultra LX; the Jet Ski STX, a stripped-down version of the STX-15F that retails for only $7,899; a Ninja 650R with more than 40 updates, including an LED dashboard and a rubber-mounted handlebar and engine; the ER-6n, a streetfighter version of the Ninja 650R that has sold well in Europe; and three Vulcan cruisers that have the same 1700cc motor as the Voyager. The Vulcans reportedly make 15 percent more torque and 20 percent more horsepower than the outgoing 1600s. A Classic model is complemented by two versions with windshields: a Classic LT with leather saddlebags, and the Nomad with hard saddlebags and an electronic cruise control system (also found on the Voyager, which additionally comes in an ABS version with linked brakes).
Not returning for 2009 are the ZZR600, Z1000, Vulcan 1500 Classic and Vulcan 1600 series (which is replaced by the 1700cc series) Some other news from the meeting:
- Versys approved for California. That's right, now Golden State dealers have a shot at selling Motorcyclist magazine's motorcycle of the year.
- Increased market share. According to Kawasaki at the time of the September meeting, its sales had risen 5 percent in the past year while motorcycle sales in general had declined 6 percent. Year to date, an executive said, Kawasaki's share of the motorcycle market had increased one percentage point to 14 percent. Small- to mid-sized bikes have been responsible for most of the growth.
- Higher retail prices across the board. Increases ranged from 2 percent for the Vulcan 900 Classic LT to 14 percent for the Ninja 250R. The average increase was about 6 percent. Shinichi Tamba heads the division of Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries responsible for consumer products. He said the cause of price increases was high raw material costs. The price of the steel that Kawasaki uses in all its products has increased 100 percent in the past year alone, he said.
- Ninja 250R apology. Tamba said: "The popularity has now spread to other parts of the world. We have made our best efforts to increase production. We know many of you might be disappointed you didn't receive as many as you ordered this year, and for that I apologize."
- Web-focused marketing. Marketing director Bruce Stjernstrom said Kawasaki.com gets 2 million unique visitors per month, and an average visit lasts 4.5 minutes. "That's more than twice the industry average," he said. About 60 percent of these visitors are new to the site. (See "Merchandising Update," page 85, for more Kawasaki marketing news.)
- Old inventory financing. Tony Murr, VP of sales for Kawasaki Motor Corp. USA, said, "We know that some of you have a little bit too much inventory, particularly Teryx RUVs and ZX-10s, so we're providing you with an opportunity to receive immediate financial assistance on this inventory." He did not elaborate and told dealers to see their district manager. Dealers have told us that the '08 Teryx hasn't sold well because it is carbureted. As mentioned, the 2009 version gets fuel injection.
- K-Dealer updates. Dealers have long used the online K-Dealer system to locate vehicles being offered by other dealers. Now they are able to see the vehicles available from Kawasaki itself. Other K-Dealer updates include a new electronic leads management system (the paper leads end Nov. 3) and a new vendor for its salesperson awards program. Dealers now have online access to salesperson performance reports; previously, they had to call Kawasaki to get these reports.
- Vendor discounts. Thanks to a new program, dealers can receive discounts of up to 20 percent on commercial ground shipping through UPS, and up to 40 percent on next-day air shipping. A new Office Max program lets dealers choose from 500 "deeply" discounted items. — Arlo Redwine