Kawasaki meeting: Dealer support initiatives steal show?

Publish Date: 
Oct 13, 2011
By Arlo Redwine

“Working Harder for You” — the theme of this week’s Kawasaki dealer meeting — could have induced initial groans from cynical retailers. But the incredible number of new dealer support initiatives likely convinced even the grinches. Among them: bimonthly vehicle ordering, used-bike flooring, even a new benefits company to help retailers reduce their overhead costs by obtaining things like more affordable health insurance.

The importance of dealer support notwithstanding, the principle fun of an OEM meeting (besides the parties) is seeing new product. Dealers gathered Monday for the “executive presentation” at the Gaylord Resort Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., seemed to approve of the five new or redone models: the Ninja ZX-14R, Ninja 650R, Teryx4, Brute Force 300 and Ultra LX, all of which come with free flooring until Jan. 1, 2013, for qualified orders. (For vehicle details, see the links below this article.)

To learn more about the models, dealers later in the day attended new product education workshops. By doing so they entered raffles to win one of each of the new models (talk about an incentive!). Dealers also could demo both streetbikes and off-road units, in a field across from the convention center.

Attendees of another workshop learned about the OEM’s new-since-January customer retention program, Kawasaki Owner Relationship Excellence (KORE). Sales guru Grant Cardone also pumped up dealers via two presentations: “The Customer Experience” and “Sales Domination.”

Two other workshops were on a couple of the dealer support initiatives. In closing the executive presentation, Bill Jenkins, Kawasaki’s VP of sales, said: “Working Harder for You: Why is it so important? Because we want to be No. 1 in your eyes and in the customers’ eyes. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. How do I know this? You told us.”

Jenkins then explained how this past January corporate executives and staff members traveled to the sales regions to find out what dealers were “thinking, saying and needing.” The resultant feedback, he said, led to changes:

More frequent order periods. “You want to carry less inventory, and you want KMC to have product available to accommodate unforeseen retail demand,” Jenkins said. “We are on our way to providing exactly what you asked for. Starting in December, we’ll transition to a bimonthly ordering system for two of our product segments: ATVs and side-by-side models. And by this time next year, all our product segments will be ordered in that fashion.”

Further development of a Kawasaki-supported iPad. “You want more product knowledge, a showroom sales tool, enhanced technical support, and more efficiency in doing business with KMC,” Jenkins said. “We are in the final stages of providing you with the ultimate sales, marketing and service business innovation tool: a KMC-supported iPad.” Dealers attended a workshop to learn how the iPad soon will be their go-to sales tool, as well as to provide feedback and suggestions.

Kawasaki Dealer’s Benefits Company (KDBC). Said Jenkins: “We’ve been asked by many of you, can KMC help me reduce my healthcare and garage liability costs? Well, starting today, the answer is yes.” KDBC is Kawasaki’s latest business alliance providing not only the insurance mentioned, but 401(k) plans, human resources, payroll and worker’s comp. “By joining KDBC, your dealership will enjoy the benefits of a large employer with reduced business operating expenses,” Jenkins said. Learn more at www.k-kdbc.com. Kawasaki asked meeting participants to attend a KDBC workshop.

Mule and Teryx housed under one side-by-side segment. “This configuration will better align us with industry standards, and make stocking the correct model mix easier for you and help provide you with better service to all side-by-side customers,” claimed Jenkins, who noted that Kawasaki is now using the once avoided term “side-by-side.” The vehicles, of course, will retain their Mule and Teryx trademark names.

The ability to take in more vehicles on trade. Starting this week, dealers could put any brand of used motorcycle on their KMC account via a program called K-Trade. This flooring for used motorcycles is complemented by new customer trade allowances for select motorcycles.

More co-op advertising dollars. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, Kawasaki will co-op funds based on 1 percent of a dealer’s dollar amount of wholesale purchases. “This will provide a significant increase in your 2012 co-op allowance,” Jenkins claimed. The company also offers a new online ad app with which dealers can manage their co-op account from any Web-enabled browser.

Simpler, easier-to-read bulletins. “Another issue you stated is that our bulletin releases are overwhelming. We couldn’t agree more,” Jenkins admitted. To solve the problem, Kawasaki now publishes sales program summary sheet to chart all active bulletins. It also streamlined its “Green Grid” to fit on one page, and reduced the number of bulletins by combining programs for all product segments.

Greater availability of recall products. “We know this is an issue,” Jenkins said. “We’ve addressed it with KHI, they understand, and they’ve ensured us it will improve.” In addition, Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries has a new “quality assurance initiative” to help ensure fewer recalls and factory-directed modification bulletins.

Service assistance via e-mail. “You want your service techs to be able to e-mail KMC hotline staff with questions and issues. Again, you got it,” Jenkins said. “Starting Jan. 1, we will have a new technical services e-mail program that will make the process of contacting the hotline much easier and more efficient.” KMC also is adding field service advisors to help dealers with technical training and on-site field support.

Pre-assembled side-by-side units. “Over the next few months we’ll be rolling out our preassembled side-by-side program,” Jenkins said. “Stay tune for details.”

Broader search on K-Dealer for vehicle transfers. At the meeting Kawasaki launched a nationwide vehicle transfer program called K-Search.

More visible targets and goals on K-Dealer. “Great suggestion, and you got it,” Jenkins said. “Sept. 1 we moved this information to the home page for easier viewing and added more frequent updates.”

Single-log-in access to all KMC websites. “You can now access the KORE website by K-Dealer, and we’ll convert the remainder in the near future.”

“Those are just a few of the results of our fact-finding tour,” Jenkins said. “More solutions and enhancements will come based on your comments.”

Earlier in the presentation, Jenkins had thanked dealers for voting Kawasaki the No. 1 manufacturer to do business with in the 2010 Dealernews OEM Report Card survey. “Kawasaki outshined the industry by more than 20 percent, and we’re extremely proud of this accomplishment,” he said.

Despite the down economy, Kawasaki demonstrated its overall appreciation for dealers Tuesday night by treating them to an exclusive takeover of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter park at Universal Orlando.

Like Dealernews’ Facebook page:

Related Articles:
Kawasaki's three-year plan: Become No. 1 in sales and customer service.
Tough and affordable: 2012 Kawasaki Brute Force 300.
Four seats of fun: Kawasaki Teryx4 750 4x4 EPS.
Kawasaki gives power boost to 2012 Ninja ZX-14R.
Kawasaki unveils the 2012 Jet Ski Ultra LX.
Team Green unveils 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650.