YAMAHA DEALER MEETING: New motorcycles, ATVs fill critical gaps in market

Publish Date: 
Sep 15, 2011
By Bruce Steever

The Grizzly 300.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - While a variety of Yamaha’s programs continue with greater support into 2012, such as the drive to create additional Pro Yamaha and Pro Yamaha Specialist dealers, the main reason many dealers come to a dealer meeting is to see the new metal that they’ll be selling in the coming year.

A common thread across all the new 2012s shown during this week's Yamaha national dealer meeting in Las Vegas was that each model was not just going to be another great machine, but the model in question was the right machine, right now. Many of the models were described as being designed and built to fill the lineup and economic gaps not just in Yamaha’s range, but also in the entire marketplace.

Each division’s communications representative shared insights into their arm of YMC, but the Sport and Outdoor ATV range demonstrated this concept perfectly.

The YZF450.

While Yamaha continues to dominate the sport ATV market, a hole was identified between the Raptor 350 and the 700R. This missing model needed to split the difference in displacement as well as price, as riders are looking at the bottom line more than ever. The result is the all-new $6,799 YZF450. Essentially a lower cost carbureted version of the YZF450R, it gives buyers a light, racy sport 450 for a price similar to most 400cc competitors. Along the same line was the new $4,099 Grizzly 300, which provided consumers a simple but effective 2WD liquid-cooled, fully automatic utility quad for bottom dollar.

The Raider SCL.

Next up was the latest Star cruiser. Far from bottom dollar, it nevertheless was designed to be a bike that customers would be looking for. Instead of offering a unique price point, the new $19,990 Raider SCL offers a unique value point by providing riders with a highly finished, limited edition custom cruiser that still comes with the reliability and serviceability of the best-selling metric cruiser brand. Besides the super deep paintwork, the SCL features stainless steel brake and cable lines and Performance Machine wheels.

Other news in the Star line included refinements to the venerable V-Star 250 and a new tech package for the $17,990 Stratoliner Deluxe featuring a motorcycle-friendly Garmin GPS unit.

The WR450F.

Finally, there were two big new models from the two-wheeled sport and dirt divisions. For the dirt, dealers were excited to see the rumors of an all-new WR were true. The 2012 $8,090 WR450F features all the key features of the racing YZ450F such as fuel injection, aluminum frame and compact bodywork and combines it with electric start, easy servicing and California Green Sticker legality.

Kenny Roberts (left) and the R1.

Determined to fly the superbike flag even higher, especially after its many racing successes under riders such as Josh Hayes, Yamaha unleashed a revised YZF-R1 for 2012. Besides some minor styling updates, the big news is that the 2012 R1 joins the electronic superbike revolution with adjustable traction control in addition to the existing D-Mode system. And of course, in honor of 50 years of GP racing, special red and white racing graphical editions are being offered on both the new R1 and the unchanged R6.

Dealer review. We talked with Sean Coplen of Roseville Yamaha just after the initial presentation to ask him for his first responses to the programs and machines he just saw. It was quite interesting to find how his views and Yamaha’s were similarly aligned in both needs and opinions of the current powersports market (especially in light of adversarial OEM-dealer relationships often covered in the news).

 “One thing that made the biggest impact to us was the new Star Raider cruiser,” Coplen said. “That’s a market segment that us dealers are taking seriously, and we’ve been able to incrementally take market share away from Harley. Things like this show us dealers that Yamaha is paying attention to the market in terms of what the consumers are looking for. The other thing that’s super cool is the fuel-injected WR450. Consumers are looking for fuel-injected bikes more and more.”

 “The one thing I’ll say is that Yamaha will not release a product unless it’s ready," Coplen noted. Sometimes we [Yamaha dealers] get beat up by the public sometimes when it takes a little while for Yamaha to introduce things like fuel injection on certain models, but our experience has been that there’s a reason for that. Yamaha wants that product dialed before it hits the market.

 “Overall, I think that Yamaha had a very conservative release of new product. They made some great new enhancements right where they’re needed. All in all, I think our customer base will respond well to what Yamaha has released.”

While it has certainly been a challenging few years for all dealers, Yamaha was pleased to announce a collection of models it feels are ideal for the current market while celebrating its own dealers’ successes in reducing inventory levels and maintaining market share. As the 2012 model year gets underway, time will show if Yamaha’s targeted yet conservative approach proves to be just the ticket for its dealer network.