Yamaha Eyes Aftermarket Hole Shot

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Over the next two years, Yamaha and its cruiser brand Star Motorcycles will double the number of aftermarket products they offer to consumers. The OEM joins Ducati and Kawasaki, among others, in making deeper investments in the items dealers sell during or after the vehicle purchase.

The product line will span Yamaha's vehicle lineup, including gear for ATVs, side-by-sides, motorcycles, personal watercraft and snowmobiles. Products will go beyond mere bolt-on items to include more technical gear such as exhausts and sound systems, and cosmetic products for the growing custom sportbike and Rhino markets.

Yamaha is banking on its knowledge of what models are coming down the line, along with dedicated in-house engineering and quality assurance departments, to beat other aftermarket manufacturers with Yamaha-brand P&A available right when the new models hit the sales floor. Proprietary accessories will be integrated with the vehicle's original design. None of the items will be rebadged goods from private label manufacturers, according to Maurice Murray, general manager of Yamaha's parts-and-accessories business.

"Our studies have shown that the best time to sell accessories is in the first 30 days of ownership," Murray says. "There's a staggering percentage of accessories sales that take place within the first 30 days of owning the vehicle."

This rides contrary to the industry standard of having dealership parts counters work like glorified catalog showrooms. Unlike other retail businesses, powersports dealers regularly have customers wait on items that they don't keep in stock. "Our studies show that the customer doesn't want to come back tomorrow; that the customer wants to be serviced today," Murray says. "If you tell the customer to come back tomorrow, they go away and come up with a better way to spend their money."

The goal, according to Murray, is to make it easy for Yamaha dealers to keep a broad, but shallow inventory of Yamaha products. The OEM plans to do this through a series of incentives that are part of the Pro Yamaha program ("Motivating the Troops," October 2007). Yamaha also has more than doubled the size of its P&A field sales staff, Murray notes.

Yamaha reportedly has no intention of becoming a warehouse distribution company, but rather one that selects the product categories in which it will compete — and then play its advantages. "In a contracting motorcycle market, we need to look beyond the motorcycle industry and the norms we've become accustomed to, to find where customer service standards are set today, particularly for the next generation of customer that's buying our products," Murray says. — Dennis Johnson