Yamaha sees PWC turnaround
September 29, 2003
Filed under Features
GREENSBORO, Ga — Executives at Yamaha Motors Corporation appear ready to finally say the PWC market is on the rebound — or at least close enough to it that an optimistic outlook is in the cards for 2004.
The Atlanta-based company recently unveiled their new 2004 line to both dealers and press at the Ritz Carlton Resort here, and noted several positive trends occurring in the PWC marketplace.
For starters, 2003 marked the first year where the industry saw more re-openings of restricted waterways than closures, great news for those who have been awaiting the outcome of the protracted legal battles occurring in both the national park system as well as at the local level. According to Yamaha head Mark Speaks, inventories are also at what he deemed a “comfortable” level, a fact that helps resale value. Most important, however, is that Speaks noted that we can finally say the industry has truly stabilized, with sales in both June and July strong, and numbers for the first two weeks of August up 50%. Said Speaks: “We’re looking for traction, and looking for a way up.”
That way up may come courtesy of the 20 million consumers Yamaha has identified as its potential target market. The company intends to continue to aggressively focus on the “family fun” theme that has paid dividends the last two years, with the goal to become the leader in “family fun on the water.” The company has even used the theme for a new Web site, family-oriented recreation and activities on the water, www.familyfunonthewater.com. “That’s huge potential,” said Speaks of the target audience. “We need to figure out what it takes to trip their trigger to buy products.”
Eleven Craft in 2004
Those products that Yamaha plans to sell include 11 models of the WaveRunner line. Speaks noted that Yamaha is now the only manufacturer to offer products in the solo, two, three, and four-seat categories. The company’s focus, however, will remain on the multi-passenger lines that have proved successful.
According to Speaks, in 2003 Yamaha sold four out of the top seven selling models, with the GP1300R staking its claim as the only two-passenger craft to make it into the top 10. Three-passenger models made up 75% of Yamaha’s sales in 2003; the company expects to increase that figure to 80% in the coming year. Also on the agenda is the addition of “value” to the company’s line-up, something Yamaha will accomplish through not only adding features on select models, but in the case of the FX140 and FX Cruiser, actually dropping retail pricing.
The most eagerly anticipated craft in the ’04 line looks to be the FX High Output and FX Cruiser High Output, both enhanced variations of the existing FX140 and FX Cruiser. Changes to the existing FX platform include a new lightweight hull design, which is 54 pounds lighter than the FX140. The weight shavings are the result of a new lighter, yet stronger SMC (sheet molded compound) hull-making process, the side benefit of which is reportedly also the ability to produce more consistent hull parts.
The bump in horsepower comes from the High Output MR-1 engine, which produces more power than its predecessor yet retains a lightweight and compact design.
Yamaha has increased the diameter of the piston bore so that the engine now boasts a 1052cc displacement, enlarged the intakes from 40 to 42mm, introduced a new air filter which provides more airflow, and increased the compression ratio from 11.4:1 to 11.9:1.
The reduction gear has been reinforced, and the crankcase redesigned to reduce friction. The 155mm pump has been redesigned to include a 6-vein stator and low drag hub design, and house a 3-blade stainless steel impeller. A ride plate and sponson change rounds out the package.
The result is what Yamaha is claiming to be the best power-to-weight ratio in its class. Company officials also boasted of the HO’s fuel consumption, displaying a graphic that indicated the boat also had over 37% more range than a Sea-Doo GTX 4-TEC Supercharged. (In fairness, the Yamaha also boasts a larger fuel capacity by 3 1/2 gallons.)
In addition to the FX140 High Output and FX Cruiser High Output, Yamaha returns the GP1300R and XLT1200 in the Ultimate Performance category, the FX140, FX Cruiser, XLT800 and GP800R in the Performance category, the SUV1200 in the Adventure Touring niche, the XL700 in the Sport Value class, and the SuperJet in the Extreme Sport class. New additions to the jet boat line include a wakeboard-ready version of the popular SX230, dubbed the AR230.