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ATV – Kawasaki Talks Business at 2004 Dealer Meeting

October 19, 2004
Filed under Features

SAN DIEGO — Kawasaki introduced new motorcycles, ATVs and utility vehicles at its 2004 dealer show here Sept. 23-24, but probably just as important were the comments it made about changes in the way it intends to operate its business.
In remarks made during the meeting and in an interview with Powersports Business, Tom Orbe, Kawasaki’s vice president of sales and marketing, discussed the company’s changes in the way it works with dealers and markets its products to new groups of customers.
NEW PRODUCTS
Kawasaki showed dealers a new MULE, the 3010 Trans 4×4 that converts from a two-passenger machine to a four-passenger unit. (For details, see pictures and specifications elsewhere on this page). Dealers said they like the concept and thought it would sell well, especially for hunters.
Kawasaki also launched the Brute Force 650 ATV, MSRP $6,599.
On the motorcycle side, Kawasaki said it will sell a special, fully-customized limited edition Vulcan 2000. Only 500 units will be available.
As was reported in the Sept. 27, 2004, issue of Powersports Business, Kawasaki also is bringing out the naked Z750S, and the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-6RR. Engines in both Ninjas include a new cylinder, new cylinder head and 38mm oval-shaped subthrottle valves fed by twin injectors.
THE BUSINESS SIDE
Kawasaki is making a big push to improve communications with dealers and to help them run their businesses more profitably, Orbe said. Two important steps are being taken here.
First, Kawasaki is setting up its first ever dealer council, a tool that many other OEMs have had for some time. The council will be made up of eight dealers, two from each of Kawasaki’s four national regions. They’ll represent a cross section of stores that are strong performers in machine sales, parts and service and F&I.
“They’ll raise the bar for us,” says Orbe, “and that’s what we want. We have to get a closer retail perspective; we want to know what’s going on in the showroom. How do our programs play on Broadway, on the showroom floor?”
The first meeting will be held this fall. “We can’t be everything to everybody,” says Orbe, “but we want to be the franchise that they want to do business with. We’ll focus on areas that are key; that’s where we want to take the lead.”
Kawasaki also has targeted its distribution system for improvement. That means getting better at delivering machines that dealers want, when they want them.
“Basically, we are going to enhance the way we deliver product and the dealer’s view of the product,” notes Orbe. “We’re going to give them the tools so they can meet consumer demand better and plan their business better. Now, the view is very short term and it’s unclear when the product is coming in. Soon, they’ll be able to say, ‘In two weeks, I’ll have 10 of these and four of those.’
Kawasaki’s marketing will continue to target a broader, non-enthusiast market, Orbe says. That includes more advertising such as the six full pages it purchased in USA Today.
“We are going to continue to be loud in the marketplace, but we’ll pick our spots. In the past, we were ‘over-enthused’; we hit the same person too many times. “We’re very much enthusiast-oriented in terms of our products, but there are a lot of new people coming in, so we have to broaden our media.”

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