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Trying to improve a good thing – November 13, 2006

November 13, 2006
Filed under Features

Kawasaki will try to build on its momentum in the sport bike segment in 2007 with the introduction of a new Ninja and two other new motorcycles that could appeal to different segments of the sport bike crowd.
At its new product show in Anaheim, Calif., this fall, Kawasaki unveiled the 2007 Ninja ZX-6R and its new engine, the first new powerplant for the bike in 10 years. Also unveiled were the 2007 Z1000, a naked bike design popular in Europe, and the 2008 Concours 14, a touring bike with some sport bike features.
These new motorcycles come after Kawasaki saw its sport bike sales spike 35 percent through September compared to the previous nine-month period in 2005.
“We’re following where the market is going and where the demographics are pointing. That’s why we’ve been real active in sport bikes,” said Patrick Kelly, Kawasaki’s product planning and development manager.
Although the highest-volume new sport bike figures to be the Ninja ZX-6R, the Concours 14 potentially offers Kawasaki a sales bonus for 2007.
“That’s kind of new business for Kawasaki,” Kelly said. “Yeah, we have a Concours, but that model was definitely at the end of its life cycle. So we’re expecting the new one will give us some additional sales and help boost our overall growth in the industry as well.”
Kawasaki made a strategic move with the Concours 14, and its twin model with ABS, designating it as an ’08 rather than an ’07. That’s an option any OEM has with new units provided they are manufactured after Jan. 2. Dealer orders for the Concours will be taken in January and Kelly expects the bikes will be shipped this spring.
Kelly said the ’08 designation gives the bikes “a longer shelf life and allows the customer to buy something that’s not going to be a year old right away.” Plus, he said “rather than have an abbreviated selling season the first year, you have a 18-month or longer selling season. So it was a win-win for everybody.”
The new Concours certainly caught the attention of dealers at the Anaheim show.
“Certainly this one seems to be on target for what we’re looking for,” said Jim Whalley, an owner of HK Powersports, Hooksett, N.H. “It’s my kind of bike.”
Charlie Sansing, one of the owners of Alcoa Good Times, Louisville, Tenn., agreed.
“It’s going to be a good-selling motorcycle,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are ages 35-65 who don’t want to ride a cruiser bike.”
The Concours 14 (MSRP?has not been announced) features a 1,352cc four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, an aluminum chassis and radial-mount brake calipers. Plus it offers touring features like an electrically adjustable windscreen and detachable, locking side cases. Notable features also include KI-PASS (Kawasaki’s Intelligent Proximity Activation Start System), the first “smart” key ignition system in its class, and an accessory power outlet located near the cockpit for powering portable electronics, grip heaters and other accessories.
Probably a bigger hit with the majority of the sport bike crowd will be the ZX-6R (MSRP $8,999) and its all-new engine, which Kawasaki said was designed to reduce internal friction. Low-friction engines tend to be more responsive, making cornering with minor throttle adjustments easier for the rider.
Kawasaki said the new engine components were made stronger, stiffer and more compact, resulting in an engine that is about 40 mm smaller in width and length than its predecessor.
Unlike the ZX-6R, the Z1000 (MSRP?$8,649) isn’t expected to be a big volume mover in the United States. Still, the 2007 version does feature a new chassis and new design. Riders should expect a more compact riding position as the handlebars have been positioned closer to the rider and the new bike features a slimmer saddle. Kawasaki said those changes will allow riders to take advantage of the bike’s improved handling and stability.
“Sport bikes have been an area of very strong growth for Kawasaki for the past few years,” Kelly said, before noting the company is focusing equally on its other motorcycle segments. “We are striving to gain sales in pretty much everywhere we can see an opportunity in the marketplace.”

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