Yamaha Viking receives mixed reviews
When the Yamaha Viking was unveiled in front of an audience of 2,200, consisting mostly of dealers, there wasn’t the raucous cheering and applause that can often come from a consumer launch, but what followed was a lot of shifting and neck craning as dealers tried to get a better look at the UTV soon to hit their showrooms.
When the dealers got a better look in the display area at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the reviews were mostly positive, though some were disappointed the reveal wasn’t of a more groundbreaking machine. What stuck with dealers, though, was the fact that Yamaha is moving forward, as the company is not only going with a new model in 2014, but plans one for each of the next five years.
The Viking, with its 686cc powerplant and three-person seating, is aimed at the farming community, as well as hunters and other side-by-side enthusiasts.
“It’s exactly what Yamaha needs. It is going to probably do what the Rhino did for us years ago,” Chris Creel of Laurel Yamaha in Laurel, Miss., said about the Viking.
The facets that resonated with the dealers were the three-person cab, the versatility of a utility/recreation model and the $11,499 price point, unchanged from the base 2013 Rhino.
“I think between the price, and they added features to it, it’s going to be a good machine, it really will,” said Arlen Mickelsen of Superior Outdoor Power in Superior, Neb.
Yamaha developed a combination utility and recreation side-by-side meant to go head-to-head with the likes of the Rhino because that’s where they see the market growing most.
“If you look at the side-by-side industry, and you look at the size of the industry, still the biggest market is more that utility-type customer, but they’re not just using it for utility, they also use it to go hunting and recreation riding, so we’re trying to make a product that’s going to cover all the hunting aspects, all the recreation and do the utility as well,” Mike Martinez, vice president of Yamah’s ATV/SxS Group told Powersports Business.
Though dealers overall seemed happy with the new model, online reviews from consumers were more mixed. Since the Tuesday night release, Yamaha has gotten a bitter taste from some enthusiasts who panned the new model in enthusiast forums and on the Yamaha Outdoors Facebook page.
In a forum discussing the new Yamaha Viking on utvunderground.com, one participant said, “I understand their position, but thought they would have built something a little closer to both sides of the industry. At least put something in it other than that tired Raptor motor … very disappointed.”
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While many comments are critical of the Viking, some were thrilled by the initial details of the new UTV.
“Very excited about seeing this,” wrote one Rhino owner. “Definitely built to stomp the [competition]! Can’t wait to test drive … it will be nice having my wife and boy all up front with proper leg and headroom!”
From the middle of the road, another commented, “The sport market is dead. If you guys actually saw the market shares you would see for yourselves that, yeah, they are cool, but aren’t huge sellers. I would take this same power plant that is reliable over any Polaris any day … I am disappointed they didn’t come out with a bigger [engine], but that is the only downside to this machine.”
With a new chassis, styling and features — including an industry-exclusive third bucket seat — the Georgia-built 2014 Viking “was designed and engineered as a robust and high-capacity utility vehicle” according to the Yamaha press release.
With some modifications that claim added power mimicking some 800-class engines, the 686cc single-cylinder four-stroke that powered the Rhino throughout its production run is the Viking’s sole engine choice. Other changes over the Rhino include a more powerful cooling system, adjustable handholds, optional power steering and four-wheel drive controlled by an automotive-style rotary dial selector.
While it remains to be seen what the consumer and dealer reaction will be to the Viking, Yamaha is getting a first-hand taste of what can happen on social media and website forums where everybody has a voice, and the loudest often rise to the top.
For more on the Viking, read Yamaha’s release here, and check out the upcoming, UTV-themed print issue of Powersports Business.