2011 Kawasaki Dealer Meeting Report [Video]

Pete Brissette
by Pete Brissette

During Kawasaki’s annual dealer meeting, held this year in Orlando, Fla., Kawasaki dealers got their first in-the-flesh look at all-new, as well as thoroughly updated 2012 models in Kawasaki’s motorcycle and ATV lineups.

But before the heavily revised ZX-14R, thoroughly updated Ninja 650, all-new side-by-side Teryx4 750, and Brute Force 300 entry level ATV were unveiled to dealers, Kawasaki’s executives gave their annual YTD update on company wide sales, as well as growth or decline in various segments, and how Kawasaki is stacking up to the competition.

Kawi execs spent a lot of time unveiling various programs to assist dealers with sales, ordering inventory and plans for advertising, but the all-new ZX-14R was received with as much enthusiasm as anything discussed during the presentation. Here multi-time drag champ Rickey Gadson rides the big Ninja on to center stage.

Kawi execs were eager to reveal MIC data showing that in America, Team Green’s 15.38% motorcycle market share has surpassed Honda (13.97%), Yamaha (13.03%) and Suzuki (7.17%), marking the second year in a row that Kawasaki leads the Big Four in the U.S. However, to clarify, Kawasaki’s leading position here is only representative of the motorcycle segment, and excludes areas like ATV and scooter sales. Still, the strength of Kawi’s two-wheeled brand is impressive, and reflective of the company’s willingness to innovate and update over the past couple years while the other brands play it safe(r).

The heavily updated Ninja 650, seen here with accessory soft luggage, was also a hit with dealers. A Georgia-based dealer says this model is one of his strongest sellers.

Hiroshi Takata, President of Motorcycle & Engine Company at Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), and Tak Teranishi, President of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., along with other execs from KMC, delivered now-familiar news that a still-struggling economy continues to cast a pall over much of the powersports industry.

For example, the powersports industry (motorcycle, ATV, PWC, side-x-side, etc.) is down 3% from this time last year, with the ATV segment as the biggest contributor to this loss, showing YTD decline of 16%. And Kawasaki’s own ATV segment is hit even harder with a 31% downturn from this time last year.

But rather than admit defeat in ATVs and combat rumors that Kawasaki is toying with the notion of exiting the all-terrain segment, execs unveiled the entry level, price-conscious Brute Force 300, saying, “Help is on the way!” as an indication the company is looking out for its dealers’ ATV sales. You can read a full review of the Brute Force 300 on our sister site ATV.com.

Dealers were eager to get their first look at the all-new Teryx4. This is Kawi's first four-seat model in the rapidly growing side-by-side segment.

Interestingly, the personal watercraft market (a division that’s seen its share of troubles) is up 7%, with Kawi’s own PWC segment outperforming that industry figure by growing 8%. And in what is likely a telltale sign of things to come in the dirt world, the side-by-side market is up 1%.

Kawi says it expects the S-x-S market to surpass ATVs in the next year or two. Kawi’s new Teryx4 is its first four-seater in the side-by-side segment that’s currently dominated by Polaris’ numerous Ranger and Ranger RZR four-seater offerings. Look for details on the four iterations of the Teryx4 at ATV.com.

More specific to our interests here at Motorcycle.com are Team Green’s motorcycle division performance. Kawasaki reported its two-wheeled segment slid backward 6% in YTD calculations.

On the tail of the percentages talk, Teranishi pointed out Kawasaki’s 7th position standing in a 2010 J.D. Power and Associates Overall Motorcycle Owner Experience survey, and then issued a rather bold challenge to dealers in attendance to help move Kawasaki to P1 in customer satisfaction in the coming years.

New red and black color scheme for the 2012 ZX-10R. An all-black color is available as well as a Kawasaki green with black done in the same pattern as the bike seen here.

Finally, the program moved on to unveiling the two biggest stars on the motorcycle element of the show by rolling out the fresh-faced Ninja 650 and ‘Busa killer ZX-14R.

During much of the affair, attending dealers’ (an estimated 1300 registered) response was often tepid to cheerleading attempts by execs, numerous slides of facts, figures and various dealer initiative programs announced for 2012. However, the crowd became genuinely excited when Kawi-sponsored, veteran dragster Rickey Gadson blasted through a pyrotechnics display and onto the main stage aboard a Blazed Green SE ZX-14R.

Rusty Sampson, a single-line Kawasaki dealer from Thomasville, Ga., said he was pleased with the new street models and generally happy with Kawasaki’s efforts over the past year and pledges for the coming year.

“They [Kawasaki] needed to update the ZX-14, and what they’ve done is good, same with the Ninja 650.” said Sampson. He went on to explain that other than the Concours 14, his overall best-selling model, the 650 middleweights, like the Ninja 650 and Versys for example, are his best selling sportbikes. However, what Sampson appreciated most was Kawasaki’s pricing.

Citing the new models, Sampson said he was impressed with how Kawasaki has kept “prices down” despite the myriad updates and outright changes to the new models. Sampson suspects Kawasaki has kept MSRPs of many of its models low relative to the competition in order to retain as much market share as possible. Judging by the leading market share Kawasaki has had for the past two years, Sampson’s seasoned speculation seems accurate.

The ZX-14R received many changes for 2012 yet its roomy and comfortable ergo layout is familiar to the previous model. New to the ZX is KTRC. The first two KTRC modes are variants of traction control on the ZX-10R, while the rain mode is like that on the Concours 14. A source within Kawasaki says the new 14R should produce 210 hp at the crank.

While the Georgia dealer is content with Kawi’s products, he sees gaps in the company’s lineup. “I’d like to see an entry level cruiser from Kawasaki. And why not something more supermotard?” Despite what Sampson sees as room to grow he nevertheless thinks, of the Big Four, Kawasaki has the strongest offering in streetbikes.

And in a glimmer of hope, this veteran dealer with 30 years in the business feels in-tune with consumers’ resilience. “Let me tell you something about the American people, the consumer,” begins Sampson. “Pretty soon they’re just gonna get tired of this [negative economy and news of such] and just start buying bikes again.”

Related Reading
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R Preview
2012 Kawasaki Street Models Updates
2008 Kawasaki ZX-14: First Ride
All Things Kawasaki on Motorcycle.com

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