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December 12, 2007

YAMAHA, People Behind the Product

Desperately seeking songs of good cheer…

I’m going to stray a little bit today with this story. It is not about sleds so much as some of the people here at Yamaha that bring them to market. And I dedicate this to one of them especially.

Going back about 17 years, we were quietly working on the Vmax4 and preparing to release the Exciter SX. This was an exciting time and it was decided to send our top brass along with myself to the Minocqua test facility to experience the first ride on the new 4 cylinder. Our VP, and senior GM’s, along with our National Service Manager andΒ  National Sales Manager, plus both Assistants to the President and me, Product Manager.

In most big companies the people holding the senior corporate titles are conservative ‘suits’ whose outdoor excursions are generally limited to the country club or maybe a fly-in fish camp. But this was the Yamaha Canuck contingent, bodies and sled gear jammed into a rented mini-van and on a unified quest for Tomahawk beef jerky and Bud.

I was elected ‘driver’, having been to the Wisconsin ‘Northwoods’ on more than one occasion. Hal Kai called shotgun and we set off from Rhinelander in the fancy new mini-van. I cranked the heat, then the tunes. It wasn’t long before someone requested another genre of music, so far we had only found two kinds of songs; country and western… Hal started fumbling with the tuning buttons then, from the back seat, someone asked if the VOX (voice actuated function) was working. I glanced at Hal and got that blank look which I have seen so many times from our Japanese staff.

What the heck are you talking about?’ I asked. He, explained the Road & Track he was reading spoke of this brand of mini-van having an automatic channel ‘seek’ function. Evidently all you had to do was say ‘SEEK’ clearly and the radio would move to the next station. I bent forward and loudly spoke ‘SEEK’ and it worked like charm. Cool, Englebert Humperdink… now Hal caught on and laughing called out ‘SEEK’… nothing happened, I got the look again.

So I, the resident tech geek said ‘SEEK’ and it advanced thank goodness! (no offense Englebert). By now Hal is getting politely miffed, ‘SEEK’… nothing. Someone alse calls up from the back ‘maybe its his Japanese accent‘ and so went Hal- SEEEK, SHEEK, CEKE, SICK, SHREEK etc. finally with his best American accent- SEEK and the channel changed. Hal was elated, I don’t think we got through a whole song all the way to Minocqua.

The testing went well and when all was finished we were offered the chance to hop on some sleds and ride over to Eagle River as it was ‘Derby weekend’... ‘Weasels’ here we come, but thats another story. One that won’t be told here.

Some of the guys had to leave prior to the Derby so we piled back into the minivan to make the ‘red-eye’ at the airport. It was late and snowing. Thankfully Hal and Tim Chelli came along to keep me company. We made the drop in Rhinelander and several SEEKs later, were on the road back to Minocqua. It wasn’t long before Chelli passed out in the back seat leaving Hal and I trying to stay awake up front. Some sleepy music came on, Hal now had it well wired: SEEK… nothing. Louder SEEK… nothing. Again even louder SEEEEEK.

Chelli woke up cursing and pointed out to us the radio control pad situated behind the driver in the back seat with the ‘seek’ button. They had orchestrated the biggest ‘gotcha’ of my career, one we still laugh at 17 years later. I couldn’t see from the drivers seat but our senior VP was literally in tears all the way up with the other guys choking on their laughter, man were we ‘duped’.

Anyway, that gives you an idea of the kind of management team we have maintained here at Yamaha. We’re all older now, the business has changed some and with it there has been a changing of the guard.

Looking forward we have some brilliant young people working here and with any luck I’ll be in their corner helping them as they SEEK our future. cheers cr

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Posted @ 4:14 pm in Opinions and Insights,Yamaha People and Communication   

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9 Responses to “YAMAHA, People Behind the Product”

  1. Dustin says:

    Great Story! Seek…. LOL

  2. DoktorC says:

    Rode trips are always great fun!

  3. Carl says:

    Ha ha ha! I never saw it coming since VOX is pretty common these days.

  4. Josh says:

    I recently graduated MMI(Motorcycle Mechanics Institute), Phoenix, AZ, specializing in, among others Yamaha, achieving a 3.8 gpa. I fell in love with this machine the minute I stepped into class. One of my instructors is an employee and mastermind hidden in the shadows behind Corey Davidson. I was fortunate enough to be able to encounter this man and was asked to work for him. However, due to a series of misfortunes this dream never became a reality. I wish I could be out there on the snow assisting the best crosscountry snowmobile rider win another title, but that opportunity has passed. I am still in love with Yamaha and want to be part of the team. Yamaha has a great reputation and an excellent machine. If anyone wants more info on myself, please contact me.
    jtwilliams83814@yahoo.com

    Josh it sounds to me that you would be an asset for the right team… hold onto your passion and your dream may well come true… cheers cr

  5. Yammerhead says:

    Good one! It’s great to have a co-workers that you can share laughs with. We spend a big part of our lives at work and it is much more enjoyable (and productive) when fun is part of the formula.

    Road trips are always an adventure. You know the saying: “What happens on the road….” πŸ˜‰

  6. Bakemono says:

    I feel your pain when it comes to the selection of radio stations in northern Wisconsin.
    I spend much of my free time in the winter riding my sled in the St Germain area and all Ive got to say is, THANK GOD FOR SATELLITE RADIO!!!

  7. nevets says:

    Will yamaha build the fx nitro with a 136in track next year?

    Well Nevets, you are going to have to wait until March to find out, however, let me point you to a previous post, which if you read closely will give you some insight… cheers cr

  8. Jim Manning says:

    If I suggested to a customer that his electronic rear shock could be operated the same way, would that make me a bad person? The mental image of him riding through the whoops screaming “firmer, firmer” into his helmet is awfully tempting…!

    Good story Chris. I’ve been on more than a few group rides where the Corporate Exec. and the guy who ‘works’ for his paycheque are deep into a conversation about clutching (or whatever) over a game of pool. I love that about this sport. It doesn’t matter what you wear to work during the week, we all wear the same ‘suit’ on the week-end.

  9. Eldon Seaward says:

    Does “YAMAHA” really back their product and most important the “CUSTOMER”? There I was, sitting in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan reading an ATV mag that my wife had sent and what do I see, prototype of the all new PHAZER! My first reaction was “Cool”! Since 2002 I have purchased 7 Yamaha bikes/ quads and have had no problems with any of these machines. Consider myself a loyal Yamaha customer. So, I return home and right to the Yami dealership to buy a new 2007 PhazerFX. Of crse, I have been reading all the reviews and was quite impressed. First impression when I picked it up was “awesome”. Was like a kid @ X-mas when I drove it for the first time(36 y/o kid..lol). Well, a year later and I’m not so sure I made a good decision. Not that I have had a lot of problems, it’s the alarming number of problems reported on this product. It scares me to think of how much money I may need to put into this sled if these problems occur(warranty expired). I personally think that there should be a laundry list of recalls on this sled. I have only received 1. I guess the point I’m trying to get across is how is “YAMAHA” dealing with these issues? I realize that a lot of these issues are fixed on the 2008’s, but what about the thousands of us 2007 owners? I see some guys receiving updates for free, but seems to be at the “Dealership” level. Thanx for listening…cheers.

    Hey Eldon, couple of points, first I am glad you have not had any problems with your Phazer to date and don’t be too alarmed with all the ‘reports’ you have seen online. Many of them are regionalized and nowhere near as big as they might appear on the forums. That said we are taking care of many of them through our dealers on an ‘as required’ or case by case basis. We would be throwing a lot of money away to update all the 07’s with blanket updates when less than 10% experience a specific failure. I would recommend you speak with your dealer to see what common updates are being performed in your area. They may well apply some to your sled if they deem appropriate. Also when Yamaha is aware of a problem we often extend warranty coverage through our dealers with either full or partial (parts only) depending on the circumstances. We will continue to take of you and the key is communicating with your dealer.

    I am assuming you are with the military by your Afghanistan reference. If thats the case, let me thank you for serving your country and all of us at home. When it comes to ‘protocol’ you probably understand it better than I… cheers cr


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