April 24, 2009
One would think by the time May rolls around, our thoughts and actions would shift focus from sleds to wheels, water and warm weather, but that is not the case here at Yamaha. In fact the snowmobile business is becoming more prominent in my daily activities than it has in years. I was intrigued by a post over on TY with the subject Yamaha…. are they okay???? It is interesting to observe how small snippets of info can lead to so many oppinions and conjective conclusions. For the record I’ll toss in a couple of more tid-bits and see what filters down.
First, no worries, we are still in business. The total snowmobile industry has taken another hit in the USA with sales down about 20% over the previous year. In Canada we fared better on par (no change) over the previous year. The market share inside of the totals moved around quite a bit mostly due to non-current liquidation and individual OE programs. In the US a lot of focus was on moving non-current models. Yamaha started the season in pretty good shape compared to some others but we still felt the impact of the economic crisis. So far this year it appears the ‘spring order’ has softened with more people opting to sit on their wallets until the fall to decide on whether to pop for a new sled, which really comes as no surprise.
It is interesting to note that Canada and the USA are now within about 10,000 unit sales of each other (approximately 10% of total North American sales. ) To put that in persepective it was not long ago at all, when the USA accounted for more than double Canada’s sales. So it is no surprise that Polaris and Cat, along with Yamaha are looking much closer at the Canadian market than they ever have in the past. Skidoo, being a Canadian company, has always been in tune with this market and has put significant effort and resources (with the occasional help of our government) into building more touring, trail and utility variations to cover our more diverse needs.
Our relationship with Yamaha USA has long been one of a ‘little brother’ partnership where we work closely with regards to our product planning ideas and willingly except the marketing direction and support that always came as a result of the well funded and managed planning and marketing team in the USA. Our factory has always listened to the total market but generally followed the direction put forth from the USA.
Now in light of the current situation, we find a lot of attention is being given to our market and our thoughts on how we should proceed as a company. We are engaged almost daily with our friends south of the border and are working hard to change things up and work much closer on the planning and execution of projects that have been done quite independently in the past. I am predicting that you will see a new Yamaha begin to emerge next season. One with a less traditional voice and a lean / mean and ‘connected’ approach to marketing.
I could go on about some of my own feelings and ideas but that would be somewhat premature at this point. Team USA will be in town next week and we will be ‘rolling up our sleeves’ to lay the foundation for our new joint strategy. You can rest assured Team Blue is not going to back off from the snowmobile business. I believe we need to exercise restraint with regards to pushing wholesale at our dealers and focus on improving our quality and reliability at every step. The seasons are getting too short to find yourself on the wrong end of a tow-rope, right? I’ll keep you posted.
Just for giggles, I mentioned in some recent posts how many of our old guard has taken retirement, most recently my friend Greg Marier. Greg sent me a picture this morning that made me stop and reflect about the years of past planning. Here we are seen in Japan back in the pre-trailing arm days… the back row says it all with (left to right) Greg, Jim, Tim, myself and Haga… the planning foundation for USA / Canada and Europe for over 20 years. Like the people, the times have changed. We have some young guns at the helm now and new challenges to meet. That said, Yamaha is quite okay, damn straight… and thanks for asking!