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April 24, 2009

Business Update

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 geishame 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!

cheers cr

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7 Responses to “Business Update”

  1. pat the rat says:

    great post again,we had fun over at ”ty”with the,”are yamaha’s ok”topic,everybody was talking about what we would drive if yammi were to quit the sled industry,it was hard just to think about losing yamaha as a sled company,so glad to see the company committed to sleds cuz they do make the best product end of discussion,my focus is shifting towards my grizzly that hauls my small boat with a 15 hp yammi 4stroke,another fine product from yamaha
    ptr

    thanks ptr, loading up my Kodiak this weekend cottage bound with the first order on the agenda… wresting my F20 Yammie onto the transom… I didn’t cast a vote on TY on what I would ride if Yamaha wasn’t around… knowing me I would build my own project sled based on an Apex (and a very trick bush sled based on the old school parts bin) cheers cr

  2. Daranello says:

    Chris,

    Now I can’t venture to guess what’s the “real” sales numbers are… would I be too offside to say that Canadian Sales would have surpased USA sales if it was not for cross boarder sales??

    hard to say really, one of our competitors was moving tractor trailer loads of non current models out of US dealers and into Canadian dealerships for a huge net discount but these numbers count against US and add to Canada… I believe this is a short term anomaly and in the future we will see the US market come back up closer to where it should be… cr

  3. Mark says:

    Chris,
    Good Post!
    I was up to the snowcross races in Barrie and a GREAT showing for BIG BLUE.
    How many other manufacturers can state they have won both the snowcross races and the motorcycle Supercross races in the same year. This is Great!
    Mark

  4. low slung says:

    Best news i heard so far this year,it would be really sad to see yamaha leave the sled game and take away the best sleds on the planet.By the way are the shocks in the back of the 09 phazer GT rebuildable?Or are they just gas cell?

  5. snoguzzler says:

    We’re doing our part. The wife just bought a new 2009 Phazer RTX. The “Snobitch is back!!” It’ll soon be time to update my ’06 Attak, but I haven’t found anything I would rather have yet. However the colours on the anniversary edition almost made me deal her in.

  6. Flatlander SE says:

    It would be frightning if Yamaha did leave the snowmobile business. There would litteraly be NO reliable/durable sleds on the market. This winter, anyone in my riding group not riding a Yamaha was towed home at least once. I guess the bonus of “light weight” is that they tow home easier.

    That’s a very strong statement… mind if I quote you? 😉 I have been giving a lot of thought to ‘lightweight’ as a ‘feature’, which is referred to so often in our industry. Nobody (including the main messenger) has spent much time describing the actual cost and benefit. Think I’ll have to post my thoughts on this one real soon! cheers cr

  7. scott says:

    I’m glad to hear that Canada is getting a louder voice in the company since my state of Alaska shares more in common with Cananda that it does the US.

    I recently spent some time living in the interior of AK and had my Vector with me and to be brutally honest, it was not my first choice of sleds to have for the conditions. First off, a 1000cc, 4-stroke, e-start only motor is not the best thing to have when the temps drop to 40 below. A nice, simple fan cooled 2-stroke makes a lot of since. However, that type of Yamaha sled is not offered in the USA, except for the Bravo. Due to the emissions concerns, I’m thinking a 400cc, air, oil cooled 4-stroke sled based off a 400 Grizzly would make for an excellent “Bush sled” both in AK and Canada. Please include an oversized, mechanically advantaged rope starter as wells as the Ultramatic tranny ( that will make for the 3rd or 4th time I’ve requested it) out of the 4-wheelers.

    A modern, light weight, easy to start when cold 4-stroke work sled would sell very well in both Canada and in Alaska.

    Couldn’t agree with you more Scott, I’d love to build a project sled with a Grizzly 600 engine (or maybe a 700 l/c) shoe horned into something like an ET410 chassis with modern skid and track just to see how it would work… cheers cr


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