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Archive for December, 2011

December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The first day of winter and Santa on the way. What a crazy year here at Yamaha. Talking with Pete last night, it occurred to me; so many things have come together to test the industry and our business model. The Tsunami in Japan, economic recession, strong Canadian dollar or more to the point, the weak American currency (and then there is the Yen), the toll of legal defense, climate change and head shots in hockey. Ok well maybe not the Crosby thing so much but I do feel we have taken a few too many to the noggin in our own way. The end game is not in sight and we have more snow-balls in the air than at any other point in my twenty five year tenure. I don’t expect things will settle much  in 2012. Our vision is long term and the thinking is completely ‘out-of-the-box’. For the speculators out there, don’t even bother to exercise your brain on this statement, you’ll grow a beard before you get close 😉

I was at our design agency in California last week as we kicked-off the 2014 MY color and graphics project. Vic wanted a snap-shot of how the current 2012 c&g was being excepted so I posted a poll over on Totallyamaha which has yielded some great comments and not a single bash. I was proud to send the link to factory with my recommendation to the key managers to read the thread, which is a struggle for some of the guys who don’t get to practice their English every day. Was  cool to see the Tesarat in the GKDI lobby, the four wheeled articulating concept motorcycle was shown at the Tokyo auto show, it was going to be destroyed but GK was able to save it from the dumpster by simply picking up the shipping tab, good thing. That thing would be an awesome addition to any man-cave!

I want to wish you and your family all the best for the holidays. I am planning to take mine up to the cottage, fingers crossed for snow and prepared to ride something regardless of the weather. As RJ said yesterday, there is no such thing as bad conditions, just different. Given the right choice of equipment all rides are good. Have a Merry Christmas and healthy New Year. Cheers cr

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Posted @ 9:50 am in Opinions and Insights   

December 12, 2011

All Things Must Pass

I was forwarded a call from a northern reporter representing the CBC. He was inquiring as to why Yamaha has discontinued the Bravo. Appears the little sled with the big heart has endeared itself to the people of the north, many of whom are not happy with its demise. So why is it going the way of the Dodo?

The Bravo was the brain child of Karl Ishima who along with his engineer friend Toshi Yasui challenged the daunting task of building a snowmobile that could be retailed in the USA for $999.99. Karl once told me the story (over a few hot sake’s)  how he failed with the Bravo but Toshi went on to capture the flag with the SV80 SnoScoot.

The Bravo replaced the Enticer 250 in 1981, showcasing some new ideas that Karl designed to keep costs down and durability high on the KISS scale. Wherever he could, he reduced the number of parts by having one item perform more than one function. For example, the motor mount plate is bolted to the cases using the same 4 bolts that hold the case halves together. The air-box and steering gate forms one piece to hold the steering column and electrical connector blocks while handling the air-intake and baffle duties. The cylinder and head is cast as one piece, eliminating parts and any chance of a gasket leak.

The sales success of the Bravo defines it as our best seller ever. In its day, the Bravo was available in three different track lengths, standard 96, Transporter 102 and Trapper 136. For years we requested three things in planning for the Bravo; electric start, reverse gear and greater fuel capacity. The latter was the only one we got and that came by creatively when the engineers installed a second ‘saddle tank’ in the storage box area between the drivers legs, adding 4 more liters to the spec.

The writing has been on the wall for the Bravo for a long time. As time passed, first the US then Europe ceased importing the Bravo. Canada was taking all the Bravo’s the factory built to the tune of about 1500 a year at best. There was one point where we lost our supplier of leaf springs and were about to discontinue the BR when Karl stepped in with a solution. Supersede the parts to the Bravo Transporter leaf springs which were a tad  softer and the supplier had a warehouse full after we discontinued the model. note: Only Yamaha would have changed a leaf spring spec due to the addition of a few inches of track eh 😉 . It was funny to hear the engineers were quite concerned with the effect to ride comfort using a slightly softer leaf spring would have. I can imagine the test evaluations, ‘it just goes doink instead of boink!’

Since then every year there is a point when it appears the Bravo is cooked but then something happens to pull it out of the fire. The USA started importing them again a few years back which had a positive political result, then last year we found out the tooling for the hood has reached the end of its life-cycle and needs replacement to the tune of several million yen. Of course we tried to argue a solution for that but with the latest, impending round of  EPA emission requirements on the table our plea was denied. There doesn’t appear to be any more band-aids for the faithful little Bravo and it’s time to bid it farewell. Not a bad run, 30 years and most of them are still in service. I for one am sorry to see the BR have to pass and with it an entire era of sledding… Karl san its a sad day my friend.

cheers cr

 

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Posted @ 4:07 pm in Sled History and Links   

December 7, 2011

Someone Pinch Me!

Closing time last night and Blaicher comes bounding into my office with the winter 2012 edition of OSM magazine tucked under his arm.’ Have you read this one yet?’ To which I replied; ‘No I have been too busy doing what I’m being paid to do, what’s up?’ He dropped the copy, post-it notes clearly marking some pages, ‘well you will want to’… and snickering, off he went.

Checking the BB emails this morning from the throne, I spot a growing thread on the same magazine so while I was waiting for my ‘puter to boot-up  at the office, my curiosity got the better of me and I flipped to the post-it book-mark to see what all the fuss is about.

I haven’t been following the OSM crew of late, not really since they struck off on their own after separating their ties to Supertrax as the official publication of the Ontario snowmobile federation. They have since gone national in Canada and now international  publishing in the USA as ‘On Snow Magazine.’ The publisher, Richard Kehoe, has brought on board quite a list of editorial contributors, many from the USA and is clearly putting a lot of effort into bringing the rag mainstream. But I digress.

The subject of all the attention is an article entitled ‘Throw Down: Real Sleds, Real Riders, Real Trails, Real Results. They captured my interest in the first couple of paragraphs where the author supported my long standing opinion on the validity of snowmobile evaluations performed at the big media events as nothing more than seat of the pants opinion made with very little real world connections.

They took the time to perform some very controlled and quantifiable set-ups and test-runs and unlike most sled evaluations, they used methodology similar to what we would use during a ‘joint test’ evaluation to arrive at their conclusions. The Apex SE was the only 4-stroke of the four models chosen to represent each manufacturer. I was expecting the status-quo dismissal of the Apex as being ‘old and overweight’ in comparison to the latest 2-smoke sizzle.

A couple of the test riders are well known to me. One was a former employee of our competition and a  journalist, well known for his extreme viewpoints. I think these guys were sincerely surprised at the outcome of their evaluations but not as surprised as I was to find they were open minded enough to tell it like it is. The formula for the end result was found in reflecting upon the experience the majority  of riders can expect, with ego in check, on the trail, over the long haul.

There are a few notable quotes in the article but the one coming from Richard in conclusion, sums it up rather well: “The Yamaha Apex SE was the dark horse of the group. If I would have placed a few side bets on this sled, I could have retired, as this sled turned out to be the preferred trail sled of the group. Remember the Throw Down is about real world riders, the norm if you will.”

In case you are wondering, the Apex was up against the Polaris 800 Rush Pro-R, the Skidoo 800MXZ-XRS and the Arctic Cat CFR 800. I know some of you have opinions on the journalistic integrity of the main-stream sno-mo mags being heavily supported by the big-4’s advertising dollars. For the record, OSM doesn’t have a lot of corporate ads with two of the four OE’s being absent (and we are one of them). The magazine is available on newstands in both countries if you are interested to read the whole article. I have tried not to spoil the outcome too much 😉 .

As a bonus OSM uses photography from an old friend and newly appointed Snowmobile Hall of Famer, Wayne Davis and his images alone are worth the price of admission.  cheers cr

 

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Posted @ 11:50 am in Tech Talk,Yamaha People and Communication