Despite grim global economic forecasts, Kawasaki held a National Dealer Meeting in Orlando, Florida signalling it is business as usual for the now number one manufacturer of Japanese motorcycles second year running. While other OEMs have taken a defensive approach during the economic downturn focusing their sales efforts on emerging markets, Kawasaki's Motorcycle & Engine Company President, Hiroshi Takata stated that the USA remains Kawasaki's "most important market". He went on to say that Kawasaki intends "to strengthen our position, not only in the motorcycle business, but also in our four wheeler and Jet Ski businesses." In his executive presentation, Takata stressed that Kawasaki remained poised to take advantage of the void other manufacturers were leaving in the U.S. market, and vowed to continue to innovate and produce products that appeal to Americans.
Kawasaki Motor Corporation USA President Tak Teranishi outlined the company's three year goal―to be rated number one in overall customer satisfaction. Teranishi also stated they intend to "raise the bar in market, design, power, performance and quality" and that Kawasaki's goal is to become number one in sales in every market segment.
Executives acknowledged those goals are challenging, especially given the current global economic environment. They noted that last year the industry lost over a million unit sales and contracted a further 20%. Executives also pointed out there are now fewer consumers seeking products and those consumers have more choices available than ever before. They voiced specific concern over Social Media and stressed that a positive consumer experience was essential in today's Marketplace, noting a negative customer product review or dealer experience can reach tens of thousands of people in seconds via the Internet. The customer is more powerful than ever, so Kawasaki is "working harder for you" was the mantra.
Where will this lead? Time will tell, but it was apparent that their Dealer Meeting was more than just a venue to introduce new product. Putting on such an extravagant event in tough economic times when others are cutting back is clearly intended to demonstrate to their dealers, the media and their competitors that Kawasaki has the management and financial backing to take the (non-Harley) Powersports industry leadership role.
One also has to ask how the other OEMs will react - and whose strategy will prevail.
If it's a game of chicken, Kawasaki's not blinking.