STABLE, RELIABLE, AFFORDABLE
All manufacturers in the segment are aware of the affordability issues boating faces and its critical role in bringing those newcomers into the industry. This means creating stable, reliable products that offer the experiences users crave.
“We want to make sure that we have products at price points but also with the features that consumers are looking for,” said Seti. “We know that if they have a good experience with that product, they’re going to move up the line with us. … So it’s critical that entry-level product maintains the excellence in design and build and that we don’t cut any corners the way we build that product, whether it’s the hull, the deck, the engine we put into it.”
This also means creating a lineup that gives those new buyers an opportunity to move to higher-end products as they become more experienced.
“We can’t just focus on one and not just on the other. So for us, it’s always a continuous process on how we can improve in all of the categories we have,” said Seti. “We’re seeing products in all categories doing well.”
Personal watercraft manufacturers are focusing on products that are compatible for up to three riders, which helps meet the multi-faceted uses of the current personal watercraft buyer. The market for solo riders is generally small for all players and so there is not as much focus on producing these units.
“Everybody’s looking for multi-use. People use personal watercraft for many different reasons, but people like to go for long rides, they like to tow, they like to be with their friends,” said Seti. “It’s a very communal activity, so you’re trying to get as much activity out of the personal watercraft as you can. No doubt there are specific models for specific activities, but at the end of the day we’re talking about being on the water and having fun.”
Comfort is also top of mind for manufacturers. Yamaha’s Luxury line of WaveRunners come with the Cruiser seat, which is a theater-style seat ergonomically designed for comfortable driving.
“You aren’t looking for the cruiser seat experience if you’re racing, but certainly if you’re a mom or a dad with kids, you definitely want something that’s stable, comfortable, easy to board and easy to get in and out of the water,” said Seti.
A MORE INTUITIVE RIDE FROM YAMAHA
Yamaha added the WaveRunner VX, VX Deluxe, VX Cruiser and VX Limited to its Versatility line, which is targeted at entry-level buyers, in 2016. These models, as well as its Luxury line and select Performance models, come with Yamaha’s RIDE Technology, which is a dual throttle handlebar control system that allows users to accelerate or decelerate using specific right and left levers for those functions.
“What you’re able to do is, when you’re coming off a unit, there’s no shifting or anything. You’ve got two dual throttles that you can work in symmetry. That allows all riders of any level to easily maneuver around docks, trailers, tight spaces, the ability to spin,” said Seti. “It’s extremely intuitive.”
The RIDE technology has precise slow speed maneuverability because the thrust on the reverse bucket goes sideways, not up and down.
“By going sideways, you’re able to push the rear of the unit left and right when you’re trying to get into tight quarters, or coming off a trailer or being around a dock,” said Seti. “It’s different than other [companies] that have the thrust going up in the air, because if you go up in the air you’re going to actually nosedive when you slow down. So it’s really an ingenious process.”
Another new product for 2016 is the TR-1 High Alpha 3-cylinder Yamaha marine engine, which is also included on the Versatility products. The engine, which won an innovation award from the National Marine Manufacturers Association at the Miami International Boat Show, is 40 percent smaller, 20 percent lighter and 13 percent more powerful.
“It really gives the consumer a better product on the water,” said Seti. “It’s pretty amazing we have this TR-1 engine at our entry-level price point, but we put time and energy into that to make sure that customer has an amazing experience, because we know that it will translate to them moving up in the years to come.”
In creating the engine, Yamaha put the engine into an entry-level product, so the company was able to focus more on the stability and features of the engine.
“We wanted to have a product that was going to appeal to a younger audience. A younger audience typically does not ride with three up,” said Seti, “but it allows it to create a more nimble, agile product, which is what the first-time buyer is really into, because they are typically younger and don’t have a family.”
[Excerpted from Boating Industry Magazine, April 2016]