KEY LARGO, Fla. — Before a crowd of 400 boatbuilders, dealers and members of the media, new Suzuki Marine of America president Takuya Sato raised his Tervis Tumbler in a toast to Suzuki’s commitment to innovation and the start of the company’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration.
“Kampi!” Sato said. “Cheers, and thank you for your commitment.”
Suzuki had reason to cheer because in 2013 the company’s marine sales showed the first true signs of solid recovery since the recession. Although sales figures have slowly crept up, the 2013 numbers were the first annual ones to exceed those of 2008.
Suzuki is known for its commitment to innovation, Sato said. “Our goal is continued innovation and 10 percent market share by 2017.” Dealers, builders and consumers are telling the company that they are ready to put the fun back into their lives, he said.
Sato spoke Monday night at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. Suzuki sponsored three days of boat testing, new-product announcements and industry networking at the 2,500-acre private resort. The 69-year-old, member-owned club boasts a 175-slip marina and access to boating and fishing throughout the Florida Keys. Conferees came from across the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, California and Wisconsin, and from Canada, Japan and other countries.
On Tuesday morning Suzuki revealed its all-new DF200A, the company’s first 4-cylinder 200-hp engine and one of the first 4-stroke, 200-hp engines industrywide.
“Suzuki’s edge in the industry has always been innovation,” said Gus Blakely, Suzuki manager of planning and sales development. “Suzuki is constantly searching to do things better and to give the customers what they want.”
The three-day conference, which ended Wednesday, included tests of engines from 20 hp to 300 hp on a dozen boats for two full days because “on the water is where it counts,” Blakely said.
Yasuharu Osawa, the divisional general manager for Suzuki Global Marine power products, hit the highlights of the company’s 50 years in the outboard business, starting with Suzuki’s first outboard in 1965. Osawa said Suzuki has been the leader in 4-stroke technology for the past five decades. Suzuki is most proud of its strong partnerships with dealers, boatbuilders and members of the press, Osawa said.
“We will work hard to maintain and improve these vital relationships,” he said.
Osawa outlined Suzuki’s three goals for this anniversary year. First, he said, the company will give the U.S. market top priority. Second, Suzuki will devote more resources to development and continue to launch new products. And third, in a commitment directed toward dealers and builders, Osawa said Suzuki will reinforce its marine team in the United States and Japan.
He emphasized Suzuki’s goal of continuing to strengthen the company’s brand and expand products and services.
Osawa reiterated that 2013 was Suzuki’s best year in marine sales since 2008. With seven innovation awards in the last three decades, including awards for Suzuki’s 4-strokes in 1997 and more recent awards for the company’s lean burn technology and selective rotation, Osawa argued that Suzuki has produced more technical innovation than other companies in the industry.
Suzuki engineers and technical developers follow a three-point checklist during the new-product development process, said Shuichi Mishima, Suzuki’s general manager of engineering. First, Suzuki asks: How can we be innovative? How can we build it better? Second, he said, does our product improve reliability and instill confidence? And third, have we improved the technology?
“Suzuki has done a lot,” Mishima said, “but we must look forward. We must look at what we will be doing 10 years and 20 years from now.”
Mishima said Suzuki will continue to focus on performance, fuel economy, low emissions and the development of products that are easy to use and reliable.
“Suzuki builds with the customer in mind since their first model in 1965,” Mishima said.
Suzuki’s vice president of operations, Mark Eastman, said that when Suzuki announced its new emphasis on the marine business the company heard from retailers, consumers and dealers that their needs weren’t being met. Part of Suzuki’s strategy to meet these needs is a new parts and accessories line, including a new multi-item engine kit for each engine family.
Suzuki’s service field also has added multiple new training seminars. The Suzuki Atlanta training center has reopened for the first time in four years.
Read more about Suzuki’s new parts and accessories line and news about the Suzuki training center and classes in Trade Only Today on Friday.
The following is a partial list of boats with Suzuki engines that were available for testing and demos during the company’s new-model introduction and business meeting at the Ocean Reef Club:
• Qwest pontoon with Suzuki DF25
• Ranger 117 with Suzuki DF115
• Key West 21 with Suzuki DF200A
• SeaVee with twin Suzuki DF200As
• Caravelle with Suzuki DF200A
• Twin Vee with twin Suzuki DF200As
• Dusky with twin Suzuki DF300s