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No Mo’ Snow – Yamaha Says Goodbye

It always comes down to the numbers. However, for many riders, Yamaha snowmobiles represented much, much more.

As many of you know, Yamaha recently announced it will stop manufacturing snowmobiles after the 2025 models. As a Yamaha dealer, I am a bit saddened by that, as I believe Yamaha made the best sleds out there — as they do motorcycles and ATVs.

I was a Yamaha snowmobile dealer for a few seasons and never had any problems with the units we sold. Almost no warranty issues whatsoever. They were a joy to sell, and people really loved them. I was there when the four-stroke models were announced. Those were exciting times.

One thing I soon realized was selling a snowmobile is far different than selling a motorcycle or ATV. The owners are a bit more fanatical about their brand of snow machine and really want to deal with a fellow sled rider. That was not me.

I was not the guy to sell them. We also were not in the right location, being several hours away from the best riding areas. Because of this, a great many of our potential clients bought their machines from the shops that were in the mountains — stores where the employees and shop owners rode snowmobiles all the time. They know their customers, and they know what it takes to set up a sled to work well in their areas. They were the experts. We would have gotten there, but I realized it would take many years.

2024 Sidewinder L TX SE snowmobile
Yamaha

Yamaha sleds are very well made, with phenomenal engines, and they work well. Unfortunately, they never seemed to gain the sales foothold that Yamaha desired. Perhaps we could have done better, but ultimately, we were a motorcycle/ATV dealership. That’s what we were good at.

I would imagine that Yamaha simply looked at the numbers. It always comes down to the numbers. How many of each model do you need to make to turn a profit? Of course, there are trail sleds, mountain sleds, work sleds and performance sleds. Each segment has to earn money for the manufacturer, but with so many different classes of units, it creates a somewhat segmented marketplace with many models having smaller numbers that may not be profitable. I know many manufacturers have a hard line, and no matter what emotions there are, once the sales numbers drop below that line, those models are discontinued. I believe that’s what happened in this case.

In addition, losing the approximately 30,000 units sold into Russia (because of embargos resulting from the invasion of Ukraine) couldn’t have helped. I’m sure it became more and more obvious that manufacturing facilities could be put to better use. I know the T7s alone are not being made in the numbers that could be sold. Perhaps they will use some of their manufacturing capabilities to build those units in great demand. I am also sure there are many ATVs and motorcycles where we will see Yamaha sled engines show up.

Yamaha’s commitment to four-stroke technologies was admirable, but in the end, while it manufactured some amazing engines, the sleds were heavier than many of the two-strokes they were competing against, especially when you look at the mountain sled market. Four-stroke engines are more efficient as far as fuel mileage, and they have more low- and mid-range torque, but two-strokes were looked on as being more agile and quicker in the high revs than four-strokes.

Four-stroke engines are 50% heavier than two strokes, and maintenance costs are higher. Furthermore, an engine rebuild can be many times more expensive on a four- vs. a two-stroke engine. Yamaha recently came out with a phenomenal lineup of two-stroke machines, but I think it was too late. By then, a lot of clients had moved on to Polaris or Ski-Doo.

Yamaha’s partnership with Arctic Cat was perhaps a precursor to cutting costs and creating more profit. It provided the engines, and Arctic Cat shared suspension knowledge with Yamaha. Many people thought the partnership was a death knell for Yamaha. It was obviously a cost-cutting measure, especially in a market where Yamaha is the No. 4 contender. My contact at Yamaha confirmed such, and while he personally was upset, he understood all about the numbers.

We also have to consider global warming and what that means for a mode of transport that requires cold temperatures and lots of snowfall. Maybe they will look at manufacturing an ATV that can cross rivers?

I did ask about the engine technology and whether it will show up elsewhere. My contact confirmed that it would, but when I asked about a 700cc twin Grizzly, I was met with silence. Keep your eyes open. Maybe a 1,000cc turbocharged four-stroke side-by-side or sport bike? You heard it here first!

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