Whether riding with colleagues or riding alone, Kawasaki Motors Australia Managing Director Shu Yasui says it’s his duty to be out there astride the company’s latest and greatest vehicles. It’s a tough job, granted, but someone has to do it.
"Whenever we get a new model, I try it," he tells The CEO Magazine. "If I can’t have fun, how can I be an ambassador of the Kawasaki brand? It’s like a chef who doesn’t taste his own food."
For close to two decades, Yasui has been living and breathing the Kawasaki brand. When he first joined the marketing department at Kawasaki Industries (KHI) in 2005, the Motorcycle and Engine Division he was in charge of was the company’s only B2C revenue stream.
"KHI’s main business was shipbuilding, bullet trains, airplanes, aerospace and industrial robots," Yasui tells The CEO Magazine. "I was assigned to the consumer division and was in charge of global product launches and international shows."
Five years later, Yasui transferred to the United States to oversee business planning, sales and marketing for American subsidiary Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. When his five-year assignment was up, he returned to Japan to head up the sales team for developing countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
We’re expanding the business more rapidly and have so many projects ongoing.
No stranger to relocating to better serve the Kawasaki brand, Yasui jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of Managing Director in Australia in early 2021.
"Australians have a motorcycle mindset," he says. "When you’re a kid, you start with a kick bike and move on to a push bike and then often a small off-road bike. It’s a natural transition."
In an effort to grow its consumer division, the B2C business spun off from KHI to establish Kawasaki Motors in October 2021, with Yasui at its helm.
"We’re expanding the business more rapidly and have so many projects ongoing," he says. "Recently, I’ve seen that people’s mindsets are changing. There’s a lot more interest in electric vehicles due to people becoming more concerned with protecting the environment, so we’re working on electric and hybrid motorcycles as well as hydrogen-powered models."
Driven by its famous tagline, "Let the Good Times Roll", Kawasaki is committed to adapting to evolving market regulations without compromising on the Kawasaki quality and driving experience its loyal customers know and love.
"We work hard to bring happiness and joy to all those whose lives Kawasaki touches," Yasui explains. "From our customers to our dealers and employees, everyone who touches Kawasaki products has to have good times. This is hard to provide without knowing the customer’s mindset or preferences, so Kawasaki is very customer-centric. Our test riders play an important role and provide valuable feedback, which is taken into consideration when developing new Kawasaki models."
The motorcycle giant also has plans to expand its other consumer product lines in Australia.
"Agriculture, construction and mining are big here, so there’s an opportunity for us to grow our side-by-side market," Yasui says. "Off-road models are also popular, so we plan to expand that segment as well. We’ve recently started collaborating with our dealer network to support local motocross and off-road riders – we call them our Team Green Riders. We want to expand that excitement into races together with riders, dealers and fans."
We work hard to bring happiness and joy to all those whose lives Kawasaki touches.
With the brand name Jet Ski under its umbrella, Kawasaki’s personal watercraft market sales are steadily growing amongst ocean-loving Australians.
"I got my Jet Ski license recently so I can ride with dealers to talk about how we can sell more and with customers to get their feedback on our products," he says.
Staying in touch
Yasui also rides with suppliers and other business partners to strengthen their relationships.
"We tend to work with partners long-term," he explains. "I prefer to have small, stable relationships. My thanks and appreciation go out to Allied Credit, NM Insurance, YBI Creative and AirRoad Group for the valued support they provide to our business. Our finance partner, Allied Credit, is one of the most important business partners we’ve been working with closely for years, both when the market was good and bad.
"The power sports industry is such a volatile market that surviving and expanding in this business requires being very flexible, open-minded and creative," he continues. "We’re happy to have a solid partnership with Allied Credit to help us through the challenges."
Whenever we get a new model, I try it. If I can’t have fun, how can I be an ambassador of the Kawasaki brand?
It’s a busy role, but Yasui still makes time to get to know the Kawasaki products in depth by taking them for a spin.
"In the motorcycle and power sports industry, you have to ride it, you have to feel it, to confirm it’s fun," he says with a smile. "Even though I’m now a Managing Director, I don’t want to lose that sense."
• Kawasaki was founded in 1878 when Shozo Kawasaki opened a shipyard to build ocean-going steel ships
• In 1918, Kawasaki’s Aircraft Department was established
• The first Kawasaki brand motorcycle was produced in 1961
• Kawasaki’s consumer products include Motorcycles, ATVs, Side-by-Sides and Personal Watercraft