I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This last September really took the wind out of my sails when Kawasaki revealed very little in regards to new vehicles for 2014. “Now wait,” I hear you saying. “They radically improved the engine efficiency, cooling and oiling, making it produce an extra 10-horsepower over its already industry leading 300.” And you know what, you’d be right. It’s great stuff.
But c’mon man, that motor needed some attention anyways. Where were the new skis? Motocross handlebars on a 300X does not a new model make. How about a new entry level? How about an Ultra 300X-powered STX? Where was that? Oh, and how about that four-stroke standup we all know Kawasaki has? Seriously, guys. Make with the products people are asking for already.
I bring all this up because my sources pretty much confirmed that these were what the future held for the Big K. Putting what reliability I have on the line is a big deal, so that’s why its with some trepidation that I let out something I’ve been holding close to my vest for a few months…Honda wants back in.
You’re not going to see a press release or some leaked images floating around the web. No, these are below-the-surface grumblings that have the makings of a comeback tour for the one manufacturer that could’ve risen to the top had they been willing. Let me explain:
Despite being a major force in the motorcycle, motocross, ATV, and off-road segments, Honda Motorsports never really gave the Aquatrax a chance to shine. Considering the size of the Honda Motorsports machine, the Aquatrax could’ve been an industry leader. But again, Honda got in its own way. They were exorbitantly priced, particularly considering a dismal lack of features, and were literally hard to find.
Honda PWC were sold explicitly through select Powerhouse Honda dealers in only four countries: Canada, USA, New Zealand, and Australia. No Central and South America, no European continent, no East and South East nations. I find this exceptionally bizarre. By heavily restricting availability, the Aquatrax PWC never really had the chance to spread.
When Honda announced that they were ceasing production of their PWC, the newly appointed chairman of Honda Motorsports was quoted as saying, “We need to focus our efforts on selling the product we already have. Once that is done, then we can organize ourselves in building new product.”
Those few Powerhouse dealers who had permission to sell Aquatrax still sat on dozens of unsold units ranging back several years. Domestically, it took until late last year for the final few unsold F-12s and F-15s to finally move. That would sound pretty dismal were it not for two things:
First, I received word that engineers from the American Honda Motorsports headquarters in Torrance, California, were seeking out used F-12 and turbo-charged F-12X’s with incredibly high hours. And for the record, these were corporate purchases, not a pair of Honda employees who wanted to go jump surf outside of Queensgate.
Some idle chitchat revealed that the wheels were moving within Honda to evaluate whether the product they made stood up to the harsh rigors of extended riding and what could be learned from it. It bears explaining that major manufacturers take slow, methodical steps when it comes to moves like starting up a product line, and every avenue begs exploring.
Meanwhile, phone calls have been made to dealers gauging interest in Sea-Doo’s newly minted entry-level runabout, the Spark. Why the Spark? Because Honda launched the motorcycle-equivalent, the “Grom” earlier this year to rave reviews earning them intimate understanding of BRP’s tactics.
More importantly, it was revealed earlier this year that Honda Motorsports’ Timmonsville, South Carolina, manufacturing facility still has all of the original molds, tooling and equipment necessary to rekindle production in short time. Alas, these are not smoking guns, but any means, but circumstantial evidence to something that may or may not happen. But again, it’s worth mentioning.
Personally, I loved Honda’s full-sized F-15X. It was stable in chop, intuitive in corners, and reliable to boot. It behaved like a blend of Kawasaki’s Ultra 260X (before Kawasaki reshaped the Ultra’s hull for the 300) and Yamaha’s FX Cruiser, and was just a great looking three-seater. Sure, it was overpriced and lacked three-quarters the accessories that came standard on a Sea-Doo GTI Limited, but I was still a fan.
There are still quite a few loyal Honda Aquatrax riders out there – as well as folks who are brand loyal because of their cars and motorcycles who would happily cross over. But, it Honda is going to seriously consider returning to watercraft, they need to think less exclusive and more inclusive.