EFI capabilities, engine communication, new products, alternative fuels and research and development were among the topics discussed during a recent tour and leadership panel discussion at Kawasaki Motors Corp.’s renovated facility for its engine division in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Research & development, OEM sales, dealer sales and support and other management functions are now housed together in the 200,000 square-foot facility, with 66,500 square feet dedicated to research and development.
The company made the decision to move many of the functions to a single location to encourage collaboration about the sales, research, engineering and dealer support teams. The Grand Rapids location is also near many of its major OEM customers as well as engineering talent from the Detroit and Chicago areas.
View a video that was taken live at the grand opening of the new facility:
Kawasaki Engines Grand ReopeningPosted by Rural Lifestyle Dealer on Thursday, May 18, 2017
“With sales and R&D in one location, we’ll be able to more quickly respond to OEM requests,” says Dave Sugden, who was recently named director of research and development.
A new engine under development is the Kawasaki FT730 for zero-turn mowers and stand-on mowers, with a 2018 release date. Kawasaki’s current engine line-up includes:
- FD engine series (liquid cooled V-twin, horizontal shaft) – 24-31 horsepower
- FJ engine series (air cooled single cylinder, vertical shaft) 179cc
- FX engine series (air cooled V-twin, vertical shaft) – 15.5-35 horsepower w/ EFI options
- FS engine series (air cooled V-twin, vertical shaft) – 14.5-25 horsepower w/ EFI option
- FR engine series (air cooled V-twin, vertical shaft) – 15-24 horsepower
Product experts say upcoming development will likely focus around improved communication between the engine and the machine, capabilities that are possible because of EFI technology.
Alternative fuels, like propane, could be a possibility, but that development will be driven by OEM demand. Issues include dealers’ concerns about having to learn new service procedures and commercial mowers’ concerns about easy access to propane.
“Propane is a fantastic fuel, but availability remains an issue. When there is a need for it, we will develop engines, but how big the market will be is unsure,” says Nelson Wilner, executive director of the engines division.
Wilner say the company is open to engine development for applications outside its traditional industries. However, they must be able to add value not produce just another engine choice.
“We view ourselves as collaborative partners with OEMs and expanding into other areas will depend on where they take us and where it makes sense for us with our manufacturing capabilities. But we would be remiss with our stakeholders if we weren’t looking at other segments,” Wilner says.
Kawasaki expects its sales outlook to be strong over the next few years. “We’re part of a weather-related industry and a lot of the drought situation across the U.S. has resolved itself. We had a news sales team last year that is more experienced this year and with our new products, we’re expecting this year and the next few years to be strong,” Wilner says.
View a photo gallery of the renovated Grand Rapids facility.