Kawasaki likes to do things big. This time, they went all out.
Enormous video billboards in the middle of New York City’s Times Square helped count down the final minutes until Kawasaki unveiled its latest Ninja sportbikes this afternoon.
The Pearl Stardust White 2013 Ninja 300 was driven on stage first to cheers from the thousands of onlookers, which included both motorcycle diehards and the average spectator passing by on the street who couldn’t miss the hype of the Ninja Times Square Takeover and stopped for a look.
Moments later, those spectators got their first glimpse of the Lime Green 2013 Ninja ZX-6R 636, which had been hidden inside a wooden crate. As if a Times Square unveiling wasn’t enough, Kawasaki used dry ice to add effect as the crate fell open on all four sides revealing the latest Ninja model.
Omar Buker, General Manager of Monmouth Cycles in Middleton, New Jersey, said the Ninja Times Square Takeover was the perfect event to launch the new bikes.
“It did generate a lot of excitement and a lot of non-motorcycle people—it got their attention,” he said.
Buker said the new Ninja 300 has a lot of extra power and said a lower 30.9-inch seat height will make it very comfortable. He thinks the entry-level Ninja will sell well, particularly for the newer rider.
Joe Laboy from New England Cycle Works in Groton, Connecticut, said the entire Times Square event was one to remember.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s class-leading. The marketing, hype and innovation—they really set the bar. I’ve never been to anything at this level.”
Kawasaki provided a day-long, block-party experience complete with a display of famous older Ninja models, prize giveaways and a disc jockey. Professional riders, including Rickey Gadson, Tom Sykes and Ryan Villopoto, were on hand throughout the day signing autographs and answering questions. In recognition of New York City’s Fashion Week, a fashion show of ICON motorcycle gear was held, and Team No Limit wowed the crowd with their impressive motorcycle stunts.
“We were extremely pleased with the outcome,” said Bill Jenkins, Vice President of Sales for Kawasaki. “There are so many variables when putting on an event like that, but the team pulled it off tremendously.”
Prior to the official unveiling, a group of 60 Kawasaki dealers and Ninja owners lined up their motorcycles in Times Square and rode into the middle of the crowd.
Laboy, who spiked his hair and dyed it lime green for the event, was one of the riders taking part in the opening ride. He said that the every-day crowd of tourists at Times Square seemed to really get into it.
“It opens their eyes to different things,” he said.
Motorcycle stunt rider Bobby Caldes was in attendance on Thursday and said it was the biggest motorcycle launch he had ever attended—besting one held in Disneyland a few years ago.
“It’s epic,” he said. “This surpasses it by a bunch.”
Kawasaki used Times Square, one of the most high-profile locations in the world, as the stage for its biggest unveil ever. The event covered three blocks of the famous downtown area and kept the crowd engaged from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“I love it. They’re just re-staking their position as number one,” Laboy said. “The 636 coming back is an awesome move on their part.”
Kawasaki completely redesigned the Ninja ZX-6R 636 for 2013. The 636cc engine has a larger intake and exhaust ports and valves, revised camshafts, new pistons and stronger connecting rods. A new F.C.C. clutch with assist and slipper functions require less effort and reduced rear-wheel hop during aggressive downshifts. Revised bodywork on the ZX-6R looks more aggressive while improving heat dissipation and aerodynamics.
As for the Ninja 300 and 300 ABS, the liquid-cooled, parallel twin boosts displacement to 296cc. More than half of the engine’s components are new, and the 6-speed transmission’s gears are beefier to handle the extra torque. A new frame features high-tensile steel main tubes that are 150 percent more rigid than those in last year’s model. The ABS model adds the world’s smallest and lightest anti-lock braking system (less than 4.5 pounds) to increase the margin of safety.
Laboy sells both Kawasaki and Honda motorcycles and said the new Ninja’s have put Kawasaki to the front, in his mind.
Kawasaki gave away one of each motorcycle at the end of the Times Square Takeover. To enter the giveaway, fans had to send in a text message. Close to 3,000 texts were received and five lucky participants were given a key to try and start the motorcycles. Kawasaki also donated two bikes to City Harvest, a food rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York City’s hungry men, women and children.
Kawasaki has been known for doing things big. This time, they took a gamble with an unknown audience and went all out on the world’s biggest stage. Based on the excitement in the crowd, the long lines of autograph seekers and the smiles on everyone’s faces, their gamble paid off.
Jenkins said he couldn’t be happier with how the event turned out, adding that it took the place of the traditional dealer meeting.
“It gave us very good exposure,” he said. “I don’t think we could have gotten that type of media and social buzz if we did it in the traditional way.”
The 2013 Ninja 300 and the ZX-6R are available in showrooms now. Jenkins said the first month of dealer orders were strong, which is encouraging.
“How are we going to top it?” Jenkins asked. “I don’t know!”
For video of the unveiling, click here.
For more details about the new Ninja motorcycles, click here.