For Yamaha Motor Corporation, there are 3 types of customer: those who need a vehicle to get from A to B; those who love the thrill of motor sports as part of their way of life; and those who race as their hobby or profession. The business recognises that one of these 3 motivations is behind every purchase of a Yamaha product, and therefore it adjusts its strategy to suit. The COO of Yamaha Motor Europe and one of the Executive Officers of Yamaha Motor Corporation, Eric de Seynes—the first non-Japanese person to hold the position—spoke to The CEO Magazine about his journey with the company and the importance of tapping into a customer’s emotional side to achieve success.

The CEO Magazine: You have been with Yamaha for more than 2 decades. What have been some of the highlights over the years?

Eric: I first came into contact with Yamaha in 1987. At the time, I was working for the oil company Mobil, and I developed a concept for a new line dedicated to motorcycle lubricants. I struck up a partnership with Yamaha Motor France, and Mobil became the main sponsor for all of its racing activities. I was also managing the sales representatives and looking after the dealer network—I was basically Mobil’s ‘Mr Motorcycle’. A few years later, in 1990, Yamaha Motor France asked me if I wanted to join the company as its marketing manager. That was a dream come true; I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

In 1992, the market was quite tough and we were fighting for the number one position in France; we were coming second. Then, finally, in 1994 the organisation asked me to take over its sales function while also keeping the marketing activities for all motorcycles, ATVs, and vehicles. I was the sales and marketing director until 2001, and during that period we introduced some new products, restructured the business, and benefited from some licence regulation changes, so we could triple our turnover. After achieving more than €200 million in turnover, we succeeded in taking out the number one position. That was in 1996.

Since then, we have never lost that leading position in France, in both the motorcycle and marine fields.

During that time, I was also involved with product planning at a central group level, and because of my experiences in racing, I had the capacity to understand the prototypes and the concepts for the design.