This year marks the 25th anniversary of Kawasaki’s “Ninja” brand name, a name that has become globally synonymous with sport bikes.
Industry icon and Dealernews columnist Mike Vaughan led the Ninja revolution as director of marketing for Kawasaki Motor Corp., USA from 1979 to 1990. Dealernews recently talked with Vaughan to learn how the Ninja name became a mainstay in the motorcycle marketplace.
Here’s the story Vaughan has to tell:
“The Ninja, as I recall, was sort of a surprise for us, in that we hadn’t really asked for it — not that everything we had to sell was something we’d asked for, but the Ninja, or what was to become the Ninja, really bowled us over.
“In 1979, they showed us the first GPzs, and I suggested then that we call them ‘Ninja.’ The Japanese blew it off, and frankly my colleagues weren’t crazy about it either. So the name retired to a folder until the GPz900 was revealed to us (by us, I mean the guys who were on the ‘product planning’ committee).
“We probably saw the first examples of the bike maybe in late ’82. It seemed to me that this really was the Ninja, and I began campaigning for the adoption of the name. “At about the same time, we switched advertising agencies. The old agency, which had had the account for a number of years, was on my side with regard to the name. But the new agency, wanting to establish their creds, proposed calling it the …
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1984 Ninja 900R