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Posted by on Sep 30, 2010 in Personal Watercraft, US |

PWCs: Last Call for Standups

2011 could be the last model year for Kawasaki's stand-up model – the one that invented the sport.

Kawasaki is set to reveal its 2011 Jet Ski line to dealers on Tuesday, Oct. 5, and we’ve already got a story cued up to post that morning on one hot new model. If you love horsepower, come back to Boats.com to find out what Kawasaki is serving up for next season.

The current Jet Ski 800 SX-R is a direct descendant of the original Jet Ski JS400-A that went into production 37 years ago.

The current Jet Ski 800 SX-R is a direct descendant of the original Jet Ski JS400-A that went into production 37 years ago.

I also expect Kawasaki to make an announcement regarding the future of its Jet Ski 800 SX-R. I expect that model will be back for 2011, but it could be the last season for the venerable stand-up Jet Ski. As of January 1, 2012, federal environmental rules will ban the type of two-stroke engine that powers both the 800 SX-R and the Yamaha SuperJet. Both companies have been able to keep these “dirty” two-strokes on the market (except in California and New York) because they could average the emissions with those of their much-cleaner four-stroke models. That deal should have ended this year, but the EPA gave Yamaha and Kawasaki an extension for the stand-ups so each manufacturer would have time to develop an alternative engine.

That’s not going to happen. In 2008, I reported that combined sales of stand-up PWC were just 1,898 units, or about 3 percent of total sales. For 2010, stand-up sales will add up to less than 500 units. There’s simply not enough volume in this segment to warrant an investment in a new engine, let alone an all-new boat.

Yamaha and Kawasaki could sell a stand-up PWC with a two-stroke engine only for racing in 2012.

Beginning in 2012, Yamaha and Kawasaki can only sell stand-up two-stroke PWC's for racing.

Kawasaki and Yamaha have one other option – they can use a loophole in the EPA regs to sell the current-style Jet Ski and SuperJet as “competition only” models, for sale to legitimate racers and for use only in sanctioned events. It sounds like that’s the path Yamaha intends to take. Kawasaki is not commenting, but it’s got to be a tough decision for that company to make. From a business standpoint, there’s probably very little reason to keep selling the 800 SX-R. But the original Jet Ski, which debuted in limited fashion in 1972 and in full production in 1974 as the JS400-A, is the machine that Kawasaki used to promote the sport in its early days, really to invent the sport. We didn’t have to call them “personal watercraft” then – they were all Jet Skis. It will be a sad day if Kawasaki decides to pull the plug on the 800 SX-R. –Charles Plueddeman