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Quite a testament to a risky product development move

March 25, 2011
Filed under From the Editors

Nel PascaleEven now, some four years later, it still strikes me as the most aggressive — and thus riskiest — product launch the industry has seen in recent times.

The Spyder.

It was BRP’s first on-road product bearing the now familiar Y-architecture: Two wheels in the front, one in the back.

At the time, it was … different. Wow, was it different.

And boy, were there questions. Would it sell at retail? Could something this different actually entice the core motorcycle crowd? Or would it be strictly dependant on getting non-motorcycle riders into a dealership to purchase a unit that was not exactly inexpensive.

BRP did an incredible amount of homework leading into its launch — three years of marketing research, in fact. I can remember being one of a handful of U.S. journalists invited to a private launch in Florida in late 2006, in what would be the first time the Spyder was shown in the United States. At the private unveiling, BRP showed videos of consumers who had ridden the three-wheeler in Europe. The reactions were extremely favorable, both from riders and nonriders. Lots of smiles. Lots of genuinely impressed reactions to a vehicle that they seemed a little unsure of at first.

Fast forward four years and now it’s not uncommon for dealers to cite the Spyder as one of their best-selling vehicles over the past year. It’s also not uncommon for the Spyder’s profit margin percentage to be among the best in the dealership as well.

That’s quite a testament for such a risky endeavor, one that BRP CEO José Boisjoli in late 2006 confided to me was a “guts feeling.”

“For sure there is a risk,” Boisjoli told me then. “But I don’t think it is a bigger risk than when we launched the watercraft in 1989.”

Today, if there is a question about the Spyder, it’s about who else might join this three-wheeled niche.

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