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Focus: Dealer Expo 2004

April 12, 2004
Filed under Features

The Swisher family says it’s devoted to helping people. It started with Max, who, in the 1940s, rigged a gearbox to a heavy cast-iron rotary lawnmower and started a business manicuring lawns in rural Missouri.

Now Max’s two sons Wayne and Rick run the business, hoping to deliver equal innovation while assisting families throughout the country with day-to-day tasks.

“We want to position our products as tools that are developed to help the consumer, whether that be someone with a two-acre lawn and an ATV or a smaller plot of land in the suburbs,” company president Wayne Swisher recently told Powersports Business. “It’s about enjoying life, making a task easier, and freeing up time for more important things.”

The use of cast aluminum succeeded cast iron by the mid-1950s so Max, left with inventory from his initial product, applied a seat to his machine. It wasn’t the first riding lawnmower, but it was a state-of-the-art offering that set Max up for his first, true invention: the zero-turning radius concept.

“My dad invented and patented it,” Swisher explained, “The next company out with that innovation was in ‘68 or ‘70, and today it’s an industry standard.”

Privately-owned Swisher Mower and Machine Company is based at a 160,000 sq. ft. facility in Warrensburg, Mo. Historically a lawn and garden business, the company is placing a concentrated effort on the ATV part of its business, hoping to become a “one-stop-shop at some point for the utility market.”

“I can understand how people may see us as new to the market, since we’ve only really been advertising for the past five years or so, but we’re really not,” Swisher said. “The riding lawnmower business is really what put us on the map in the 60s and 70s, but when we started noticing three-wheelers in the1980s, my dad developed a little pull-behind mower for them.

“Then, in the early 1990s, when things starting coming together and we started growing substantially as a company, four-wheelers really began proliferating. So, while we’re dedicated to our lawn and garden business, we’re placing a very strong emphasis on our ATV part of the business, and we think it’s going to signify a big part of our future.”

Swisher says his firm uses the customer as a source for designing new products, and seeks a fresh approach to common products — “looking at what other folks are doing and, more importantly, to what other folks are not doing.”

“When it comes down to it, a plow is a plow and a mower is a mower,” he said. “ But, for us, it’s about innovation.”

INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS
An example of Swisher’s latest innovation, a universal ATV mounting system with interchangeable accessories, can be seen at the Expo in Indianapolis (Booth #3235).

Appropriate for most ATVs, the system works via a push-tube that mounts at the rear of the machine and extends to the front. A leaf spring fit parallel to the front suspension and transfers weight distribution to maximize the quad’s performance.

“That allows us to form a ton of different applications, and allows us to make plows and implements of a much heavier and more robust design because it doesn’t compress the suspension,” Swisher said.
Current accessories include a forklift mechanism, a series of plows, a dump bucket and a power broom, and Swisher says a front-mount mower and a few other new items are scheduled to be shown at Indy, as well.

PRODUCT DISTRIBUTION
Swisher distributes to the powersports industry through a year-old relationship with Tucker Rocky Distributing, does private labeling for Polaris, and is working on a deal with Club Car.

Swisher products also are sold through a variety of retail channels, with some product sold directly to stores such as Cabelas, Northern Tool, Western Auto, Bass Pro Shops and Tractor Supply Co. Furthermore, the company says powersports dealers may call directly to obtain products not currently available through the distribution network.

“Neither Tucker Rocky nor Polaris carry every one of our ATV-related products, but I would encourage dealers who want those products to go to Tucker and ask about them,” Swisher said. “If they (dealers) want it, we’re going to find a way to get it to them.”

For more information about Swisher products, call 800/222 8183.

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