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2003 Powersports Leaders

April 19, 2004
Filed under Features

Rod Lopusnak
Motorcycle/ATV manager, American Suzuki Motor Corp., Brea, Calif.

Rod Lopusnak has been instrumental in leading the resurgence of Suzuki’s ATV business since the OEM decided to recapture marketshare several years ago. In fact, Suzuki has jumped from about 4% in 2001 to more than 10% in 2003. That growth is the result of new machines—the Eiger and Vinson — and aggressive marketing programs to dealers and consumers, pushing the new product lineup.

Lopusnak was promoted from a Suzuki DSM to the newly-created position of ATV marketing manager and given the responsibility for rebuilding the sagging marketshare. He has done that with a special flare. He started in the powersports business working in his grandfather’s Suzuki dealership in New Jersey and eventually joined Suzuki as DSM in its Northeast territory.

Lopusnak does his job with an “enthusiasm and charisma that typically get lost in the corporate world,” says one dealer, noting: “Watching him work is like watching a kid moto for the first time— very inspiring.” psb

Bob Starr
Corporate Communications Manager, Yamaha Motor Corp., Cypress, Calif.

Bob Starr has led Yamaha’s U.S. marketing program, including its overall marketing strategy, advertising, public relations and sales promotion efforts, for 12 years. He has played a key role in pushing Yamaha’s combined motorcycle and ATV North American sales from approximately 80,000 units in 1992 to more than 360,000 units today. Along with the sales growth has come increased marketshare growth as well.

Starr is an extremely competitive and high energy guy, who thinks nothing of pumping out a long run at 4 am before heading into the office for a full days work.

One key to Yamaha’s success, says Starr, is
that it works hard at knowing who its customer is and communicating with them regularly. “We really try to understand what they want best and what gives them enjoyment,” he says. One of the most satisfying moments for Starr was the marketing of Yamaha’s first Star line of cruisers in 1996. “That was a very, very exciting trip for me because it was successful for our dealers and because it will only continue to grow.” psb

Chris Twomey
Chairman, President and CEO, Arctic Cat, Inc., Thief River Falls, Minn.

Chris Twomey joined Arctic Cat in 1986 as president and CEO, joined the board of directors two years later, and was named chairman in 2003. Twomey gets much of the credit for guiding the growth of the Thief River Falls, Minn., OEM from a small snowmobile manufacturer to an important snowmobile and ATV manufacturer that generated 2003 revenues of $577 million, up $21 million from the previous year. Since entering the ATV market in 1996, Arctic’s ATV sales have regularly outpaced the industry’s growth rate.

Arctic Cat has won many industry awards for product innovation and has put together a unique ATV product lineup using powerplants from Suzuki and Kawasaki. Most recently, it dropped a Kawasaki 633cc V-twin into the Arctic 650 introduced last year. The machine was honored by several magazines. Arctic also introduced the DVX400 sport quad last year. A range of unique ATV accessories is highlighted by the award-winning MultiRack Platform.

Arctic’s Firecat 700 was the top selling
snowmobile in North America last year. psb

Clark Vitulli
Chairman, President and CEO, America’s PowerSports, Inc., Brentwood, Tenn.

Clark Vitulli has put together one of the largest dealer groups in the country under the banner of America’s PowerSports, Inc. The organization includes 11 dealerships generating more than $120 million in annual sales. The fastest growing dealer organization in the country, APS operates in five states coast to coast, has more than 30 premium powersports brands, including Harley-Davidson, Honda, BMW, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Polaris and SeaDoo, and employees more than 350 employees. Vitulli started APS in 1998 with two employees and zero revenues.

Vitulli spent nearly 25 years in the auto industry before launching his powersports venture, and he’s applied many of the lessons learned in that industry to his powersports business.

The roll-up strategy being used by APS differs from others in that Vitulli has targeted successful dealerships and provided a lucrative exit strategy for the dealer principals. However, part of the arrangement requires these skilled dealers stay on board and continue to provide their valuable operational expertise. psb

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