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Dealers sound off on spring sled sales

June 7, 2004
Filed under Features

Snowmobile manufacturers like to take springtime orders for sleds set to be delivered in the coming season. However, while incentive-rich spring sales programs usually prove fruitful for builders, dealers tell Powersports Business that a lack of consumer enthusiasm has caused off-season sales to wane.
In the East, spring sales were mixed.
Most dealers said that winter started with a bang in December, and then petered out in January. Most also said that carry-over wasn’t an issue going into the summer.
Some dealers, particularly Polaris dealers, noted that they think there’s little advantage for their customers when placing spring orders. They said that customers can get the same machines for better deals in the fall, and that’s eroded the spring program.
Bill Bickford, owner of Ski-Doo dealership Bickford’s Sport Center in Epsom, N.H., said spring sales were on the up side, particularly for the Mach Z.
Other popular models include the Renegade in the X package and machines with the 600 semi-direct injection (SDI) engine. “SDIs are really getting popular,” Bickford said. “They have good fuel economy and oil consumption.”
Bickford has annual sales of 180 to 200 new units; spring sales account for 30 to 40 percent of overall sales.
As for the Polaris Fusion, dealers contacted said that the machine didn’t go over as they’d hoped — and they blamed it on customers not having a chance to try the new machine.
If Polaris would have come out with a 600, it would have been a different scenario, said Brian Ruel, general sales manager at Currier RV Center, in Gorham, N. H. Currier sells Polaris, Yamaha and Redline.
Ruel reported spring Polaris sales of 15 to 18 units — a time when he typically sells 50 to 60 units. While his Polaris sales were down, his Yamaha sales were better. He pre-sold 30, which is up from previous years, and even reported Polaris riders switching to Yamaha and Ski-Doo. Nearby test rides of the Yamaha models helped, too.
The hot Yamaha models were the RS Vector, the RS Rage and the RX-1 with the new suspension. He only had one customer order a two-stroke Yamaha.
He has high hopes for the re-designed RX-1. “Everybody loved the motor, but hated the ride. Now that they’ve changed the suspension, it’s gotten more attention,” he said.

Other Yamaha dealers reported strong interest in the Genesis 120 engine models.
Ruel says his demo Redline 800 Revolt has received some interest, too, and he’s pre-sold two.
Midwest dealers report stagnant sales this spring. Dealers attribute low sales figures to inconsistent winter weather throughout the region and lack of new product from manufacturers.
Miller Yamaha of Staples, Minn., sold five 2005 model sleds this spring, including the RS Vector, RS Rage and RS Venture, owner Dennis Miller said. The company didn’t sell any sleds during the 2004 Yamaha Power Surge sales program.
Miller blames the weather, not the product, for this spring’s slow sales period. Parts of the Midwest got snow early in the season, but didn’t see significant snowfall again until late January.
Yamaha’s new 600cc-class four-stroke models drove floor traffic to his store,
but traffic wasn’t extraordinary, he said.
Marion, Iowa’s Outdoor Equipment Inc. depends on snowfall in Wisconsin and Michigan to influence its sales. Owner Jon Kopecky said many of his customers drive there to ride because his area only gets about 15 inches of snow per year.
The east-central Iowa dealer has sold Arctic Cats since 1988. It normally sells about 25 new Arctic Cats each winter, but this year it only sold 10, Kopecky said.
This spring, the shop had five orders for 2005 model sleds. Kopecky attributes this spring’s low sales figures to lack of a new flatland model from Arctic Cat. Kopecky said orders were for Sabercat and Firecat models with 600 or 700cc engines.
Kopecky said he only ordered from Arctic Cat what he sold this spring. He’s cautious about ordering too many sleds due to less-than-normal snowfall in the past four to five years.
Lakes Area Rental of Crosslake, Minn., reported “horrible” spring sales. The Polaris dealer’s general manager Jeff Ganske said the company only sold one sled, a 900 Fusion, during the Snow Check Select program.
While dealers in the West have told him Polaris’ new 900 RMK was well-received because mountain riders want big engines and long tracks, Ganske said Polaris “screwed up” when it built the 900 Fusion. “We need a 600 [cc] flatland sled in the Fusion body,” he said.
John Gardner, the owner of the Mt. Hood Polaris and Ski-Doo dealership in Boring, Ore., reported a lack of spring enthusiasm despite more spring sales.
“Customer interest wasn’t as high as normal, but we sold more sleds,” he said. “There were lots of complaints about snowmobiles getting too expensive.”
All of the spring activity was for new product. Garner’s dealership pre-sold 18 of the new 900 RMKs and three Ski-Doo Summit 1000 Highmarks.
Weather is a continuing problem in the West, too. Even though the Mt. Hood area had great snow this past season, Gardner ordered 16 fewer units than the previous year’s order. Even with better snow, he said his sales were flat compared last year. Also in Gardner’s inventory are 43 non-currents — 34 Polaris machines and 9 Ski-Doos.
Larry Wanner, the manager of Yellowstone Arctic Cat & Yamaha in West Yellowstone, MT, reported a quiet season compared to recent years.
“Many people changed plans to come out after thinking they couldn’t ride in the park,” he said. “There was also good Midwest snow which reduced traffic heading here this year.”
Wanner said since Yellowstone is a destination area there is not a lot of retail activity regardless of the time of year. The spring interest that existed, however, was in Arctic Cat’s new M-series mountain machines.
“The M series had the most interest in this area, particularly the M7,” Wanner said. “There was lots of Yamaha four stroke activity and interest the last few years, but not much right now,” he added.
North of the border at Cycle Works in Edmonton, Alberta, Don Galloway reported strong sales compared to last year. The two big drivers for the increase from seven preseason units to this year’s 45 were new product and a better snow season.
Of his 45 units sold, the 900 RMK was all of it. Galloway said Cycle Works used Polaris’ Snow Check Select program for just one Fusion and one other model. Most of his customers are mountain riders, so he was not surprised by the lack of short-track sales.
Coinciding with the increase in spring sales from the previous year is Galloway’s inventory. “We’re on the way back up,” he said, in regards to his unit order. “We’ve been able to clean our closets [of non-current inventory] by getting creative.” psb
—Staff Report

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