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FAST revamps, plans to go dealer-direct

September 14, 2004
Filed under Features

Eveleth, Minn.-based FAST Inc. is in both a downsizing and a growth mode.
The company, best known for its M-10 rear snowmobile suspension and its Blade snowmobiles, has terminated its distributor relationships with Parts Unlimited, High Performance Engineering Inc., FAST Enterprises and Team CC Inc. as of August 1, said owner David Karpik. FAST will also pare down its own dealer network, with the idea developing a more active dealer base.
The official termination date was August 1, but Karpik said the company began weaning off its distributors in June. There is still some FAST products in the distributor pipeline — Karpik estimates 30 M-10 suspensions still available.
Karpik’s goal is to increase his sales of M-10 rear suspensions to 10,000 in the next three years. “There are more than 1.8 million snowmobilers,” Karpik said, “and I’m just not getting to them via this (distribution) method.”
Dealer Oriented Plan
Between FAST-supported dealers and distributor outlets, Karpik estimates it snowmobile aftermarket products sell through 3,000 accounts. Karpik’s goal is to reduce that number to 250.
“We want enough dealers in different consumer markets, but also enough to cover consumers in the field,” said Karpik, noting that he’ll target dealers in popular snowmobile destinations.
Karpik said they’re working on getting the dealer network in place, and are starting with the top Blade dealers and FAST aftermarket shops. The “approved” dealers will be called FAST Performance Centers.
“Though expansion of the network is always possible, we feel we can reach the major consumer markets and riding markets with a smaller mix of aftermarket and snowmobile dealers. It also meets our production plans,” Jim Bozich, Blade sales manager, said in a statement. “We believe dealers who engage this program will see great benefits in customer satisfaction while addition to the bottom line.”
The distributor setup “limits our ability to do programs,” Karpik said, and noted that since working through distributors, dealers have not been getting what Karpik feels are good margins on product sales. He said that dealer margins on M-10 rear suspension sales have decreased from $750 to $150.
FAST will expect dealers to actively sell, demo, and promote its set order of products.
“We want our products to become a part of the dealer’s business, not just another part on the shelf,” Karpik said. “It’s gotten to a point [in the snowmobile industry] that dealers are no longer selling sleds, they’re just moving them. It takes the profitability out of the dealership.”
Karpik sees his plan as a part of the solution. In return for the dealership’s work with FAST products, Karpik said he’s willing to support the dealers with higher margins and other support. He plans to credit all FAST-generated sales to the dealership of the consumer’s choice, and will do the same with Internet orders place with FAST. A third-party monitor will track the sales. “A dealership will be rewarded for every sale,” Karpik said.

Product Development
Karpik plans on using the M-10 suspension as the flagship product. The suspension is widely touted in the snowmobile community, and its design is licensed to Polaris Industries for use in several of its production models.
Currently, the company sells approximately 2,000 M-10s annually, not including the units that Polaris builds for itself. Karpik recognizes that the 10,000 sales goal is ambitions.
The company will also continue building and selling its Blade line of snowmobilers. Karpik said that he’s been shipping 2005 units since April, but also admits that the sales numbers are not as good as they were a few years ago.
The company will release a new suspension version called M-12, which will be on display at Haydays Grass Drags in Lino Lakes, Minn., in September. The design, Karpik said, is for serious ditch-banging riders. It will be produced only for certain models of newer sleds, he said.
The company’s all-terrain vehicle project, called internally “ASSV,” is currently stalled due to funding issues and the need for a different engine supplier. psb

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