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Survey finds more consumers switching from sleds to ATVs – February 12, 2007

February 12, 2007
Filed under Features

Scott Nichols, a team leader at Bright Powersports in Lincoln Park, Mich., has noticed a change in the snowmobile customer — many are now looking at ATVs.
“They know it’s the one thing that they can ride year-round,”?he said. “Snowmobiles can only be used when it’s snowing, and the excitement is just not there when it’s not.”
According to Powersports Business’ national dealer survey, 76 percent of dealers asked said snowmobile customers are switching to ATVs or UTVs. Of those dealers, 54 percent called the change “a definite growing trend” and 39 percent said it was becoming more common.
“I?think the question is: ‘Are they selling their snowmobile?’” said John Tranby, marketing communications manager for Arctic Cat. “I don’t think they’re leaving snowmobiling. They probably have a little more disposable income because they didn’t buy a snowmobile.”
He said Arctic Cat has not noticed this trend in its overall sales.
Bob Zwissler, owner of, Avenue Lawn & Leisure in Menomonee Falls, Wis., has noticed a change, too. Lack of consistent snow and the use are the main reason his snowmobile customers make the switch.
“I think they have a hard time justifying spending the money [on a snowmobile],”?he said. “In a lot of cases they would rather be snowmobiling.”
Whether this trend is good or bad is a matter of opinion. For Nichols, he’s still making a sale, even if it’s a different product.
Zwissler, who sells Polaris and Ski-Doo, said this shift has made a negative impact on his dealership’s bottom line.
“I might sell ATVs rather than snowmobiles, but there’s not as much after-sale — parts, accessories, gear. There’s much more of that with a snowmobile sale than with ATVs,” he said. “With an ATV, you sell it and you never see the guy again, or very seldom. With a snowmobile, they’re always back for oil, carbides, jackets or clothing.”
The all-season ATV access still comes with a time-consuming cost: trailering. A majority of dealers surveyed — 70 percent — said ATVs are not allowed to access snowmobile trails in their area. In some cases, this means just as much travel to find a place to ride.
This is the case for both Zwissler and Nichols. Zwissler said there isn’t a good network of ATV trails in his area, and that owners have to travel at least 75-80 miles to ride. When there’s snow, snowmobilers have trails in Menomonee Falls.
Distance to trails isn’t a factor for Nichols’ customers. There are no trails — snowmobile or ATV — in the dealership’s area. For either sport, customers have to trailer two to three hours.
“You have to remember that 80 percent of the use of an ATV is still on private property,” Tranby said.

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