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April 2, 2007 – Polaris shifts its strategy for ’08

April 2, 2007
Filed under Features

Polaris Industries officials say they’re returning to the company’s roots with the introduction of a new snowmobile.
The new 2008 IQ Shift is being compared by Polaris staff to the company’s 1989 Indy 500, which proved to be a legend.
Like the Indy 500, company officials said the IQ Shift will deliver ride quality, durability and value.
With a MSRP of $6,999, the IQ Shift is one of the more newsworthy machines from the company’s new model lineup.
“If you look at the market and where we’ve gone in the last six to seven years, we’ve been reduced to about half of where the sales used to be,” said Polaris Marketing Communications Manager Pat Bourgeois. “[Lack of] snow is part to blame, cost is another blame. MSRP cost has risen 40 percent the last four to five years, on average. We, as an industry, have been chasing the new technology and innovations, which in turn have increased cost. But there are fewer people who have an available $10,000 to spend on a snowmobile.”
Polaris’ response is the IQ Shift. The machine has a short list of standard equipment, but has all the essentials. It comes with a gloss-black hood, a basic clear windshield, an analog speedometer and a 15″- by 121″- by-.91″ track. Power comes from the 120 horsepower Liberty 600 H.O. carbureted engine. It has Polaris’ premium suspensions, but uses nonserviceable, Ryde FX shocks. Push-button reverse is standard.
Polaris’ snowmobile division believes this high-performance, low price point combination will create floor traffic. It also believes it doesn’t have to recruit new buyers — just motivate an installed base already involved, but not active in showrooms.
Bourgeois said a lot of Polaris’ past buyers remain active snowmobilers.
“There are a lot of EDGE, Gen II and even the old square-jaw Indys out there on the trails,” he said. “Where we think we will win is having a full-size, full-performing vehicle for $6,999 to make some of those people buy new. They’ve been buying used in the past.”
It’s not just the list price where Polaris sees its new IQ Shift being a success. It’s a machine they hope dealers use to better profit from the sale. Consumers often look at the purchase price of the snowmobile as one chunk. They then turn their attention to accessories and apparel and this is where dealers can drive profit back into their business.
Key accessories are available for dealers to help customize each IQ Shift. Decal kits (including Pink Diva, Diablo and Performance), windshields, shock packages and bogie wheel kits will be available.
Following the Polaris dealer meeting in Atlanta, the week of March 12, Polaris announced an expansion of the IQ Shift: a mountain version of a bare bones, naked snowmobile called the RMK Shift. Bourgeois said regional sales personnel and Western dealers loved the concept of the IQ Shift and wanted one for the Western market.
The RMK Shift features the Liberty 600 H.O. engine and comes with a 155-inch track and a suggested retail price of $8,399.
While the true gauge of success will be measured in sales figures, Bourgeois said the IQ Shift has a good outlook. Based on initial Web traffic, the machines that scored highest in unique customer site visits were the new 600RR and the IQ Shift, respectively.
Two Suspensions
Part of Polaris’ return to its roots campaign is two new rear suspensions to improve ride quality for two of its customer segments.
The SwitchBack crossover models have a new, coupled 136-inch suspension. The suspension promises more weight transfer control, better handling and improved bump performance over the 144-inch unit it replaces. It’s the same basic rear suspension as used in the other snowmobiles in Polaris’ performance group, but with slightly different geometry to accompany the longer rails.
Another ride quality update is the 136 Comfort Rear Suspension used on the 2008 IQ Touring machines. Like the coupled 136 on the SwitchBacks, this suspension is a coupled torsion spring skid that should provide greater comfort for touring riders without as much adjustment compared to the 144-inch FAST
M-10 ACE it replaced. The M-10 suspension is still used in the IQ Cruiser.
New Engine
Polaris unveiled a new 800 CFI engine in its 2008 800 H.O. RMK. The company did not have a displacement larger than its 700-class engine last year, and this new engine should help the company regain sales in the deep snow segment.
The Dragon package made popular last season expanded in 2008 to include the SwitchBack models, and the special graphics, ergonomics and suspension packaged machines come with more engine choices as well.
For 2008, the top-of-the-line models are the 600 Dragon IQ, 700 Dragon IQ, 600 Dragon SwitchBack, and 700 and 800 Dragon IQ RMKs with either a 155- or 163-inch track.
Another model new to Polaris dealerships this year is one that consumers have asked for: a model based on the snocross championship-winning 440 IQ racer, first unveiled in 2005. The new 600RR is exactly that, and while trail capable, Polaris officials position the sled as more race than trail. To take it from the track to the trail, the machine comes with the carbureted 120 horsepower 600 H.O. engine as found in the IQ Shift. It also gets a nine-gallon fuel tank, oil injection, a 1.25-inch lug track and revised suspension calibrations. psb

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