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BRP shoots, scores at show

August 15, 2011
Filed under Features

“Foresight.” “Engenuity.” “Product development.” “The great way they treat us and our businesses in the two slowest months of the year.” “Forward-thinking.”

That’s how some of the nearly 4,000 dealers described BRP during Club BRP in Montreal. The epic dealer showcase event, which turned downtown Montreal into BRP’s own Ultimate Playground, introduced new model-year 2012 products from the Can-Am, Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo lines, in addition to the company’s marine products.

BRP-apalooza also provided dealers with insight as to how the company operates and why it does the things it does. And the Valcourt, Quebec-based OEM was doing plenty for a picture-perfect week in July. Dealers soaked in the “yellow blood” during tours in Valcourt of the J. Armand Bombardier Museum, where the history of the snowmobile takes center stage; the $15 million Centre Design & Innovation Laurent Beaudoin, where tomorrow’s machines are born, and technology and minds are king; and the BRP factory itself, where prideful workers were more than happy to display the company’s latest offerings.

BRP officials got the festival started at the Palais des Congress by announcing that beginning this fall, dealers will be able to order Can-Am off-road products 12 times a year under a new flexible ordering system. BRP dealers currently place orders twice a year.

Guests from 80 countries listened as Yves Leduc, vice president and general manager of BRP’s North American division, and Chris Dawson, vice president and general manager of BRP’s international division, unveiled the company’s new model year 2012 products in a party atmosphere that was part rock concert, part Cirque du Soleil, complete with fire baton twirlers and a fire breather.

A BRP-backed, Web-based worldwide dealer community also will enhance the dealer experience, Leduc said. The fall launch will include forums, tips and technical information.

Prior to the new model year 2012 product unveiling, BRP officials said that North American revenues have increased 26 percent over 2010, and dealer BRP inventories are at an all-time low in North America.

In addition, BRP has no plans to expand its North American dealer network, but instead plans to “create leverage with dealers that are committed to growth.”

“We had a strategy that we started a few years ago to have a product for sales for every season,” BRP president and CEO José Boisjoli, a self-described motorhead, said. “Now we have it, winter, summer — but also spring and fall. Today we believe a dealer can make a very good living selling only BRP product.”

Boisjoli also told dealers of BRP’s international expansion in recent years. In 2003, 82 percent of BRP’s business came from the United States and Canada, with European countries garnering the remaining 18 percent. In 2010, those numbers changed. The U.S. still leads with 39 percent and Canada has 25 percent, but Europe now makes up 21 percent and other countries, such as Russia and Brazil, comprise 15 percent of BRP’s business.

“For us, the international diversification was needed to make BRP more resilient,” Boisjoli said. “The last recession was bad in every country in the word, but we believe that in a more normal economy, this will make us more resilient globally.”

Boisjoli said the company plans to continue to use its diversification to achieve a more balanced portfolio in coming years. He expects BRP to have 50 percent of its business from the combination of the U.S. and Canada, with the rest of the world providing the other 50 percent, by 2016-17.

“Because the U.S. market is still the largest in the world, the difficulty is to understand how fast the U.S. economy will bounce back,” Boisjoli said. “Like I was saying on the stage, it’s three good months, then three bad months, then three good months — no consistency. I think we just need to be patient and it will definitely come back. I’m optimistic by nature. It’s a matter of time.”

BRP lost 15 percent of its North American dealership network during the recession, but Boisjoli said the company is in no hurry to add numbers just for the sake of quantity.

“A dealer is in business and wants to succeed. He needs to have a business where he can sell enough,” Boisjoli said. “For us, we learned that sometimes it’s better to have one dealer covering a larger area than three dealers covering the same area. We’re trying to get our dealers reasonable territory that they can make a good living. Were ready to do that, if, on the other hand, they’re ready to invest in their business. We always try to find a win-win condition for the dealer and us.”

In the Sea-Doo PWC segment, the company reported that sales of GTI modles are up more than 300 percent year-to-date. Some model year 2012 Sea-Doos will begin shipment in September to certain markets.

The Spyder continues to receive high marks, with U.S. sales up almost 60 percent this spring compared to a year ago. Dealers are also enjoying the benefits of their sales.

“Many of our roadster drivers are what we call internally a ‘none-none,’ — people who had the car but never any recreational product,” Boisjoli said. “If you take a snowmobiler, typically the guy had learned to wrench in his garage, but the Spyder customer is not like that. He’s not ready to wrench. He doesn’t want to wrench. But he will have his product serviced at the dealership. We’re happy because we have a lot more ‘none-none’ drivers than what we had planned in our business case a few years ago.”

Boisjoli said work is already underway on a second generation of the BRP Rotax E-TEC engine.

“We’re confident 2012 is going to be a very good year for BRP,” Leduc said.

Among the 2012 model-year unveilings at Club BRP, dealers are abuzz with talk of the new Sea-Doo RXP-X and the Can-Am Commander 1000 LTD side-by-side, along with the Can-Am Outlander 1000 ATV.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban even got in on the festivities when he helped to honor the longest-tenured BRP dealers at the Bell Centre. You can find that list of dealers online at powersportsbusiness.com. A rollicking concert by Styx, which produced four consecutive multi-platinum albums in the late-1970s and early-1980s, provided a midweek boost to the crowd of nearly 10,000. Styx guitarist and vocalist Tommy Shaw capped the night by driving a Renegade across the stage in front of the appreciative BRP factory workers.

“The employees in Valcourt are so proud to have welcomed so many of our customers this week,” Boisjoli said. “We had 450 staff members make all of this happen. People are pumped up. And our product lines? We have competitive product in each segment that we compete in and I could not be happier.”

Taking in the atmosphere along Crescent Street, where BRP banners waved and Spyders revved, Denys Lapointe, vice president of design and innovation, couldn’t find the words to describe the week. He simply patted his hand over his heart.

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