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Brutus forces dealers to shift gears

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Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor
March 7, 2014
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Commercial-grade vehicle requires new tactics, aided by brand assistance

All-new for the 2013 model year, the trio of Polaris Brutus utility vehicles are a different beast — and they are beastly in terms of incredible capability. Powered by diesel engines with upgraded work abilities and creature comforts, like available heated and air conditioned cabs, the Brutus line is a solid step above the company’s more pedestrian Rangers.

Designed in partnership to leverage Polaris’ strength in UTVs and Bobcat’s expertise in work vehicles, the vehicles have arrived in threes at the company’s North American dealerships with high expectations that have proven challenging for dealers with whom Powersports Business spoke for this story.

According to several North American dealers interviewed on the success of their budding Brutus sales, most expressed optimism that the vehicles could eventually become a significant profit center with time, greater understanding of local commercial-style prospects and dedicated manpower to market and present the vehicle to the local workforce.

Barry Fiddler, sales manager at Sunrise Polaris in northeast Arkansas, has yet to move any of the three Brutus models ordered — one of each: the Brutus, Brutus HD and Brutus HDPTO with power take-off (PTO) capability.

“You just can’t hardly beat the platform they’ve put it on,” Fiddler said. He added “price point in our market is always an issue.”

He expects area farmers will be his biggest Brutus customers, as they already have tanks of diesel fuel on their property. Local municipalities and colleges are another option, he said.

While he hasn’t sold any models yet, the vehicle has attracted interest within the showroom, with several taking test drives in the top-of-the-line HDPTO model.

Fiddler said the front lift capacity — 500 pounds — is not enough for some of the rice farmers in his area, but he is particularly impressed by the attachments, especially the front bucket.

Rural market success

Dave Jones, at Jackman Power Sports in far northwestern Maine, also ordered a trio of Brutus models when they became available, two base models and one HDPTO. Thus far, the dealership has sold three of the base models, and he’s waiting to order more until the end of snowmobile season when his showroom has more space on the floor.

Ranger 900s have been Jones’ top selling UTVs, and the dealership’s ATV sales have been steadily slowing as UTV sales have continued to grow.

The Polaris-built Brutus features attachments from Bobcat, but they’ve been slow to move at some traditional powersports dealerships.

The Polaris-built Brutus features attachments from Bobcat, but they’ve been slow to move at some traditional powersports dealerships.

Being located in such a rural area, Jones expects companies and workers involved with big projects, construction companies, contractors and possibly loggers to take an interest in the Brutus.

He said he was apprehensive about the vehicle’s sales before taking delivery, but has been impressed with the vehicle and its accessories — particularly the snow blower attachment that’s especially useful in heavy-snow country.

“I was a little nervous, because we’ve never sold commercial-style units before,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a huge market for me because I’m so remote, but I’ll sell them.”

Speaking days after the Polaris Sportsman ACE single-passenger off-roader was introduced, Jones added that he is very excited about that vehicle’s future prospects.

“I think it’s going to be a hit — especially for the women and the guys that want to ride with them,” he said. “They all want a UTV-style machine, but not everybody needs two seats. I think it’s going to be fun.”

No ‘plain-Jane’ Brutus sales

A quick 12-hour drive to the west, sales manager Greg Hirschfeld at Mid City Motorsports in Sudbury, Ontario, is a full-line Polaris dealer coming off of several years of significant growth in off-road sales. The RZR S and Ranger 900s have been particularly successful. With excellent snowfall, Mid City is currently experiencing its best snow season in 10 years.

While the focus is currently on snow, Hirschfeld said the Brutus models have so far met expectations, as he has sold three or four of the HDPTO iterations.

“Guys that want that specialized stuff for doing specialized work, they want all the creature comforts and they want the top of the line,” he said. “They all want that PTO. A guy that just wants a plain-Jane unit just buys a Ranger.”

Hirschfeld said his local Polaris rep provided him with a list of approximately 100 local companies and institutions that might be interested in learning more about the Brutus. The company has also provided some general education on selling commercial-grade products to institutional users, including basic talking points and the importance of budget cycles.

Adjusting to selling commercial-style UTVs like the Brutus requires a certain amount of patience, according to one dealer.

Adjusting to selling commercial-style UTVs like the Brutus requires a certain amount of patience, according to one dealer.

In a perfect world, he said the dealership would add a dedicated salesperson to build relationships with these prospects and educate them about the vehicle’s advanced capabilities.

In his area, he expects mines, municipalities, colleges and large-acreage homeowners to comprise the vehicle’s primary audience. The entire accessory lineup has been popular, particularly the snow blower and forks. Most of his customers have appreciated the creature comforts, heavy-duty construction and general feeling of quality.

He has two suggestions for Polaris: allow the snow blower’s chute direction to be controlled within the cab, and make roll-down windows a standard feature rather than an optional, expensive accessory.

“For whatever reason, they have a $27,000 unit with a cab and heating and air conditioning, but you can’t open the windows,” he said. “Most people that have these things want some air, [some] of them even smoke, and you’ve got to be able to open the windows. So I’m trying to develop some way of affordably bringing windows that open.”

Hirschfeld added that he hopes to grow sales, but that both he and the corporation will need to exercise patience.

“A lot of us aren’t set up to do that the way they expect, so they’re going to have to be patient the same as us to be able to grow that business,” he said.

 

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