Archive for the ‘off-road’ Category

Polaris Gears Up Off-road Production

May 24, 2010

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal (5/24/2010) outlines the moves that Polaris Industries is making to adjust its short ORV (off-road vehicle) production capabilities to meet the growing demand for off-road vehicles, especially its hot RZR four-passenger model UTV machines. Read WSJ story here.

Bennett Morgan

The story describes Polaris efforts to hike production as dealers moan about lost sales because of inventory shortages. One group of Polaris dealers I contacted reported selling 53 more RZRs through April this year than it did in 2009, 25 of which were four-seaters. “Supply is definitely a problem,” one dealer told me.  “If we’d had another 25 of them to sell, they would have gone too.”

The shortages are a major change for Polaris, which used to be accused of overloading its dealers with inventory. This year, Polaris expects its North American inventories to be the lowest that they’ve been since 1997, reports the Journal, although it doesn’t break out those inventory levels by product line.

Even though low inventories could hurt 2010 wholesale sales, it’s the right strategy, long-term, Scott Wine, Polaris CEO, told the Journal. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.

After reading the Journal report, I checked with Bennett Morgan, Polaris president and COO, about the Polaris inventory situation and its moves to gear up production.

“We are pleased to have had success in working with our dealers over the past few years to bring dealer inventory down to lower, more effective levels,” says Morgan, “and feel pretty good where we are today.” Morgan said the company is “tight” on a few key models, but he said Polaris is “working hard to increase our supply to meet growing demand.” He noted that the sales forecast that Polaris gave to its shareholders for the second  quarter was increased to 14 percent to 17 percent, compared to Q2 2009.

Regarding adjusting its production to meet the increased demand, Morgan said the company “significantly” increased production in the second quarter by adding staff and boosting line rates.

He said production this quarter has been increased by adding back additional second shifts at the plants in Spirit Lake, Iowa,  and Roseau, Minnesota, for off-road products.  “We have added over 200 hourly production line positions in the second quarter already,” Morgan told me today, “and (we) expect to add that many or more in the next 60 days.  We are also working overtime and some Saturdays.”

During the last couple of years, the suburban Minneapolis OEM has made aggressive strides to dump its reputation as a channel stuffer that pushed excess inventory on its overloaded dealers. The company’s innovative ordering system— Maximum Velocity Program— that it launched a couple of years ago, allows dealers to purchase machines every two weeks rather than twice a year.

Something like 70 percent of Polaris dealers are expected to be on the new system this year. That’s close to all of the eligible dealers, because many of Polaris dealers are too small to participate in the program. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
jdelmont@dealernews.com or 952/893-6876.

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MotoVentures: A Day in the Dirt Photo Page

April 7, 2010

Not too long ago, I was invited out to Gary LaPlante’s MotoVentures compound for a day of off-road riding with the crew from Southern California Motorcycles. The excursion was a Christmas gift from owner Tom Hicks to the staff at his Triumph, Ducati, Victory and Polaris dealership.  (READ THE STORY HERE!)

It was fantastic day tearing up the trails at the 300-acre facility near Anza, Ca. — right up until I started crashing … over and over again. I got tired from the first two times hauling the WR450 out of a creek bed and a sand wash and it was all downhill (figuratively) from there. And, the So Cal Motorcycles crew looked like they had a blast. Coming off the bleak stink of dismal cycle sales in 2009, it was probably a nice little energy boost. 

One of the employees, service writer Trevor Dyck, brought along his film camera and shot some really nice analog pics of the day. I forgot how much I like the graininess and realistic feel of photos shot on film. Here’s a bunch of them from the trip. If you get a chance, check out Trevor’s other photos on his website http://trevordyck.com.

 

MotoVentures' Gary LaPlante — trials style. photo by Trevor Dyck

 

photo by Trevor Dyck

 

photo by Trevor Dyck

photo by Trevor Dyck

Proposed Rules Could Severely Restrict UTV Use

March 4, 2010

We have until March 15 to comment on these
CPSC rules that could virtually ban UTVs.

Have you commented yet? If not, you should.

Here are the details.

The CPSC’s proposed mandatory standards spell out how off-road vehicles must be designed, manufactured and used by riders. Meanwhile, at the same time that the CPSC is pushing its rules, the industry has been developing its own voluntary standards.

Paul Vitrano

If you think government mandated standards will benefit our industry, then you don’t have to do anything. If, however, you think perhaps the industry can produce more effective standards, now is the time to step up and make your thoughts known.

A unit of the MIC, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA), has created new tools for riders and dealers to easily submit comments. You can do it at http://www.rohva.org/anpr.

The sample letters urge CPSC to work with ROHVA to implement voluntary standards and to promote the safety rules for ROVs, also called SXS or UTV units. The page also contains explanations of ROHVA’s position on ROV standards and links to important documents.

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Aprilia Fastest Bike at Pikes Peak … Again

July 30, 2009

The formal results are in: Piloting a 2009 Aprilia SXV550, Davey Durelle was the fastest motorcycle up the hill at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on July 19.PikesPeak_logo

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, first held in 1916, features a course that climbs 12.42 miles, has 156 turns and starts at 9,390 ft. climbing to over 14,000 ft. Durelle completed the treacherous run in an astounding 11:48.649 minutes. It was his 13th personal victory at the event and the second year in a row he took the title of fastest motorcycle on the mountain.

Durelle finished a split second ahead of Gary Trachy aboard a 2008 KTM SMX. Both raced in the 750cc class.

PikesPeak1Durelle grabbed the hole shot and lead for the first two miles before Trachy made a pass for the lead. Trachy stretched his lead to five seconds before Durelle used the power of the SXV to close the gap in the wide open dirt section and re-passed him for the lead less then a mile from the summit. Durelle and Trachy battled side by side to the top finishing a mere .094 seconds apart – one of the closest finishes in the history of the event.

Davey Durelle is sponsored by Aprilia USA, Dunlop Tire, Arai, Spider Grips, Scotts Performance, Victory Circle Graphixs and Erico Motorsports (a Dealernews Top 100 dealer).

The fastest ATV on the mountain was a 2008 Honda 450 piloted by Michael Coburn with a time of 12:18.858 minutes.

Off-Road Star Blais Still Passionate About Cycles

June 12, 2009

Chris Blais has a passion for motorcycles.

Off-road motorcycle enthusiasts no doubt recognize Blais’ name from the stellar riding career he carved out for himself in the sport of desert racing.

Chris Blais

Chris Blais

Check out his scorecard:
2003 – 2nd overall at the Baja 1000
2005 – 4th overall at the Nevada 1000
2005 – 2nd place at the Terrible’s Town 250
2005 – 2nd place at the Parker 250
2005 – 4th overall at the Baja 500
2005 – 1st overall at the San Felipe 250
2005 – 4th overall at the Tunisia Rally
2005 – 9th overall at the Dakar Rally
2006 – 4th overall at the Dakar Rally
2007 – 3rd overall at the Dakar Rally

Blais, who started his career in 2001 atop a Honda, ultimately turned to riding for KTM and quickly became among the most promising riders in the United States. Then, in August 2007, Blais’ riding career came to an end when he damaged his vertebrae as the result of a motorcycle crash in the desert near Tonapah, Nev., while pre-running the Best in the Desert (BITD) Vegas to Reno race.

What is he doing now? Click here to find out.

Rally Hero Scot Harden Featured on Scorpion TV

April 29, 2009

Motorcycle rally champion Scot Harden blazed a trail to Scorpion Sports HQ last week to talk about the helmet and apparel supplier’s new XDR Collection.

Scot Harden

Scot Harden

XDR stands for “Xtreme Distance Riding” so nobody is more qualified to talk about what goes into great riding gear than Harden. During his trip to Scorpion, he took the time to point out some of the many features and benefits that differentiate the XDR Collection from ordinary gear. Fortunately, the cameras were rolling and a short video clip now appears at Scorpion’s home page, while a longer version where Scot discusses rallying with Scorpion VP Eric Anderson appears at the ScorpionNation YouTube site .

Harden is a member of the American Motorcyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame. He has served as African Rally champion, two-time Dakar Rally veteran, three-time Baja 500 and Baja 1000 Overall champion, three-time ISDE medalist, U.S. Trophy Team member and two-time AMA Amateur National Off-road champion.

Scorpion XDR Commander

Scorpion XDR Commander

Last August, Harden was hired as national sales and marketing manager of Husqvarna Motorcycles NA, LLC. Prior to that he spearheaded corporate marketing strategies, product development and sales for KTM North America.

During his Hall Of Fame racing career, Harden has logged more than 200,000 off road miles that is enough to circumnavigate the entire planet eight times. I suggest anyone having a chance to talk with Scot jump at the opportunity.

KTM Confirms Electric MX Model for 2011

April 23, 2009

KTM has confirmed plans to produce its previously unveiled electric off-road bike in 2010 for the 2011 model year.

As Dealernews reported in October 2008, KTM’s electric prototype weighs 200 pounds, develops approximately 35 hp, and can run for 40 minutes before recharging.
ktm_zeroemissions
KTM says the most important aspects of the project were that the machine have high power output, low weight and as long a range as possible using today’s technology. The OEM’s in-house research and development team worked on the project with Austrian firm Arsenal Research.

“The zero-emissions concept mates our known competencies with a new highly interesting motor technology,” said KTM director Harald Plöckinger. “We see emissions-free vehicles as offering the greatest chance to expand enduro sport to a wider and new audience in the mid- and long-term, and to perhaps even start a brand-new trend sport.”

Read more about KTM’s plans for 2009 at Dealernews.com.

Dealernews Visits BMW, Husqvarna

April 10, 2009

What are BMW and Husqvarna’s plans for their U.S. dealer network and product, production, pricing, financing and promotions?

I found out on Wednesday during a trip to New Jersey for a talk with Pieter de Waal, vice president, BMW Motorrad USA, and Mark Brady, president, Husqvarna Motorcycles NA, LLC.

Husqvarna Motorcycles was purchased by the BMW Group in October 2007. Husqvarna Motorcycles NA, LLC is a subsidiary of BMW (US) Holding Corp., the BMW Group’s sales headquarters for North, Central and South America, which is located in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Pieter de Waal, VP, BMW Motorrad USA

Pieter de Waal, VP, BMW Motorrad USA

de Waal joined BMW Motorrad USA on April 1, 2008, replacing Arturo Pineiro, who took the position of president of BMW, Central and South America. de Waal has been with BMW Group since 1994. He previously headed worldwide Sales and Marketing for BMW Motorrad in Munich. Prior to that he worked for BMW Group in Great Britain and South Africa as general manager of BMW Motorrad and technical director of BMW Motorsport.

Mark Brady, former CEO of Triumph Motorcycles America, in July 2008 became president of Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, LLC. He has spent the past nine months reestablishing the Husqvarna brand in the North American off-road market.

Stay tuned to Dealernews.com for my forthcoming report.

KTM 450 Beats Citroën C4 WRC in Hillclimb

April 2, 2009

British TV show Fifth Gear first showed that a Ducati 999 was a tick quicker than a Lamborghini Gallardo around a track, and now ten time world motocross champion Stefan Everts, riding a KTM 450, beat five-time rally champion Sébastien Loeb and his Citroën C4 WRC car up the Geraardsbergen Wall in Belgium.

OK, so Everts was only one tenth of a second ahead – traversing a slippery cobblestone-laden street to reach the top of the hill in 49:07 seconds compared to 49:17 for Loeb.

Still, what started as an innocent competition (a gentleman’s bet, if you will) between two top athletes turned into an exceptional duel. It was Everts who challenged Loeb a few weeks ago. Then the marketing wizkids at Red Bull turned it into an event, the Red Bull Motorclash.

The loser of the duel had to do some labor: clean the vehicle of his opponent. Loeb put up no resistance at all to carrying out his assignment and showed no sign of disappointment afterwards: “I thought this duel was a tremendous idea and I have no problems with Stefan winning it,” he said. “The difference is so small, it could have gone either way.”

Vehicles are not usually allowed on the Wall, but with the permission and co-operation of the town of Geraardsbergen and the police, everything ran seamlessly and safely.

Check out the video HERE

everts2loeb1

Aprilia’s dirt-chugging V-twin: the MXV 450

March 26, 2009

Aprilia has introduced the MXV 450, the Italian company’s first-ever motocross bike.

Powered by Aprilia’s spooky little — get this — V-twin, I can only guess how this thing screams over track and trail. The 452cc, fuel-injected beast comes with two ignition settings that you

You might want to strap yourself in.

You might want to strap yourself in.

control by poking the handlebar switch. The “Big Bang” setting throttles things down a bit and gives an easier rideability, control and traction by closing the firing gap. Hit the “Screamer” setting and you can guess what happens — the firing gap changes back to standard and the motor wants to zip up to its 12,500 rpm limit. (So says the company.)

Speaking from some experience, Aprilia knows what it is doing with these V-twin-powered dirtbikes. I had the SXV 5.5 for a while last year (it’s the one dressed up in supermoto clothing) and that damn thing was (more…)