Archive for the ‘Polaris’ Category

Polaris Kicks Off 2011 With RZR XP 900

January 1, 2011

 

Polaris RZR XP 900

Polaris Industries started the new year in powerful fashion today announcing its new RZR XP 900 in what it calls “a whole new class” of SXS vehicles. The 2011 RZR XP 900 has a new 875cc,  88 hp, ProStar 900 Twin EFI engine with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and a new 3-link trailing arm independent rear suspension with 13 inches of ground clearance. You can read a complete information package on the Polaris website by clicking here.

“When we set out to design the RANGER RZR XP 900,” said Matt Homan, vice president and general manager of Polaris’ Off-Road Vehicles Division, “we wanted to create a ground-breaking, high performance vehicle to complement our current, best-selling RANGER RZR line. The result is simply incredible.”

How will the RZR 900 be received? Interesting question. Here’s one comment from a discussion last month speculating on the new Polaris release: “I sure hope it is something worth while. If they make this big announcement for an 850 it will be a disappointment in my eyes as far as lot of others as well. Come on 951 CC or 1100 would be even better!”

Well, the 875cc power plant didn’t make that mark and it doesn’t match the top-of-the-line BRP Commander 1000 on several points, notably engine size (875cc vs. 976cc and price, $15,999 vs $14,999). It does win on horsepower (88 vs 85) and ground clearance (13 inches vs. 11 inches), however. If you’re interested in making more comparisons between the Polaris RZR 900 and the BRP Commander 1000, click here for RZR 900 specs and click here for BRP Commander 1000 specs.

The RZR 900 also includes several premium features, including the industry’s first factory LED headlights, performance brake calipers and large diameter, ventilated rotors on all four wheels, completely adjustable Fox Podium X 2.0 shocks on all four wheels and high performance  ITP 900 XCT tires. The RZR 900 also features a large grill opening and a front air dam for improved air flow. For safety, the RANGER RZR XP 900 has a certified roll-over protective structure (ROPS).

The RZR XP 900 carries an MSRP of $15,999 and will be available in Polaris dealerships this month. JD

Contact me with story ideas or news tips at
612/845-8091 or joe@powersportsupdate.com

RSD/Victory Motorcycles: Project 200 Video

July 28, 2010

When I first saw pictures (stolen from Cameron Brewer over at RSD: Thanks Cameron!) of the custom Vegas 8-Ball that Roland Sands is doing for Victory Motorcycles, I immediately fell in lust over its swoopy profile. That new tail section and dropped down seat, combined with the full fairing, really highlighted the design lines that Victory is known for. (It should probably be noted that I’m an Roland Sands Design and Victory sycophant — I just like the stuff that they do when they do what they do.)

Then I got really excited (starting to creep myself out here) when reading about what RSD is attempting to do with this bike. It’s called Project 200 and it’s Sands’ effort at building a bike aimed at hitting a Modified Partial Streamlining (MPS) record. Here’s a ‘graph from the RSD blog that explains it in RD’s words:

This Victory project is for the sole purpose of going 200mph. What started off as a move to do something different with a Victory turned into a quest for the 200mph marker. This has been a personal goal of mine for sometime and to do it on what was a custom cruiser makes it much harder and more interesting. Adding the bodywork and performance parts lends itself to setting this bike apart as a true high speed performer. It will soon be getting a turbo motor which will make it a 200 plus HP beast for both landspeed and the drag strip.

So now that Victory has announced its 2011 lineup and RSD had a chance to show this beast to the dealers attending the Polaris/Victory dealer meeting, this video has been posted.

It shows the early stages of Sands’ quest to hit 200 mph. We’ll try to follow along as they post more vids. Could watch stuff like this all day. Well I could if I got paid for it, so until then I’ll link to videos when they come online and then go back to my work-a-day tasks such as reading press releases, interviewing folks and pining for future press rides.

BRP’s New SxS Aims at Polaris’ RZR

June 7, 2010

Can-Am Commanders Feature Power, Performance, Utility

The Can-Am Commander 1000 X tops 72 mph with its 85 hp Rotax EFI V-twin.

BRP’s Can-Am Commander, the high powered 1000cc side-by-side vehicle that has had the market buzzing for weeks, finally was rolled out at the BRP dealer meeting in Reno last night.

There will be five models: the Commander 800R and 800XT and the Commander 1000, 100XT and 1000X. The X model gets the high performance package and special graphics.

So, what’s to add after all the Internet talk and spy photos? Some facts, a bit of perspective and a forecast, perhaps. I recently spoke at length with Yves Leduc, vice president and general manager for BRP’s North America Division, and others at the company and throughout the industry about the machine and its impact on this very important industry segment. Here’s what I found out and what I think the impact of this machine will have on the segment.

Yves Leduc

First of all, the folks in Valcourt are taking dead aim at their neighbors in Minnesota, and it sounds like they have the ammunition to make life difficult for Polaris, the makers of this year’s oh, so hot RZR.

Make no mistake, when BRP executives use the term, “no compromise” in describing the new Commander SxS family, they mean it’s going to outperform Polaris in every way possible. And from what I can gather—without having ridden or even seen the Commander first hand— they may have done just that.

Yamaha’s Rhino, the machine that launched the Rec-UT category, isn’t much of a player at this time, given consumer reluctance to get too close to the lawsuit-prone vehicle. And Yamaha hasn’t made any significant changes since the 2009 model year. So, it really comes down to BRP’s Commander against the Polaris RZR lineup.

One experienced off-road rider, who is very close to Polaris, says the Commander is a better performer, is better engineered and has better fit and finish. At about the same MSRP, that’s going to make a show floor buying decision pretty easy, even for die-hard Polaris fans.

Here’s just one pre-launch quote I pulled from a Polaris forum: “If they put a 900 Rotax in (the Commander), I would be tempted (to buy it).” Well, hello. The Commander 1000 comes with a 1000cc, EFI V-Twin Rotax. There you go.

And the Commander 1000X performance package carries an MSRP of $14,699 vs Ranger RZR S at $13,999 with only a 760cc EFI V-twin, generating 55 hp and a top speed of 63 mph. It has a carrying capacity of 300 lbs. The Commander generates 83 hp, has 600 lbs carrying capacity, 1,500 towing capacity, and a top speed of 72-mph to 75 mph, a BRP official told me. The RZR does have better ground clearance at 12.5 inches vs. 11 inches for the Commander, and the Commander is heavier at 1,200 lbs vs. 1,100 pounds for the RZR.

One interesting feature is the Commander’s two level cargo bed with a 600 lb carrying capacity, 400 lbs up, and another 200 lbs below in a lockable storage bin with a removable divider.

Here’s another unique engineering twist: Both passenger and driver seats can be easily removed for free-standing use in the field. Why sit on the ground, when you can pull the padded seats from your SxS and relax in them? It’s one of those ideas, like, why didn’t I think of that?

BRP Rollout Plans

“We said at the end of 2007 that we would have a side-by-side in 2010, and here we are,” Yves Leduc, BRP’s Can-Am chief, told me last week. “Despite the worst recession in history, we stayed the course. We could have postponed this project, but, instead, we made it a priority.”

Leduc likes the way the timing worked out. “If you compare our entry here with our ATV entry in 1999, it’s two different worlds. With ATVs, we entered a mature market with six very strong competitors.”

Now, BRP has several things going for it, says Leduc:

  • Very strong recognition for the Can-Am brand.
  • A dynamic and changing market segment for performance machines.
  • Limited competition, essentially only Polaris.
  • A unique segment that provides the best features of performance and utility machines.

“Clearly, we saw an opportunity to define the segment, a no compromise segment, when we started looking at this three years ago,” says Leduc. And it appears they did just that.

The Commander lineup, says BRP, feaures “the best handling in the industry” with power and work capacity. “It’s not an extreme sport vehicle,” says Leduc, “it’s a comfortable sport package, one that allows you to get the maximum out of the vehicle.”

BRP’s target buyer? “It’s the enthusiast; that’s clearly the buyer for the Can-Am, they tend to make it part of their lifestyle. That’s the emerging buyer for the SxS, many of whom never owned an ATV. We’re also targeting hunters and fishermen and large estate owners, who want the best.”

The Can-Am lineup will be rolled out to about two-thirds of the company’s dealer network in all states right away. He wouldn’t tell me how many dealers will receive machines or how many will be available this summer.

Limited distribution will begin in July, mostly to Quebec dealers, and demo rides are planned across the U.S. this summer. Full production will begin this fall in Mexico, accompanied by a major advertising blitz.

“The idea,” says Leduc, “is for us to get feedback from this first generation of users as we start shipping and adjust as we go along.”

At the same time that North American dealers get the machine, it will be launched internationally in all countries in which BRP has direct distribution, including Germany, Austria, the UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New-Zealand, and Japan. Then it will be sent to BRP’s authorized distributors, reaching a total of more than 50 countries.

The Can-Am Commander 1000 XT will be homologated for use on European roads.

BRP doesn’t have an electric model, nor a four-seater to match Polaris, and there aren’t any coming as part of this launch. “But,” says Leduc, “you can count on BRP continuing to improve the lineup.”

So, the battle is joined. JD

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

Polaris Outperforms May Stock Slump

May 31, 2010

Dow and S&P 500 Decline Sharply

Polaris Industries common stock lost ground in May, but its decline was only about one-third of the ground lost by leading market indicators, and it was much better than two other powersports stocks, Harley-Davidson and Arctic Cat.

Polaris closed May 28, 2010, at $58.70, off $2.35, or 3.8%, from its close on May 3 of $61.05. Polaris stock was given a strong boost on May 24 when analyst Joe Hovorka of Raymond James upgraded his Polaris rating from Market Perform (third level rating) to Strong Buy (top rating).

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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.

Polaris Shares $10 Million With Employees

March 5, 2010

28 Straight Years of Profit Sharing

How would you like to pick up a tidy check today for say, oh,  $4,500. That’s four thousand five hundred dollars. In addition to your regular paycheck. You could do just that if you were working at Polaris Industries, based in suburban Minneapolis.

While much of the U.S. powersports industry is struggling to recover from last year’s poor performance, Polaris is continuing an annual tradition of sharing profits with its employees.

Today, the company is handing out nearly $10 million of its profits from the 2009 calendar year among approximately 2,200 hourly and non-salaried Polaris employees. On average, each of these employees will receive nearly 15% of their annual pay base.

In addition, Polaris will distribute profit-sharing payments to each of its full time salaried employees today as well.

“Profit-sharing is something that is very important and fundamental to the culture at Polaris,” said Scott Wine, CEO.

Polaris began sharing its profits with employees in 1982 and has shared more than $200 million with its hourly and non-salaried employees since that time.

Polaris had 2009 sales of $1.6 billion and recorded net income for the year of $ 101.0 million .

For more information on Polaris, visit its website www.polarisindustries.com.  JD

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

Investors In Powersports Stocks Enjoyed 2009

December 31, 2009

Harley, Polaris, Arctic Cat Post Hefty Gains

Investors who placed bets on the powersports industry last year at this time— and held steady for the ride through the year— have reason to celebrate tonight. I checked the performance of three of the leading powersports stocks this year—Harley-Davidson (HOG), Polaris Industries (PII), and Arctic Cat (ACAT) and each of them outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) by a wide margin in two cases and matching it in the last one.

It wasn’t a smooth ride, however, and it took a firm hand to stay in the game through the sharp downtown in the first quarter.  For example, while the Dow lost 13% in value during the first two months of 2008, Polaris lost 25%, Harley  dropped 21%, and Arctic Cat slipped 20%.

For the year, though, the Dow climbed 1,772 points from 8,776 on Dec. 31, 2008, to 10,548 at the close yesterday. That’s a 20% jump. During the last 52 weeks, the Dow ranged from a low of 6,440 to a high of 10,605.

Polaris, the Minneapolis-based manufacturer of ATVs, UTVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles and electric vehicles, posted the biggest dollar gain during the last year of the three companies I looked at. Polaris common moved from $28.65 on Dec. 31, 2008, to $43 at the close yesterday. That’s a gain of $14.35, or 50.1% over the year. Its 52-week performance ranged from $14.53 to a high of $49.74.

If you would have purchased 1,000 shares of Polaris common stock one year ago, your investment would have gained $28,650, not considering quarterly dividends nor any sales commissions. Now, wouldn’t that provide a nice party tonight.

Securities analysts who follow the Polaris stock like the management team lead by new CEO Scott Wine, and Bennett Morgan, president and COO, and a long-time Polaris executive. When talking about Polaris, investors also talk about its ability to quickly bring new products to market, its efficient operations that emphasize cost controls, and its growing ability to control inventories at the dealer level through its Max Velocity Program (MVP) which allows dealers increased ordering flexibility.

Harley-Davidson gained $8.53, or 50.3%, climbing from $16.97 at the close on Dec. 31, 2008, to $25.50 at yesterday’s close. Harley investors had perhaps the toughest time waiting calmly for gains on the HOG stock as the company reworked its operations in several major steps.

One move with immediate and long-term implications was  the new contract it won with workers at its York, PA, plant that  permits the company to cut loose nearly half the 2,000 employee York work force and move ahead with major physical improvements in the plant. The plant modernization will be aided by a stimulus package from the state of Pennsylvania. Harley said at one point that it was considering relocating the operation to Kentucky.

In its second big reorganizational move, Harley dumped its MVAgusta operation and it closed its Buell sport bike business.

During the 2009 52-week period, Harley stock ranged from a low of $7.99 to a high of $30.00

Arctic Cat common stock is played at a much lower level than either Polaris or Harley, but it, too, posted a nice gain of 20% during the period Dec. 31,  2008, to Dec. 30, 2009. It climbed $4.16 for the year, moving from $4.79 in December 2008 to $8.95 yesterday.

Cat had a tough year, partly because of its dependence on snowmobiles and partly because of the loss of Gander Mountain, its high visibility outdoors retail chain based in Minneapolis. Gander had been carrying Arctic’s ATV and SXS lineup in its major stores. Arctic stock ranged from a low of $2.40 to a high of $9.27 during the last 52 weeks.

Okay, so now you’re probably waiting for my forecast on the performance of these stocks in 2010. Sorry, I don’t have one. After reporting on publicly traded stock for more than 40 years, I’ve come up with one basic rule: Stock market performance doesn’t always reflect corporate performance, especially when you try to tie it to a specific quarter or other reporting period. I don’t have a clue how these three stocks, or the Dow, for that matter, might perform over the next four quarters. And if I did know,  I wouldn’t give that information away; I would charge a lot of money for it. Isn’t that what investment advisors do?

Happy New Year and good luck with your investment decisions. I hope your powersports stocks perform well for you in 2010 as these three stocks did in 2009. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
976/893-6876 or joe@powersportsupdate.com

Polaris Launches Electric Vehicle

July 16, 2009

First New Product for On-Road Division

Polaris Industries, Inc., the suburban Minneapolis powersports manufacturer, today (July 16, 2009) entered the electric vehicle market with the announcement of its new low emission neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV),  the Breeze.

Polaris' new neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), the Breeze.

Polaris' new neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), the Breeze.

It’s the first new product for the company’s On-Road Division, which Polaris organized this year. As we told you here two months ago, it’s one of several new products that the company likely had under development for the on-road market. The other two possibilities are a scooter and a sport bike.

Additional new products could be announced next week when Polaris holds its dealer meeting.

As we wrote here in May, there seems to be a market for an efficient, reasonably-priced vehicle that can be used in gated communities and other neighborhood developments. As we wrote at that time, Polaris is a company that prides itself on its innovation, can be the one to do so.

In its announcement today about the Breeze, Polaris said the vehicle is designed for “multiple consumer uses such as golfing, comfortably transporting up to four passengers, or easily carrying light cargo loads.”

The Breeze is targeted at consumers living in master planned communities.

It’s expected to be available in limited quantities for test rides and purchase in selected markets in September. Polaris says it will be sold through “Polaris Neighborhood Vehicle” dealerships, but it didn’t provide any details about those dealerships.

I’ve asked Polaris for specs on the Breeze but haven’t received them yet. I’ll give you the details when I learn more.

In the meantime, watch this space and dealernews.com for more information on the Breeze.

Dealernews.com also will have more information from Polaris today following its conference call with investors this morning where management will  announce 2Q earnings and discuss other company issues. Hopefully, they will provide details on the Breeze and, possibly, provide hints about other new on-road products. JD

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

Rider Impressions: The Victory Hammer S

July 15, 2009

In June I picked up a 2009 Victory Hammer S from Polaris headquarters in Medina, Minn. Now, after one month and nearly 1,000 miles, it’s time I return the bike.

As a fan of all things with two-wheels, I would’ve enjoyed keeping this head-turner in my garage alongside the SV1000S, Tomos Golden Bullet moped and forthcoming two-stroke Stella scooter. Having a muscle cruiser like the Hammer helped satisfy my different moods – whereas I enjoy long, quick-paced rides on the Suzuki, I equally enjoyed implementing the Victory for shorter, inter-city jaunts. If the SV1S, in triple black livery, is my B2 stealth bomber, the Hammer S, available only in a vibrant blue with white rally stripes, was my attention-grabbing Blue Angels C-130T Hercules “Fat Albert” – heavy, but powerful and impressively agile for its size.
VictoryHammerProfile2
The bike attracted attention and garnered questions wherever I went, whether at the filling station, neighborhood grocery store or local bike night. “Go ahead and park it right out front on the sidewalk,” the owner of my favorite restaurant, Eli’s in Minneapolis, said after grilling me on the bike’s specs and my impression of the ride.VictoryHammerOverdrive

“Nice Hammer!” a guy in a pickup truck shouted to me while we were stopped at a red light. “I just bought one! I love it!”

The Hammer S represented the fourth Victory extended ride the folks at Polaris have granted me. The first bike, the V92TC, was a bit unkempt; the first year Vegas was better, but still not tuned quite right (needed more breathing, found through the parts catalog); and the Vision I rode for a few months last summer was hugely impressive in handling and performance for its size.
VictoryHammerFrontBrake
What’d I like about the Hammer S? I had a list of highlights I quoted to everyone who asked: The 97hp, 113 ft. lbs. of torque offers a healthy dose of acceleration, the bike’s outfitted with a smooth running carbon fiber belt, the sixth gear “overdrive” transmits a fuel-saving engine speed of 2,400 rpm at 70mph, it maneuvers surprisingly well with the big 18-incher up front and 250/40R18 Dunlop rear, and braking was impressive (stainless steel lines, front dual 300mm floating rotors with 4-piston caliper and rear single 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper).VictoryHammerBelt

The list of things I didn’t like is much shorter: To garner the hardtail look, engineers placed the rear shock a bit too far forward, directly under the seat. It’s preload adjustable, but nevertheless transmitted some kidney-jarring bumps when traversing roadway irregularities.
VictoryHammerGauges

Victory Lays Down the Hammer … S

June 15, 2009

I picked up a 2009 Victory Hammer S from Polaris HQ today, June 15. I’ve noticed this particular bike is about Victory performance, and that my sportbike has tire envy.

2009 Victory Hammer S

2009 Victory Hammer S

After rolling 200 miles during the first few hours after pick-up, I do have a few qualms about riding position (see future posts). Of course, I’m traditionally more of a sportbike rider, so anything I ride foot-first seems a bit odd.

Still, this is the best of the four Victory I’ve ridden for an extended period of time. It accelerates impressively (for (more…)