Posts Tagged ‘RZR’

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.

BRP Readies Launch of Hot SxS Lineup

May 31, 2010

New Models Could Be Released Within Two Weeks

You can spell the DNA of Canada’s BRP powersports manufacturer as EXCITEMENT. No conservative, working machines for this global OEM based in Valcourt, Quebec. It builds and sells the high performance Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, and Can-Am ATVs, and the category building, on-road three-wheel Spyder.

So, when we start talking about BRP launching a line-up of side-by-side machines, we’re not talking about another lawn tractor. We’re talking about something like Polaris‘s very hot RZR UTV. Expect to see the new models from BRP before mid-June.

(more…)

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.

New Polaris On-Road Division Raises Questions

May 18, 2009

What New Products Will It Announce For This Division?
What Role Will Mark Blackwell Really Play?

Joe Delmont

Joe Delmont

The announcement today by Polaris Industries, Medina, Minn., that it is launching an “on-road vehicle division” is interesting from several perspectives.

Perhaps the most intriguing question the move raises is this: What new products will the innovative Minnesota OEM produce to fit into this segment alongside its popular Victory motorcycles? The move looks to bring the company one step closer to the “adjacent” industry that company executives have been talking about for several years.

Former Polaris CEO Tom Tiller often talked about the company’s planned move into “adjacent” industries— ones that could use Polaris’ existing technology and/or sell to its existing customer base.

Tiller’s replacement, Scott Wine, told analysts in April that,  “We remain on-track to announce a second adjacency later this year,” adding, “long-term, we’ve scaled back a little bit of our research and development in Victory and shifted some of those resources and funding to the front end of our business”

And Polaris President Bennett Morgan responded to an analyst’s question with: “We believe we’ve got some nice innovation coming in this adjacency that we are not talking about as well. So, we’ve got lots of good stuff….”

Indeed, Polaris did move outside the powersports industry recently when it signed a strategic alliance with Bobcat to jointly develop Bobcat branded products that will be introduced next year.

So, here’s what you might look for from Polaris to include in its new On-Road Vehicle Portfolio alongside Victory perhaps as soon as next month:

  1. An electric vehicle, probably a SXS model with two-wheel drive, that can be used in gated communities and other neighborhood developments. There’s been a lot of talk about electric vehicles, but so far nobody’s come up with a practical, efficient and economical machine. Perhaps Polaris, a company that prides itself on its innovation, can be the one to do so.
  2. A scooter, probably one in the 150cc size. We know that Polaris has been sourcing one in China for close to a year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them introduce one at the beginning of this scooter season.
  3. A sport bike to capture the strong youth market and its desire for speed and performance. This may be a bit of a stretch, but there are reasons to believe it could happen. First, speed and performance are features that Polaris offers on the snow side and in its radically hot RZR side-by-side vehicle. And a top Polaris executive who has been added to the on-road group, Mark Blackwell, has a record as a champion racer. Even though he’s guided the successful growth of Victory, Mark’s comfort level may be closer to the sport bike than to the cruiser. In its announcement, Polaris noted that Blackwell’s “deep knowledge of products and markets in the motorcycle industry will continue to be an invaluable asset to the Victory brand and all other on-road vehicles.” (My italics added.)

The one problem with each of these products, though, is this: Can Polaris teach its dealers to sell these products, ones that are radically different from the Victory and from Polaris’ off-road products?

Staffing Questions

As part of the new organization, Blackwell has been named vice president of motorcycles. Meanwhile, Mike Jonikas, vice president of sales and corporate marketing, has been named vice president of the On-Road Vehicle Division; he’ll be responsible for growing the division. In a related move, Steve Menneto has been named general manger of Victory Motorcycles.

The question here is: How much responsibility will Blackwell have? In the recent past, he’s worn several hats for Polaris, at one time running both the Victory and International operations simultaneously. Hmmm, perhaps the sport bike idea isn’t so far off after all.

We’ll find out soon how this all plays out. Guido Ebert, the senior editor at Dealernews magazine, has a meeting scheduled at Polaris this week. It will be very interesting to hear what he finds out. JD

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