What New Products Will It Announce For This Division?
What Role Will Mark Blackwell Really Play?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org