SNOWMOBILE – Polaris Reveals Changes in Snow Division
December 20, 2004
Filed under Features
If market share numbers can tell a story, then Polaris’ new snowmobile division general manager Eric Lindquist can weave a tale, complete with a moral.
After firmly clinching the title of marketshare leader in snowmobile sales since the 1990-91 season, Polaris dropped to second place following Ski-Doo’s introduction of the REV chassis.
Officials at Polaris put on forced grins, saying that they were refocusing and refining, but it must’ve hurt bad. Now, Polaris is on full attack to regain that status, starting with the addition of Lindquist. He feels he knows what needs to be done to return to what he calls “our rightful position as the marketshare leader.”
“If you look at Polaris, the product quality and manufacturing have not been our issues,” he said. “I think we got a little complacent. I think we stopped listening to the consumer and to the market and I think we’re seeing the result of that right now.”
Dealer Level Changes
The most immediate changes won’t take place in the product line, but with the manufacturer-dealer relationship. Dealers should start noticing a shift within the month, he said.
“We understand that we need to win back their loyalty. We understand that some of our practices may not have been dealer-focused,” he said. He said that dealers should notice a more externally focused company that’s “more dealer-aware, understanding what truly drives profitability, insurance costs, inventory costs and flooring.”
His plans are nearly ready, he said, but he wouldn’t give full details of what’s to come.
He said his plan will be rolled out in a series of steps, with the first as “a different program, or different approaches to programs.” After that, he said dealers can expect to see a different way that the company and dealers will interact. There will be a “different” dealer show in February, and a “different” Snow Check program in April.
“In the short term, we need to win back
our dealer network and re-establish the trust they’ve lost and strengthen the trust we have,” Lindquist said. “I think that the dealers who come to our meeting in Salt Lake City in February are going to see a new Polaris snowmobile division. I don’t think we need to play catch-up. We need to leapfrog.”
Lindquist appears to be setting his product line goals along the lines of unusual innovation.
“Snowmobile consumers are far more loyal than any other powersports consumer,” he said. “They were loyal to us for a long time and we let them down.
“If we’ve slipped, it’s in understanding the voice of the consumer,” he said. “The goal is to deliver the unexpected. We’ve gotten away
from that in the last three to four years, and its reflected in our market share.”
Lindquist hints he may look to the aftermarket for something unique.
“The influencers in this market, they modify everything,” he said. “Why can’t a manufacturer supply this kind of sled to the customer? I think we can innovate the product in service and customization.”
He also sees a need to refocus the business from what it’s been to what it can become. “We’re truly in a transition from being a manufacturer to being a consumer product company that manufacturers,” he said. “And I’m in this role because of my consumer background.”
In his two years at Medina, Minn.-based Polaris, Lindquist has held three jobs. He started as the national sales manager for the parts, garments and accessories department. Within weeks of his starting date, the sales department was reorganized and he became director of sales in May, 2003.
Officially, his newest role is to oversee the entire business unit activities for the snowmobile division, including engineering, product development, marketing and promotions.
Lindquist has a background in international business at sporting good companies. After receiving a marketing and international business degree from Indiana, he worked for Wilsons Sporting Goods Co. doing business development in Africa. He then worked for Nike as the commercial general manager for the Americas region. He has experience in sales, marketing, product development and retail development.
As a Montana native, he also has a background in snowmobiling. “I’ve been a rider since early on,” he said. “I have not really lived in snowmobiling climates lately, but I’ve always been passionate about riding snowmobiles.”