By Steve Bauer
MILAN, Italy — Powersports Business had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Blackwell, vice president of Victory motorcycle and international operations for Polaris Industries, during the recent EICMA show in Milan, Italy.
The following is a Q&A with Blackwell regarding the Victory Vision’s European debut and the company’s plans for future expansion in Europe.
PSB: Was EICMA the first time the Vision has been presented to the European press/market?
Blackwell: Yes, that was the first time it was presented “in person.” It has of course been visible on our Web site and various other places on the Internet since the public unveiling in New York back in January, and it has appeared in a number of European magazines.
PSB: What reaction did you receive at the show, and do you have any plans for marketing the Vision in Europe in the near future?
Blackwell: The reaction was similar to what we have seen throughout the U.S. and Canada, where the bike has appeared, although somewhat more subdued. Most people say it looks much better in person than in the photos, and while the design is polarizing as we intended, the people who like the design seem to really go crazy over it. As it has done in North America, it also seemed to draw new people to Victory who maybe haven’t paid attention to us in the past. Plus, people who might not have understood what Victory stood for previously, really seem to get “The New American Motorcycle” when they see the Vision. Keep in mind that the market for luxury touring is much smaller in Europe, so the level of interest in this type of bike is predictably more subdued.
PSB: Where do you see Victory heading in terms of your marketing strategy in Europe and other countries overseas for 2008 and beyond?
Blackwell: We still have not set a firm date or announced plans for our entrance into continental Europe. Part of the issue is getting our bikes to meet the European regulatory requirements, and part has been strategic resource allocation. I believe we will firm up and announce our future plans during the coming year, and we will certainly keep you posted. In the meantime, we have launched Victory in several other, smaller international markets where the regulatory requirements are the same or very similar to the U.S. and where we have very strong, existing distributors and dealers looking for growth, who already have high market share with Polaris products. Those include markets such as Mexico, Iceland, Russia and several others. We are also using these experiences to learn, before entering the larger international markets. So we will continue to focus most of our resources on the U.S. in 2008, followed by Canada and then the United Kingdom.
PSB: What kind of growth potential do you see for Victory overseas, both in terms of volume and sales? Do you see Europeans embracing a bike like the Vision, or is it more of a novelty for them?
Blackwell: The U.S. is, by far, the largest market in the world for premium cruisers and touring motorcycles. And we still have relatively low share, with loads of upside in terms of growth. So even if/when we launch Victory in the next tier of markets such as Germany, France, Italy, etc., the lion’s share of our growth will likely come from the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
PSB: Is there anything else you’d like
to talk about in terms of Victory’s plans for overseas growth, or how the EICMA show went in general?
Blackwell: EICMA is always a great show and a great chance to see what’s new in Europe and to help with our “external focus.” It is also a very important show for Polaris’ international business. We had tremendous interest in our ATVs and Ranger side-by-side products, especially the latest generation of our Revolver Concept on-road quadricycle and the new RZR.