By Lisa Young
Worldwide snowmobile sales managed to eek out a small climb upward for the 2008 season over the previous year. It is the first increase in global sales since 2001.
Estimated worldwide sales ended at 163,753 units, a 2 percent increase over 2007, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA). These figures are tabulated from April through March.
Although experts had expected a modest sales increase for the year at season’s mid-point, what could have been a larger jump was curtailed by sluggish sales late in the season.
Snowmobile sales in the United States were relatively flat compared to last year, with 79,552 units sold, compared to the 79,815 moved in 2007. It is, however, a vast improvement over the 13 percent drop in sales from 2006 to 2007. This season’s U.S. sled sales were spared from a more significant decrease by plentiful early snowfall in key snowmobiling regions.
“Sales in the U.S. stopped in March,” said Ed Klim, ISMA president. “They weren’t nearly as strong (as they had been at the start of the season). They flattened out. It caught everybody by surprise.”
Canadian sales managed a double-digit increase for the 2008 season. The country’s snowmobile enthusiasts picked up 50,556 new units, which was a 10 percent increase over 2007 sales.
In the U.S. and Canadian markets, the cross country and mountain segments did the largest volume of business for Ski-Doo, not unlike the industry at large, said Francois Trembley, director of Ski-Doo marketing.
Although these segments are usually the top sellers for the company, sales were boosted by the new REV-XP platform Ski-Doo introduced for the 2008 model year, Trembley says.
The plentiful snow early in the season helped dealers, especially in Canada, clear out a significant amount of inventory.
“Dealers have much less noncurrent inventory,” Trembley said. “They’re much healthier now.”
Ski-Doo is feeling the slowdown in the U.S. economy, along with the rest of the recreational industry, Trembley says. Looking forward, economic conditions will remain something Ski-Doo keeps an eye on.
“We feel the U.S. economy is a big question mark,” Trembley said. “And, can we repeat two years of good snow? There are a lot of people still in the stands in snowmobiling, waiting to see what happens before they re-enter and enter (the sport).”
ISMA is still finalizing data for Europe, but sales are up in Russia, Sweden and Norway, Klim says. Sales faltered slightly in Finland because of little snow.
Parts, goods and accessories sales worldwide are up more than 25 percent. Klim believes the increase shows people are spending more time and have more of an interest in fixing up their snowmobiles.
Registrations are up everywhere, although ISMA did not have final figures. Enthusiasts rode their sleds more this season than last. ISMA found riders averaged 1,050 miles in the saddle, which is a 10 percent increase over the distance people traveled in 2007.
“Every time people put a few more miles on, they get closer to buying a new one,” Klim said. “Given this economy, double-digit growth anywhere is pretty darn good.”