1714 Freitag Drive
Menomonie, WI 54751
32,000-sq.-ft. dealership founded in 1996, three blocks from present location. Carries Polaris ATVs, snowmobiles, and Ranger utility vehicles; Arctic Cat ATVs and snowmobiles; Honda ATVs (and soon motorcycles); Club Car golf carts; and Hallmark and Newman Manufacturing trailers. Largest-selling segment is ATV. “Originally we sold 300 snowmobiles and 100 ATVs per year,” says general manager Eric Polzer, “but now those numbers have flip-flopped. Mother Nature hasn’t been very kind to us. Our snowmobile season used to start in August — people were pumped and ready to buy, and our biggest sales months were September and October. Now, customers aren’t even interested until there’s snow on the ground. They can ride an ATV 12 months of the year. Snowmobile riding is five to six weeks, if they’re lucky.” Those low-snow winters — and the economy — are helping to close the doors of weaker dealers. “It’s unfortunate for them, but a benefit for us. Just like in nature, the weak are weeded out and the strong survive.” 10 employees.
“One of the biggest concerns I have is picking up the newspaper and reading about a 10-, 11-, or 12-year-old child who got killed on his grandpa’s four-wheeler, because grandpa let him ride it,” says Polzer. “That just gets to you. It gives dealers a bad name, because the consumer thinks that we’re selling inappropriate-sized ATVs to underage kids.”
Hot ATVs at Airtec: the Polaris Sportsman 500, the new Arctic Cat 650 4x4, and the Honda Rincon 650. Hot sleds include the entire Firecat lineup from Arctic Cat, especially the F7 and F6 models. “Plows and winches are always huge,” says Polzer,” as well as windshields, wheel and tire upgrades, and ATV-mounted storage boxes.” Airtec stopped selling personal watercraft even before Tigersharks swam away. “In 1999 we called it quits with Arctic Cat, then in 2000 with Polaris. The OEMs were pushing too many units on us, and we were giving them away. There is still a need for service work, though, which we do.”
CUSTOMER BUYING TRENDS
Polzer states that the “typical” Airtec Sports customer ranges from 16 years old to “an 84-year-old gentleman who bought an Arctic Cat 650 the other day. The customer we’re looking for is 35 to 45 years old, married, with a couple of kids and an annual income of $50,000 to $60,000. We get a lot of lookers, but he’s the guy who can get financing.” Airtec Sports is in western Wisconsin, close to Minneapolis/St. Paul, “which is a big hub. We’re staring to see a lot of retired people from that area buying 40-acre hobby farms with a couple of horses. They must have a Ranger to take a hay bale out to the horses once a week!” One trend Polzer has spotted: “Our customers are adding multiple ATVs to the family, like youth ATVs for their kids. And people are accessorizing their ATVs much more than in the past. We have a catalog with more than 600 pages of accessories. Last year, on average, people added $600 to $700 in accessories per ATV in the first six months of ownership. We sell a lot of snowplows so they can justify the ATV purchase to their wife. ‘I can plow our yard myself with the four-wheeler’ — both times that it snows this year!”
“Our county does not have any ATV trails at all — we’re primarily a farming community,” says Polzer. “We do have an excellent snowmobile trail system, but it’s tough to get an ATV trail in this area with all the privately owned land. The watercraft industry is horrible around here — the no-wake zones and laws have pretty much stopped watercraft outright.”
PARTS AND SERVICE
Airtec has a parts manager and one parts salesperson, four shop technicians, and the service writer position rotates among parts, sales, and office staff. “We’re not quite large enough to pay somebody to just be a service writer,” says Polzer. “We’re trying to get over that hump.”
PROMOTIONAL HOME RUNS
Airtec’s promotions include radio and newspaper advertising, and lots of personal appearances. “There are two huge annual events within a 45-minute drive — Rockfest and Countryfest — that draw 250,000 to 300,000 people,” notes Polzer. “We supply golf carts to them from our rental fleet, and get a display booth in return. It’s a great setup.” Other venues for the dealership: local fairs, car and go-kart racetracks, mall shows, tractor pulls, home shows, and hunting shows like the Northern Wisconsin White Tail Classic in nearby Eau Claire. “At two to three events every month,” says Polzer, “it gets to be a lot of weekends, but it has proven to be very good for us.” On a more relaxing note, the staff just attended Polaris’s 50th anniversary party in Minneapolis/St. Paul. “It was a very big event.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
“The money is in accessories,” advises Polzer, and the dealership accessorizes units on its showroom floor. And what keeps customers coming back? “It’s not prices, the size of your store, or how it looks,” he says. “It’s service. Anybody can sell to somebody one time, but it’s repeat customers that keeps things going. We have wonderful service and work on a lot of vehicles with other dealers’ stickers. They later buy their vehicles from us. We have the first — and so far, only — Arctic Cat Gold CatMaster Technician in the state of Wisconsin. We’ve been Polaris Service Dealer of the Year in our 80-dealer district for multiple years.” psb
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