Established tuner introduces new powersports focus
Truck performace enthusiasts, especially those with hopped-up diesel engines, know all about Bully Dog, an Idaho-based performance company that specializes in electronic engine tuning to extract more speed, fuel mileage and towing power out of vehicles.
With its well-established reputation in the pickup and semi-truck markets, the company has now set its sights on the powersports crowd, a commitment demonstrated in September by its massive presence at the annual Haydays snowmobile gathering in north-central Minnesota. Its intentions were clear: introducing the company as a new powerhouse in the tuning of snowmobiles, side-by-sides and, eventually, ATVs.
With a bold logo of a bulldog sporting a spiked collar, massive paws and sharp teeth, Bully Dog’s image was plastered on banners and stickers throughout the grounds of Haydays. Its sprawling booth attracted large crowds, drawn in by a diesel drag race-modified Dodge Ram that spewed a massive plume of black smoke on the hour to demonstrate the power gains possible with Bully Dog equipment.
Powersports Business took in the drag-truck spectacle, and afterward sat down with Bully Dog’s Jarid Vollmer, of the company’s race tech department. Vollmer is also an accomplished National Hot Rod Diesel Association racer, and the big bad Dodge happens to be his personal race truck.
A family enterprise
Bully Dog is a family-owned company that began in the tiny town of Aberdeen, Idaho, just west of Pocatello. Its electrical systems and components allow the tuning of engine performance and tailoring of vehicles to specific applications, be it heavy-duty towing, lead-footed driving, high-mileage cruising or even drag racing.
From its initial diesel propane-injection systems, Bully Dog has expanded its product range to include cold-air intake, exhaust systems and fuel additives in addition to its monitoring gauges and tuners for gas and diesel applications.
Vollmer explains its recent interest in the powersports market as a logical byproduct of Bully Dog’s development staff.
“We’ve all ridden powersports, we’re all hobbyists, we love it,” he said. “One of our owners, Michael Klassen, used to have a dealership, so he was selling sleds and stuff like that. We figure this is a good market to get into.”
The key to its gauges and tuner boxes involves monitoring performance vitals, such as pressure, boost, temperature and RPMs, or going further by changing the engine control unit (ECU) settings to be compatible with additional performance upgrades and unlock claimed performance gains tailored to many different applications.
“We’re looking to hit the monitoring aspect and the tuning aspect of ECUs on all the powersports vehicles,” Vollmer said. “We’re looking at snowmobiles right now, and getting into UTVs, so we’re going to go all the way around and try to hit what we can.”
Working with performance shops
The big announcement at the Bully Dog booth was its new Powersports GT (gauge tuner) aimed at the snowmobile market. Its first applications are for 800cc variants of the Polaris RMK snowmobiles, one of many mountain-specific snowmobiles that are often modified for the extreme performance needed to climb the tallest peaks.
While Bully Dog is starting small, it intends to cover the entire snowmobile market in due time. The company expects 600cc versions to follow, as well as products for Ski-Doo’s mountain sleds.
Part of its strategy involves teaming up with big-name performance shops like SLP, BoonDocker and Silber Turbos. In such arrangements, Bully Dog would provide the hardware, while the aftermarket shops will provide the tuning to maximize performance gains with modifications like pipes, cold-air intake upgrades or turbo systems.
“Those are the guys that are out on the sleds all the time. They’re developing product for these sleds, and we want something to help their products sell,” Vollmer said.
Bully Dog intends to sell its powersports products direct on its website, through distributors and at select speed shops across the country.
As the company works to fill out its snowmobile product line, it’s concurrently working on development for its on-dirt products in the side-by-side and ATV markets. Its current focus is the popular Polaris RZR model.
“The RZR is going to get us a really good market share,” Vollmer said. “We can monitor engine vitals right now and can give you all of the statistics and vitals of the engine. We want to actually get in there and change ECU settings, so we’re working hard to get that done.”
In the side-by-side arena, the Arctic Cat Wildcat and Can-Am Commander will be its focus after working on the RZR. With in-house interest in dirt bikes, the company may also enter that market.
While it expects to compete on price, Bully Dog plans to position its Idaho-built products as better able to handle the harsh environments and conditions its modules will encounter in snowmobile and off-road applications.