Editor’s note: John Prusak, editor of Snow Goer, a sister publication to Powersports Business, recently attended the International Snowmobile Congress in Niagara Falls, New York, and returned with the following report.
Buoyed by a strong winter season in 2013-14 that drove snowmobile sales last fall, purchases of new snowmobiles grew by 8 percent in the United States and 4 percent in Canada in the 2015 selling season, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA).
The figures, announced Friday morning at the International Snowmobile Congress in Niagara Falls, New York, show a positive uptick in a market that suffered from snowless winter conditions in many areas of the Upper Midwest and Northwest last winter. But so many new sleds were sold before December of 2014 that the limited riding opportunities last winter didn’t hurt sales as much as some people may have expected.
“We were up 20 to 30 percent at one point” in the fall, Ed Klim, the executive director of ISMA, said when announcing the figures Friday morning. “Then sales slowed down quite a bit” when snow didn’t fall in many states through last winter, he said.
Sales of new snowmobiles in 2015 selling season (considered from May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015) in the U.S. reached 58,299, Klim said, compared to 54,028 in the 2014 selling season, and 48,536 in the 2013 season. That’s an increase of more than 20 percent over a two-year period.
Meanwhile, in Canada, sales in the 2015 season were 50,752, up from 48,758 in 2014 and 44,022 in 2013.
This was all despite a snowless or low-snow winter in many areas west of the Great Lakes, including popular snowmobiling states like Minnesota and much of Wisconsin, plus many mountain states. West of the Mississippi, Colorado was one of the few states that had a better-than-normal winter. That said, snowfall in the Northeast was fabulous in many areas, giving riders in hot riding states like New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine seemingly endless riding opportunities.
Those aforementioned strong pre-season sales also resulted in very low inventories at dealerships, Klim said, calling them the “lowest inventory levels since I’ve been here,” and Klim has been at the helm of ISMA since 1995.
International Sales Fall
It wasn’t all good news from Klim on Friday, however.
The strong sales in North America were not able to overcome a monstrous decline in snowmobile sales in Russia, so worldwide sales of new snowmobiles declined in the 2015 season to 150,713, from 157,106 in the 2014 selling season. Looking a little bit further out, though, the numbers look comparatively better: In 2013, new snowmobile sales worldwide were 144,601 and 129,087 in 2012.
Klim said sales in Northern European counties like Sweden and Finland were flat, year-over-year, but Russian sales dropped by “close to 30 percent.”
The collapse of the value of Russian currency, political instability and decline in oil prices have all had a major impact on the Russian economy, Klim said. That explosion of worldwide sales between 2012 and 2014 was largely driven by a burst in Russian sales.