Jim Dye, general manager and owner of Powersports HQ in Charleston, Illinois, saw some recognizable vehicles as he traversed the shiny Roxor assembly facility in March at the Mahindra Automotive North America headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He was an insider of sorts, among the hundreds of employees and politicians on hand for the party atmosphere of the U.S. reveal of the Roxor.
Along with selling Can-Am vehicles, he’s a Mahindra tractor dealer. First-year tractor sales success led to an offer to visit the Mahindra factory in Chennai, India, last year.
“I had lunch with (chairman) Anan Mahindra when I was there in August. He told us about the origins of the Roxor, which is called a Thar in India. We took a ride in one there, after we toured the Taj Mahal and we were on board from ‘jump,’” Dye shared. “Especially the story is exciting. Made in America, partnered with the U.S. economy — that’s something we always look for at our dealership.”
The next hurdle was merely securing his dealer agreement.
“I kept trying to reach out to Roxor to make sure I could get on board, and they said ‘We’ll call you, we’ll call you.’ Then later I saw their ad in Powersports Business that they were looking for dealers and finally I called them and told them we need to get signed up, and finally we got booked.”
When Mahindra district sales manager Jeff Goodwin first made the journey to central Illinois with the demo, Dye and his staff were impressed. Like the highly successful Can-Am Defender, Dye expects the Roxor to be a sales staple at his shop.
“Our customer base is off-road, and we have the tractors for the ranchers,” he said. “I think this will be a good crossover. We’re excited to be a partner. It’s a proud organization all the way to the roots.”
Dye was familiar with the history of his new showroom floor addition. Mahindra manufactured the old Willys in India for postwar Pacific Rim nations beginning in 1947. The turbo diesel Roxor offers 2,000 pounds towing capacity, 9 inches of ground clearance and 62 horsepower. Maximum speed on the 5-speed manual is 45 mph. The steel body on a boxed-steel frame brings a new type of sturdiness to the side-by-side segment.
It’s a story that many are apparently eager to hear.
“The launch could not have gone better. We are now a 12-day-old business and everyone in powersports/motorsports and the auto industry basically knows who we are and what Roxor is,” said Luc de Gaspe Beaubien, the former BRP and Baja Motorsports executive who is now vice president of Sales and Service for MANA. “Even the public-at-large has crossed the threshold of awareness.”
“The dealers absolutely loved the product, the passion of the people here building them and the opportunity that our business model represents. It’s more of a partnership than anything else out there.”
Dealers — some 250 had signed up within five months of the initial approach by district sales managers — were obviously eager to learn more about the brand. About 99 percent of them were expected to have attended the meeting and demo ride in San Antonio at the end of March.
Roxor admits to a new way of doing business with dealers, with an automotive-style retail model, including a true order-to-delivery, dedicated factory with all units assembled in Michigan. The company says its margins and exclusive dealer territories are significantly larger than that of a traditional powersports manufacturer, including a five-year dealer agreement, compared to the traditional one-year pact.
Barry Usher, president of Beartooth Harley-Davidson in Billings, Montana, and Buffalo Bill Harley-Davidson in Cody, Wyoming, is straightforward about the sales prospects of the Roxor. For private land use only, the Roxor base model has a $15,499 MSRP.
“It’s a game-changer. It’s a new category and it’s sweet,” Usher said. “It’s kind of like Slingshot’s been — a whole different product. It’s not the current side-by-sides, and it’s not a Jeep. In Montana we have jeep clubs and we have the side-by-side clubs. This is in between. And it’s a tough vehicle.”
Usher also co-owns two Hawaii Motorsports locations with business partner Brian Cebull, and plans to bring the Roxor to the Harley-Davidson and metric stores there.
“I can see the rental and tour operators being interested,” he said. “Other than that, there’s a good Roxor market for farmers and ranchers there.”
Usher reports a strong Harley business in 2018, with more deposits than he’s had in years, despite (and perhaps because of) the coldest and snowiest winter in Billings in 40 years.
Many of those customers will be intrigued by the diesel engine, as well as the customization options. We were treated to some off-limits nooks at the Auburn Hills factory where future accessories were being built, and they will be popular and profitable additions.
Performance Powersports in Seneca, South Carolina, experienced firsthand the interest that the new model is gaining. The dealership’s tried-and-true walkaround video of the demo unit with no voiceover — too many folks were interrupting them to ask questions about it as the video was being made — reached 23,000 views in its first seven days on the store’s YouTube.
“I mean that’s unheard of. People love our product and get it,” Beaubien said. “And that’s with a local market that has a population of 9,000. And it’s a dealer posting with no advertising.”
Mike Hopple of American Powersports in Findlay, Ohio, already carries brands like Argo, E-Z-GO and GEM, along with Polaris, Slingshot, Yamaha, Can-Am, Sea-Doo, Arctic Cat, Suzuki, Textron Off Road and Ski-Doo. He figures the Roxor will be a solid fit in his showroom.
“It’s a nice unit, definitely different than everything else that’s out there,” Hopple said. “It’s going to be a niche market vehicle. I’m hoping it picks up the millennials, as well as picks up the older guys. It caught me. When I first got in it, I was like ‘Yes, we can sell this.’”
And while his local topography might not be ideal for such a machine, there are locations that are accessible.
“A lot of our sales of off-road vehicles are to people who travel — West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky. Just throw it on the trailer and go,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dave Gardenour, general manager of Peacock, Ltd. in Baldwin, Michigan, sells to a clientele that takes advantage of outdoor opportunities, with the Manistee National Forest nearby.
“I’ve always been a fan of the older Jeeps, and that’s what it brought to my mind — it’s really cool,” he said. “It’s different than the other side-by-sides and stuff that’s out there, but in our area, even though it’s not street legal, it’ll be a great fit for us. Our rep brought in a demo, and our mechanics looked it over and were very impressed with it, how easy things are to access. The construction is very solid.”
Finally, Gardenour, like the others, figures the Roxor will bring a range of prospective customers.
“It’ll appeal to the newer customer as something different out there, easier to get in and out of — versus some of the other side-by-sides — for some people. I think it’ll also appeal to the 50-and-over crowd because it’ll remind them of the Jeeps, and that’s what they remember going two-tracking with, or running through the woods with. I think it’ll do well.”
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