Polaris bristles at PWC sales report

According to an April 15th report circulated in most of the boating news dailies, Polaris personal watercraft sales were down a whopping 49% for the first quarter of 2003.
The report — which detailed record-high first quarter earnings for the company overall, thanks in large part to the ATV division — cited sales of only $11.6 million in PWC revenue for the Medina, Minn., manufacturer’s first three months, off from $22.6-million in the first quarter of 2002.
Alarming? Not when put into perspective, according to Polaris watercraft head Ron Bills.
“That really irritated me,” said an obviously frustrated Bills during an interview with Powersports Business.
“That’s shipments; how many units we shipped in the first quarter last year versus how many units we shipped in the first quarter this year. So what really happened last year was we shipped more product in the first quarter because it was all of our current model designs.
“The bulk of our MSX shipments, which is the bulk of our sales this year, all happened in the second quarter. So it was a shipment timing issue, not a sales issue.
“The way it came down in that press release was ‘Polaris Sales Plummet 49%’ and I had to read that twice myself. I figured they knew something I didn’t know. If you read it, it all relates to shipment timing, not sales.”
According to Bills, Polaris began shipping only a token number of the MSX product line in December 2002. The majority of dealer shipments, however, took place after the end of the first quarter, resulting in the seemingly dramatic drop in demand. “We shipped a small quantity of MSXs in December to fill the dealer’s pipeline for boat shows,” explained Bills. “The bulk of our MSXs started shipping the first of April, which is second quarter.
“Our sales are actually up, so the shipments aren’t a good indicator of our retail.”
The reports are especially disappointing given the dramatic makeover the company has given their watercraft line. But with the product now available through a wide range of dealerships, Bills says he’s ready to let the product itself do the talking.
“It’s nice to finally communicate with product our new direction and focus,” said the man who has not only overhauled the personal watercraft line, but also guided the company’s foray into the sport boat market. “It’s nice to be getting the new generation of product with focus on quality, reliability, attention to detail, fit and finish, performance, value, style, all those things. To see the execution of our strategic objectives becoming reality.”
Polaris indicated it expects personal watercraft sales to actually show an overall increase for the year, compared to unit sales in 2002.

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