When Gilles Soucey founded Kimpex Distributing 35 years ago, the company was known for its product innovation, much of it developed by Soucey’s other Canadian manufacturing companies. But somewhere, somehow, Kimpex drifted away from that strength after Soucey sold the distributor business to a group of investors in 1993.
During the next six years, it struggled, dodging bankruptcy several times. Then, in 1999, Soucey repurchased the company and named turnaround specialist Andre Larouche president.
“Kimpex had lost sight of its innovative side,” said Guy Normandin, vice president of U.S. sales for Kimpex, during a recent interview with Powersports Business. “We were distributing for others, but… Last year, we put a lot of emphasis on rebuilding our lines.”
And now, after the turbulence of recent years, the Kimpex team is eagerly looking ahead to a year of growth in 2004, says Normandin.
Last January, Larouche was dumped and Soucey took over day-to-day operations, serving as chairman, president and CEO. Two months earlier, Soucey had brought in Bombardier veteran Robert Handfield as vice president of research, a new position. “We really felt we needed to be more innovative,” says Normandin in discussing Handfield’s hiring.
Handfield had spent the previous 10 years on the engineering side at Bombardier and gets much of the credit for developing the successful Ski-Doo REV platform. “That was my baby,” he said during a conference call with Normandin, “and I know it very well.”
In addition to Handfield and Normandin, who also serves as CFO, the Kimpex top management team consists of Soucey’s son, Stephan, who is executive vice president; Michel Cote, vice president of Canadian sales; and Daniel Chandonnet, vice president of operations.
“That’s the group that’s going to lead Kimpex for the next 20 years,” says Normandin, of the five; all in their 40s.
Noting that Kimpex has posted double digit sales growth over the last three years in spite of major personnel and ownership changes, Normandin sees the same growth again this year. “We firmly believe we will achieve this,” he says, “not by being the cheapest, but by innovation.”
Kimpex also is moving to improve productivity and customer service to handle this growth, says Normandin. The company recently closed its inside sales staff housed at its Shakopee, Minn., warehouse, consolidating all inside sales at its Champlain, N.Y., facility.
With that move, Kimpex now has 16 people in Champlain to handle inside sales, marketing and credit operations from the East Coast to California and Washington. It has seven road reps to service the snow belt, basically Maine to Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s especially strong in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Kimpex offers marine products in Canada, where revenues from the four product categories — ATV, marine, motorcycle and snow — are about equal. In the U.S., snow and ATV are equal revenue generators, trailed by motorcycle. There’s no marine business in the U.S.Kimpex ships from four small warehouses and a 70,000 sq. ft. facility in Drummondville, Quebec, where it is based. A 30,000 sq. ft expansion is being added there. Kimpex has 30,000 sq. ft. facilities in London, Ontario, Calgary, Champlain and Shakopee.
While the company is going heavy on ATV accessory development, perhaps the best example of product innovation at Kimpex is the Cat Track kit developed for ATVs. The multiple track unit, which converts a standard 400cc or larger utility ATV for use in snow and mud, retails for about $2,800 and has been a big seller in both Canada and the U.S.“At the beginning,” says Handfield, “the idea was working utilities, but now people see there is a lot of fun to riding it. Now a bunch of guys are riding it in deep snow; it’s a great toy for winter. It’s not even close to the fun you can have with a snowmobile, it’s not as fast, but it’s a very nice toy.”
It was introduced in Canada but Kimpex couldn’t get enough units from its supplier to meet the demand. Today Kimpex, which provides some 98% of the supplier’s revenue, says the capacity problem has been solved.
The track kit was introduced in the U.S. in March and now sales are about equal between the U.S. and Canada.
“There’s huge potential for the track kit,” says Normandin, declining to provide sales figures.
Even though the kit presents some engineering challenges, there have been no returns or problems in the field.
“We know the snowmobile business,” says Handfield, “and we just made it very tough and reliable. It’s a top notch product.”
Kimpex also is expanding its snowmobile hard parts line and has upgraded its motorcycle helmet offerings. New helmets to be shown at Indianapolis include four new models from the Shark motorcycle line, led by the top of the line RSR Grand Prix helmet priced at more than U.S. $600. The company’s house brand of CKX helmets also has been expanded and improved.
The Kimpex team is looking forward to making an aggressive presentation at Indy this year, say Normandin and Handfield. “We’re much more comfortable with our products,” says Normandin.
It looks as though Kimpex may be ready to grab some market share now that it’s gone back to its roots of product development.
Helmet house is standing pat
Helmet House, Calabasas Hills, Calif., may have had its product offerings diminished when AXO decided to go dealer direct, but it’s not anxious to replace the line.
“We’re not looking to add any more brands, but looking to focus on the brands that we have,” Mark Gandy, Helmet House director of products, told Powersports Business. “We have Shoei exclusively; we have HJC, where we are one of three U.S. distributors; and then of course we have our own Tourmaster and Cortech brands, where we’ve added a leather line.
“We’re just focusing on the development of the products we have, and looking at ways to just freshen up the Cortech/Tourmaster line.”
Shoei’s current line-up includes the all-new RF-1000 full-face road helmet and the Limited Edition Daijiro Memorial X-Eleven, designed for 250cc World Champion Daijiro Kato, who died in April following a high speed crash at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Other Shoei lids include the X-Eleven full-face, Z11 full-face, TZ-1 full-face and VFX-R Air off-road helmet.
The year 2003 brought the largest product line overhaul in HJC’s history, with seven new models and 10 new graphics introduced. Product offerings now include seven street open-face helmets; seven street full-face; eight off-road, including the youth-sized CL-X4 “Fuel”; and four helmets for snowmobiling, including the CL-X4C “Ryzer” youth lid.
The Cortech Leather Collection — the Impulse, Coaster and Magnum jackets; Apex and Decker pants; and perforated Magnum Air jacket and Apex Air pant — features top-grain, Grade-A Aniline dyed leather garments. The Tourmaster collection includes men’s and women’s apparel, gloves, rain suits, and motorcycle and ATV luggage and bags.
Established in 1969, Helmet House operates out of its California location and a large shipping facility in Memphis, Tenn.
WHITE BROS. HIRES CFO
Performance specialist White Brothers, Yorba Linda, Calif., has named Marty Brogden to the position of CFO, responsible for all finance, dealer credit, legal and human resource responsibilities within the company.
Brogden has over 20 years senior financial management experience including positions at various manufacturing and distribution companies. He began his career in public accounting and is a CPA. He also brings extensive experience in high growth environments, including both organic growth and mergers and acquisitions.
KURYAKYN heads SOUTH Kuryakyn, the Wisconsin-based manufacturer of cruiser parts and accessories, has leased 1,200 sq. ft. of office space at Arlington Park Square Shopping Center in Arlington, Texas.
“We opened a sales office with five people working there right now,” Tom Rudd, Kuryakyn president, told Powersports Business. “We had a hard time hiring enough sales people in the Somerset, Wisc., area because it was just far enough from Minneapolis/St. Paul where it proved hard to get people with the appropriate knowledge. So we thought we’d just open an office in Ft. Worth, and that’s what we did.”
Rudd said the recent hires are former Chrome Specialties employees. “They took some employees from me when I owned Drag Specialties,” he said, “and so I’ve taken some back from them.”
While the new business space in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area currently houses the half-dozen new employees, Rudd said expansion during 2004 “will probably double that.”
Kuryakyn was purchased in early 2001 to be a part of the Motorsport Aftermarket Group (MAG, Inc.). MAG, based in Yorba Linda, Calif., also owns White Brothers, Progressive Suspension and Vance & Hines. It was created as a holding company by the San Francisco investment firm of Duff Ackerman & Goodrich.
For more information about Kuryakyn or its products, call 715/247-2184 or visit www.kuryakyn.com.
Tucker Rocky, IFW EXTEND CONTRACT
Extending a ten-year relationaship, Tucker-Rocky Distributing, Ft. Worth, Texas and Intersport Fashions West, Tustin, Calif., have signed a two-year contract under which Tucker will to continue the distribution of Firstgear brand product.
In other T-R news, the distributor has teamed up with cleaning products supplier Simple Green to offer a new line of product specifically for the powersports industry.
MEFO seeks u.s. partner
Hoping to deliver its product in time for winter, Mefo-Sport GmbH, Röthlein, Germany, says it is seeking a U.S. importer and distributor for its new line of spiked off-road tires.
The line includes 17, 18, 19 and 21-inch enduro, trail and competition tires produced with spikes ranging from 6mm to 7mm in length and machine-set in patterns of 220 to 290 spikes for the rear and 180 spikes for the front.
Although it offers tires for a variety of motorcycle disciplines — enduro, motorcross, speedway and street, among others — spiked tires represent a new niche for the company.
In its process, each individual spike is set into the tire block and bonded by machine, ensuring exact positioning and bonding.
With development and production 100% in Germany, Mefo Sport already distributes throughout Europe, including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and North Africa. The company is led by Joachim Liebl, with assistance from Detlef Samonil, sales and marketing; Wolfgang Kömm, finance; Tamara Rinner in marketing; Dagmar Hauck, sales; and Anthony W. Seubert, media coordinator.
For more information about Mefo-Sport, visit www.mefo.de or contact Rinner at the factory, firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEMANS CORP. TAPS DYE
Wisconsin-based LeMans Corporation, parent company to Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties, hired Steve Dye, former publisher and editor-in-chief of industry trade magazine Motorcycle Product News, to fill the newly created position of Media Development.
Working with LeMans Chairman Fred Fox, President/CEO Jeff Fox, and VP of Sales Greg Blackwell in a variety of marketing functions,he also will contribute to Parts Magazine in association with Don Emde Productions.