FOCUS – OEMs, Aftermarket Adapt to Low Snow, Declining Unit Sales

In this issue of Powersports Business, we talk with vehicle manufacturers, aftermarket companies and dealers in an attempt to get an accurate look at the issues affecting the snowmobile industry, which has dealt with nearly a decade of poor conditions in many parts of the United States' snowbelt.
According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), dealers in the U.S. moved approximately 100,899 units in 2005, down 6% from sales in 2004 and representing the worst snowmobile retail year since 1993.
But, despite what the sales figures show, OEMs, aftermarket companies and dealers with whom Powersports Business recently spoke varied their opinion of what the trends are that shape the snowmobile industry.
After all, while new unit sales were down, sales in terms of dollars were actually up substantially. In fact, 2005 marked the first time in four years that dollars grew over the previous year, and the $825,725,000 that 2005 models generated was an increase of $114 million over '04.
John Tranby, Arctic Cat marketing and communications manager, said he felt the industry suffered from “spotty” snowfall. “And the problem is that it came so late,” he said.
For Yamaha, the market is completely different. Yamaha has experienced an increase in unit sales - something product manager Adam Sylvester notes appears to be driven by models like the Apex, Attak and Nytro, part of the company's stable of four-stroke high-performance sleds.
Then there's dealers, some of whom say they feel snow depths or product innvations have less to do with market conditions than the supply chain.
“Basically, we're selling more but making less,” one well-established dealer told Powersports Business. The reason? “There are too many dealers, they have to sell to cash-flow themselves, and they're killing the margins,” he said.

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