New form of trail access coming to dealers across the U.S. – July 3, 2006

Ask Chris Connelly about his business, TrailPass. “The concept of it is not hard to get,” he said. ATVers go to their local dealer and spend $75 for a pass that gives them access to private trails in 11 states, with more to come in six more states.
Based on a similar program for snowmobilers, Connelly wondered why the trail pass model couldn’t work for the ATV industry. In 2003, he launched the Lake George, N.Y., business with three trails in upstate New York and “two handfuls of dealers to sell the passes.” Today, with multiple trails available in each of the 11 states in the network, Connelly says he will sell more than 10,000 passes this year with the help of 115 dealers. His renewal rate is 85 percent and he says 68 percent of his first-year buyers are still buying the pass.
Two weeks ago, Tucker Rocky began distributing the passes nationwide. “This is huge for us,” Connelly said. “We went from a handful of people who could talk to the dealers to the, what do they have, 126 reps across the country? There’s nothing bigger on our radar for this year.”
In addition to selling more passes, Connelly said the relationship with Tucker Rocky gives his company credibility. “Our growth seems like an unbelievable story. It’s too good to be true. When you have a national distributor, it takes away some of that ‘too good to be true’ aura. You can talk on a more business-like level.”
Glen Urquhart, director of the ATV segment for Tucker Rocky, said his company has been interested in working with TrailPass for several years and sponsored them for two years before signing on as distributor. “As we entered our second year of sponsorship, it became obvious that given TrailPass’ wholesale/retail business model, there was a natural fit with TrailPass as a vendor partner for us,” he said.
He said TrailPass will see continued growth in attracting dealers, “however, that number is greatly dependent on the geography and timing of new riding areas and expansion of existing areas within the TrailPass network.” Maintaining a quality network of trails will determine TrailPass’ future, he said.
The pass costs $75 at the dealership and $85 online. “We’re discouraging the online route and encouraging people to walk into their dealerships.”
The pass sold in dealerships contains a 25 percent markup, Connelly said. Some of the rest goes to ATV clubs in the trail areas. This works because a club member privately owned most of the trails in the TrailPass system. By joining TrailPass, the clubs can afford insurance and equipment, and the trails become open to anyone with the pass. The trails are not public and no public money is spent on them.
Connelly said the TrailPass helps dealers who are losing ATV business. “ATV sales are down for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that people say they are not going to spend a lot of money when they have no place to ride except their backyard. They’d spend the money if they had a place to ride.”
With TrailPass, a customer can ask a dealer where he can ride, and the dealer can produce places in 11 states. “What better way is there for a dealership to show they are king in their area than to bring the trails to the people?” Connelly said.
The dealer network is the key to making TrailPass work, Connelly said. “Ninety-nine percent of the people who want to know about trails call their dealer first,” he said. “They’re the central point of information. To be able to give them the information right away is pretty powerful.” psb

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