New sled customers decreasing, survey says – February 12, 2007

When a snowmobile buyer walks into Waldoch Sports in Forest Lake, Minn., odds are it’s not the first time he or she has made a snowmobile purchase.
“New buyers have definitely dropped down,” said Mike Mollo, salesman at Waldoch.
That fits the trend observed in Powersports Business’ national dealer survey, where 55 percent of dealers questioned said the number of new buyers is decreasing. Thirty-seven percent of the dealers said it was holding steady, and 8 percent noticed an increase.
Dealers estimate 9.5 percent of sales are to sport newcomers. Two similar motorcycle surveys put that industry’s newcomer rate at about 20 percent.
“That number is quite different depending on the market you’re looking at,” said Polaris CEO Tom Tiller. “The ATV number across the industry is much higher than that. Traditionally that number is between 25-40 percent, which equates to roughly three or four times compared to what it is for snowmobiles.
“Motorcycle depends an awful lot on the segment you’re in. As you move along the market on motorcycles, the market for new customers is still substantially higher than snowmobiles, but way less for a touring bike than a mini bike.”
In a 2006 International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association survey of motorsports-friendly nonsnowmobilers, three definite barriers for entry became clear: the machine cost, difficulty of use (access to snow, time constraints, lack of training, no perceived social benefit) and a perception that trails are not safe. However, eight of 10 people surveyed said they would be interested in buying a snowmobile.
Mollo said he’s noticed an increase with entry-level buyers, people in their young 20s who are buying for the first time, particularly a Yamaha Phazer.
Jamie Wood, manager at KDK Sports in Rome, N.Y., indicated that his dealership is one that’s bucking the trend.
Sales have been down overall — the Ski-Doo dealer used to sell more than 100 machines annually, now it’s about 60 units.
“But most of my new unit sales are to new customers,” he said. “All of the other guys are not putting on enough miles to warrant buying a new machine.”
Wood said the dealership isn’t doing anything special to attract new buyers, other than advertising deep discounts. psb

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