April 2, 2007 – Big February turnaround may not be enough for sled market

A February filled with snowfall in key snowmobile areas led to a big selling season turnaround.
But there’s doubt about whether the turnaround was enough to stave off the 10th consecutive year of reduced new snowmobile sales in the United States.
Snowmobile dealerships across North America reported a 31 percent increase in new unit sales in February compared to the previous year, said Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA).
The February findings come from warranty data that dealerships send to manufacturers, who in turn provide to the ISMA.
“It was kind of a shock to us actually,” Klim said of the February sales.
The findings come a month after Powersports Business surveyed dealers in 25 states about their 2006-’07 sled sales. At that time, the 152 dealers said that on average their new unit business was down 40 percent compared to the previous year.
“So thank God it started to snow around Jan. 20,” Klim said. “And then it stopped at the end of March. But February was pretty darn good.”
Still, Klim isn’t forecasting a new unit sales gain for the United States. Although he won’t see final year numbers until mid-April, he does keep track of sales numbers enough to take some educated guesses. Klim predicts new unit sales will be up in western Canada and the western United States, in some cases significantly, while it will be down in the Midwest and Great Lakes region. Overall, he believes sales in Canada will be flat or slightly up and down somewhat in the United States.
Last year, the U.S. market was down 9 percent to 91,670 units.
Worldwide, the new unit sales number fell to 164,860, a 5 percent decrease from the previous year and a 26.5 percent drop from five years ago.
Besides the February upturn, Klim also has seen other positives for the snowmobile market, including:
n Tax collection data from tourism bureaus around the U.S. show snowmobile tourists hit the snow in record numbers in February. Plus, a recent report from Yellowstone National Park said its snowmobile visitors increased 12.3 percent this year compared to the previous year.
n GoSnowmobiling.org, a relatively new Web site created for snowmobilers and nonsnowmobilers, had more than 500,000 visits in the month of February alone.
n Sales in Russia and Scandinavia, both emerging markets, are probably going to be up this year, Klim said.
The ISMA president also has received positive reports from aftermarket suppliers as well.
“I got a couple of phone calls from suppliers who stay in touch and they said, ‘Things were looking pretty rough but, boy, February sure brought us out of it,’” Klim said.

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