Features

May 12, 2008 – Woody’s takes on the quad market

By Lisa Young
Editorial Assistant
A longtime fixture in the snowmobile market, the maker of Woody’s Traction products is diversifying its business and expanding into other powersports segments.
After years of bringing carbide and traction innovations to snowmobilers, International Engineering & Manufacturing (IEM) is ready to make its first foray into the ATV and UTV markets with a product called Pail Pal.
The move comes just in time for Hope, Mich.-based IEM’s 40th anniversary. President Robert Musselman hails the expansion as the next step in the company’s evolution.
“(Entering the ATV/UTV market) has been on the plate for quite a few years,” Musselman said. “Recreational business is our forte. We saw some of the designs and applications (for the Pail Pal) and thought this would be a good product for us.”
The Pail Pal is a bucket handler system for ATVs and UTVs that can be attached to the vehicle’s back end. It can handle two pails at a time and has two receiver sizes: 11?4 inches and 2 inches.
The product hasn’t hit dealer shelves quite yet, but it will be there soon, Musselman says. In late April, IEM was offering the product to its distributors at preseason levels.
IEM sees two potential markets for the Pail Pal. On the utility side, farmers can use the product to haul feed or water without needing a wagon. In recreation, Musselman sees the product fitting a variety of needs, from holding pails of ice for fishermen to hauling sports paraphernalia.
Why branch out? The timing just seemed right, Musselman says. Plus the company had interest in other powersports markets, and there were holes opening up in its manufacturing schedule.
“It is a way to fill in the voids between the snow and even out manufacturing time,” Musselman said.
Demand for snowmobile aftermarket products has likely dropped off in tandem with the slowdown in snowmobile sales in the past several years. Compared to 1997, more than 100,000 fewer units were sold in 2007. While the 2008 season is generally believed to have been a positive one (final numbers have not been released), the snowmobile industry has been plagued by lackluster snowfall for the previous two seasons.
IEM has built versatile manufacturing capabilities into its facilities. Most of the manufacturing equipment is geared toward building snowmobile studs and runners, but the machines offer flexibility to also be used for creating ATV and UTV products, Musselman says.
ATVs and UTVs seem like the right markets to go after as well, Musselman says. The segment is more dominant in much of the nation than snowmobiling, and UTV sales continue to skyrocket.
Entering into the ATV and UTV marketplace hasn’t been without its challenges for IEM, but Musselman is taking up the project with vigor.
“There’s a definite learning curve,” Musselman said. “It’s really because the ATV business is a much larger industry than snowmobile. We’ve been learning all the facets of how the distribution process works, making new contacts, working on design and engineering; the whole spectrum.”
The Pail Pal is testing the waters for IEM’s ability to eventually add more products and create a full line of ATV and UTV items. After the Pail Pal launch, IEM will evaluate how things went and further plan for the next steps the company will take.
“We’re waiting for responses from our dealers and distributors anxiously,” Musselman said. “Once we have that, we anticipate it will be a very successful product.”
The Pail Pal and any subsequent ATV and UTV products will carry the Woody’s Traction brand name, Musselman says. The move means continuity and brand recognition for Woody’s customers who also have ATVs or UTVs.
IEM’s long-term intention is to further diversify into other venues, especially in the recreational powersports market, Musselman says.
In adding the Pail Pal to its lineup, IEM isn’t so much redefining itself as expanding its focus, Musselman notes. That inclusive philosophy is what brought the company to the snowmobile business in the first place.
IEM’s snowmobile runners and studs certainly won’t be put on the back burner for the ATV and UTV markets, Musselman says.
“Our intent and hope is that the snowmobile segment continues to prosper, especially after the successful winter everyone had last year,” he said. Though final numbers are not in for the past season, things are looking up, Musselman adds.
IEM is getting ready for a big launch for its two new snowmobile products on top of getting the Pail Pal off the ground. The Slim Jim Dooly carbide runner reduces sled weight up to 31 percent, Musselman says. The Grand Master Stud is for Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo single-ply tracks.
“Both shall do very well this year,” Musselman said. “We’re anticipating a very optimistic year as far as sales in the upcoming year.”

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