Nov. 30, 2009 – OEM aims to fill a market void

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
In an effort to close the gap between youth and adult sleds, a new snowmobile manufacturer is building small-engine machines for riders who are too large for youth models but aren’t ready or don’t want to ride a full-size model.
Available this winter, Premier Recreational Products is releasing a limited number of its Enforcer 200 (MSRP: $3,679) and Enforcer 300 (MSRP: $4,289). Based in Holly, Mich., the family based, low-volume OEM isn’t looking to become just another snowmobile company, says Chris Bell, president.
“We are a company that looked at what the market needed,” he said. “What our intentions were is to build for a segment that nobody is interested in building for anymore. When you look at an interest level from the dealers and the consumers, I think it confirmed the fact that there is a need for this product in the market.”

Place in the market
Bell started the company because of his kids losing interest in snowmobiling after they started to outgrow the youth 120cc models.
“They were bored to death riding on the back of the machine, and they weren’t really interested in riding the 120 around the house anymore,” Bell said. “For the first time, I was saddened by the fact that these kids didn’t have a love for snowmobiling. One of the things I wasn’t going to do was put my kids on a full-size machine and go out and ride the trails.”
About three years ago, Bell launched Premier to appeal to a smaller rider as well as riders who aren’t interested in going faster than 40 mph.
“The machines are ergonomically designed for riders who are 48-64 inches in height,” Bell said. “The product also appeals to adults who are smaller in stature and less interested in going 50, 60, 70 mph down the trail.
“A surprising aspect is full-size men having interest in the product just because it’s lightweight. It’s nimble,” he continued. “They can use it for ice fishing and other things and be able to throw it in the back of their pickup truck. There’s versatility there as well.”

Dealer network
There are currently 30 committed Premier dealers, and Bell says the company has roughly another 100 across North America that are interested in picking up the line.
“A majority of those are ones that have contacted us,” he said. “We’ve initiated talks with a few dealers, but a majority of the dealers we have now and of the ones who are very interested, have been incoming inquiries. We’re very surprised, but it also shows we hit on a definite market void.”
The manufacturer isn’t looking to sell direct to retail, but until it has a more extensive dealer network, it will to sell direct to consumers.
“If there’s a situation where there’s not a dealer in their area, we obviously don’t expect to have all of North America covered for this season, so in those cases, we are willing to take an order direct,” Bell said. “If there’s a dealer close to them, we’ll steer that customer to that nearest dealer.”

Production
The vehicles were designed and developed at Premier’s facility in Michigan, but Premier teamed up with companies overseas for the production. The vehicles are then sent to the Michigan facility for final assembly and quality control.
Vehicle delivery is expected to begin in December, but it’s a limited launch. Bell says full production isn’t expected to start until late spring or summer.
The Enforcers are currently being built on a per order basis. The deadline for pre-Christmas delivery was Oct. 1. Orders placed after that are intended to be delivered after Jan. 4.
While the company is only doing limited production this year, it does have plans to expand its lineup, including developing a mid-sized machine. It’ll be larger than the current Enforcer models, but still smaller than a full-sized sled. The prototype is expected to be tested this winter, and if all goes as planned, it’ll be released for the 2011 riding season.
The company also plans to make branded clothing. While it’s still in progress for commercial release, Bell said, “look for it next season.”

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