Jun. 14, 2010 – Speeding up with Spyder

When BRP’s first on-road vehicle hit the road in 2008, the debate it stirred wasn’t only the attractiveness of its unique Y-shape, but what consumer segment would be drawn to such a vehicle.
A snowmobile rider who doesn’t ride motorcycles? A motorcycle rider who doesn’t ride snowmobiles? A completely different person altogether?
Some two full production years later, that answer remains a bit of a hodgepodge, so much so that Yves Leduc, vice president and general manager of BRP’s North American division, describes the marketing of the Spyder as the “most exciting part of the business.”
That’s because some of the company’s estimates about its buyers — current powersports vehicle owners — were spot on while some of its other guesses — specifically in regard to motorcycle owners — were in fact off base.
Can-Am is priming for another model year of its developing Spyder line, which grew last year with the addition of a touring model, the Spyder RT. Leduc told Powersports Business spring sales of the RT had exceeded the company’s expectations and that volume was running low in certain U.S. regions, something confirmed by BRP dealers.
Leduc believes part of this spring’s success for the RT is due to a dramatic increase in marketing the company has done this year.
“We wanted to do that only once we established a base of (Spyder) owners out there because we feel advertising without the word of mouth being spread already would have been less effective,” he said. “We massively invested in awareness building through advertising on national media.”
In fact, Leduc said BRP increased its ad spend by threefold this year.
So who is Can-Am advertising to? That remains a moving target and highly different by region.
“We believed the first wave of customers would be our own existing customers — powersports owners who know us, who tend to want to have the next toy in their garage,” he said. “And on that point, we were absolutely right and are still right.
“The snowmobile owner, the watercraft owner, the ATV owner, they are the most easily convinced and prone to buy the Spyder.”
What about the motorcycle rider?
BRP did not see that group initially as being a very substantial part of the Spyder crowd.
“We even came as close as saying, ‘You might not like it,’” Leduc said of a proposed first message to potential Spyder buyers. “But that’s not what we were saying. We were saying this is not a motorcycle.”
Even with no motorcycle-like lean in and out of corners, the Spyder is attracting bike riders, Leduc says. That includes former motorcyclists, those that were considering leaving the pastime as well as current motorcyclists.
“It doesn’t lean, but it does ride real fast,” Leduc said of the Y-shaped Spyder. “It’s fun to ride. It’s different.”
Women have noticed. The percentage of women Spyder buyers — 21 percent — is nearly double the percentage of new female motorcycle buyers.
Can-Am also has seen high interest in other minority segments, including a large black population of riders in California. In the Southeast, it’s a different story. There it’s the non-powersports vehicle owner and non-motorcycle rider that has emerged as a significant demographic.
This diversity of buyers is why Leduc describes marketing as the most exciting part of the business. Will Can-Am remain as aggressive with its national advertising in the coming year? Although no such decisions have been finalized yet, Leduc said, “you should expect us to keep that pace.
“We need to keep hustling,” he said. “For BRP, that means coming up with the right product, supporting the product, training the dealers, advertising and creating awareness.
“And for the dealers, it means investing in the sales staff so they can sell the product and talk about it to people who don’t know about it. Go out and demo it. Trying the product is by far the biggest purchase trigger we’ve observed.”
Along with the touring edition of the vehicle, Can-Am also introduced an accompanying trailer, a unique move for an on-road manufacturer in the industry.
“No other motorcycle manufacturer had ever introduced a trailer that was adapted to the vehicle,” Leduc said. “We could do that because of our on-board control system, which allows the entire engine package to recognize the extra load and from a safety perspective, ensure it’s OK to drag a trailer.”
Partially because of the uniqueness of it, Leduc indicated BRP was fairly conservative in estimating dealer orders of the trailers. The estimation, however, turned out to be low as dealers ordered a healthy number.
“In retail, it’s confirming the views of the dealers, so we’re quite pleased with that,” he said. “We believe that 10 percent of touring motorcycle owners have a trailer. We believe we will do better than that over time.” psb

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