July 11, 2011 – Snowmobile sales rise for first time since 2002

That once again was a key barometer when weighing the retail success of the 2010-11 snowmobile season.

And that means there was either reason to celebrate a strong season or hope that 2012 is more equitable with the white stuff. In Wisconsin, snowmobile sales were widely a hit-or-miss affair this past season. Take Trackside, located in Eagle River, Wis. The “Snowmobile Capital of the World” boasted empty trails for much of the season.

“Sales started out pretty good, but we had a poor winter here in our neck of the woods,” said Butch Grenier, who has owned Trackside since 2001. “We had a terrible winter. Our snow disappeared. Around New Year’s we had rain and lost all our snow. We just had a poor winter. I would have to say our sales numbers were about the same as last winter.”
How bad did it get?

“Guys would come rent sleds from us and take them down to the Wausau area and use them down there,” Grenier said incredulously. “That’s pretty much unheard of. It gets pretty tough. To sell snowmobiles you need snow. We’ve got an excellent trail system here, but again we’ve got to have snow. Like everybody, if the snow disappears and the sales slow down, you start cutting price, offer different incentives and things. That’s all you can do.”

Less than 150 miles to the south, however, brought a different sales story. Mike Trulen, owner of Power Pac, Inc., in Marshfield, Wis., didn’t mind the abundant snowfall in the central part of the state. It helped him move plenty of Polaris and Yamaha sleds.

“Overall sales were up about 20 percent from the previous year on the snowmobile side,” Trulen said.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association numbers released in June show that U.S. snowmobile dealers sold 3,197 more units this year than last year.

That stopped a trend in which total sled sales had fallen every season since 2002. Figures are based on warranty registrations from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha. ISMA president Ed Klim presented the figures at the International Snowmobile Congress in Calgary in June.

For model year 2011, 51,796 sleds were sold in the U.S. at an average price of $8,397; 48,599 machines were retailed for model year 2010, fetching an average $8,514.

Worldwide, 123,063 new machines were sold, which is up from 111,492 in 2010. Canada had 40,878 new-sled sales; Europe and Russia combined for 30,389 retail sales.

U.S. snowmobile license registrations were up 50,000 compared to last year, and PG&A sales by manufacturers were up 7 percent compared to a year ago.

MOUNTAIN SLEDS keep moving
Max Maxedon of Tri-City Polaris in Centreville, Utah, saw Polaris mountain machines on the move early in the season.


“The Polaris Pro RMK was the sled of choice in the mountains,” Maxedon said. “We sold out our allotment, and that’s the first time we’ve done that in the past nine years. It’s nice to be clean, to go out this summer and not see a bunch of crates out back.”
Maxedon said that the new 600 Pro-RMK for 2012 already has customers buzzing at his performance-based shop.

“It’s done quite well at snow check,” he said.

Snowmobile season in the mountain west region brings in revenue long after the start of spring.

“We’re still working on sleds in our shop,” Maxedon said in early June. “It’s not even funny, we had so much snow. Our winter was pretty much like eight months long. Everybody, including myself, was quite sick of it. I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I’ve never seen this much snow. We’ll have guys riding into July, maybe longer. I just spoke with Alta Ski Resorts in the Salt Lake valley at they have nine feet of base at the lodge.”

Maxedon, who continues to ride on the mountain “at least once or twice a week,” likes the prospects for a strong upcoming winter sales season.

“The economy is still having an effect, but good, proven snowmobiles helped our snow check,” he said. “Our snow check season for 2012s was better than it was for 2011s. All in all it was a good season. We’re hoping next year will be good, too — with a little less snow.”

The service department at his dealership is continuing to log hours on sleds.

“Usually we stay busy in service through May, but I’ve got three guys in the shop working on sleds as we speak. A guy this year could think he might be able to put his sled on snow for 12 months, which would be a record. I’m just not too sure that he might not be able to do that.”

Maxedon noted that the lack of a typical spring season has slowed motorcycle and side-by-side sales.

“It’s time for motorcycles,” he said.

Mike Ingles, owner of Ingles Performance in Phoenix, N.Y., deals high volumes of Ski-Doo and Polaris sleds northwest of Syracuse. A strong snowfall during the past winter is showing some carryover into spring.

“As far as early sales for next season, we’re up about 60 percent for next year,” Ingles said. “Other parts of the country, I’m not hearing that. We had good snow and for once in quite a few years, we never had the thaw that we always get. Up until the first week of March, we had zero days above 32 degrees.”

Ingles says that a variety of factors could have helped customers decide to put down their cash early for 2012 models.

“Maybe [Ski-Doo’s rMotion rear suspension] was part of it,” Ingles said. “I’m not sure if we don’t go through cycles in the snowmobile segment like the car industry does. Like ‘I didn’t buy one after three years, and I didn’t buy one after four years. Now it’s five years and I’m buying one.’

“You had the snowmobiler who was in that rut and hadn’t bought one in the last two years. We used to do a lot of one-year trade-ups. There used to be about 40 customers every year who would trade in their snowmobile after one year. That number is down to six per year now.”

Ingles found success on the showroom floor led to a steady accessories business.

“I felt like we were doing better, but then I looked at the numbers. I thought we would have increased, but we didn’t,” he said. “We were about the same as last year. That business is always successful for us. The dealers who take the time and money to sell it are going to do fine.”

Ingles also saw a change in customer demands over the past two seasons.

“Last year, it was anything with carbs was take, take, take, take,” he said. “By the end of this year people wanted the [Ski-Doo] 600 E-TEC or the 800 E-TEC, and we sold out of those early. The Polaris Pro-R, I thought people might be 50-50 on the 600s and 800s, maybe want to save the $600 or $800. Instead they wanted to spend $800 more. Ski-Doo buyers wanted to pay for the fuel injection and the E-TEC. Even on the spring packages — the higher-end sleds — people are gobbling them up.”

Rich Rothmund, owner of TA Motorsports in Francis Creek, Wis., carries Arctic Cat and Yamaha machines. Located 20 miles south of Green Bay, Rothmund said snowmobiles sales at his dealership were “across the board” 20 percent higher for the 2010-11 season than they were in 2009-10.

“It was a very, very good year. It’s the fourth season in a row that we’ve had early snowfall, and it may sound like a broken record, but you have to have snow to sell snowmobiles. Snow is the main ingredient,” Rothmund said.

Rothmund saw a small percentage increase in new customers, but “for the most part, it was people updating the equipment they had,” he said.

The 2012 Arctic Cat models have been benefited from many of those upgrades. Rothmund said the OEM made its sleds more enticing to buyers this spring by offering incentives that lowered the retail sale price by about $1,000 on new units this spring compared to last year.

“This spring our Arctic Cat sales have been up also, tenfold from last year at this time. Granted, this year it’s all new product, but they’ve really done well with their turbo stuff,” he said. “The turbo sleds are a great value. Artic Cat knocked it out of the park with their preseason orders. We primarily sell 128 and 141 inches, the F Series and XF series — generally the four-stroke turbo stuff. That was by far the biggest percentage of our spring sales.

“New sells and price sells, and Arctic Cat did a really good job of putting them together.”

Trulen, the owner of Power Pac, Inc., in Wisconsin, says there’s no sign of a letup, either, as Power Pac enjoys its 47th year in business.

“What really excites me is the spring snow check season, which was way up. A year ago we sold one snowmobile in the spring. This year we sold 15,” Trulen said. “We had an internal push from our sales staff. We pushed harder for sales in the preseason than we’ve ever done. That, and I think the economy is coming around, too.”

Trulen knows how much the lack of white stuff can impact his dealership’s bottom line.

“The trails were open for three months and the year before they were open for three weeks. That made a major difference,” Trulen said.

He estimates his overall business up 20 percent from a year ago. Trulen noted the sales movement of the Polaris Rush 600 and 800 performance series and Yamaha Vector, FX Nytro and Apex series.

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