HIGH RANGE: Amazing Shift

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By: Motorhead Mark Lester

There’s no denying North American economies are feeling pain right now. It’s predicted the number of branded new car dealers in the US could drop significantly in the next twelve months. Guess what? We think that forecast is mostly true in the powersports biz, too.

While this is not rosy info, it points to a future when retailing motorized equipment will be more profitable and rewarding. The pressure on retailers in the powersports biz has been relentless the past three years.

Margins have dropped and demands from OEMs have been tough in terms of loading up dealers with new equipment. Specifically, we’ve heard a number of dealers claiming this imminent, if not inevitable, rationalization of dealers will be a good thing, long term. However, short term, retailing is taking a hit.

How about some good news? Recently, we’re been blown away with the release of new product for MY2009. This issue is bristling with all-new models. From Polaris, the re-invented Polaris Ranger and high performance RZR ā€œSā€ would have been enough for one year.

But the release of the new XP Sportsman in two engine sizes has us reeling! By Polaris’ own admission, the XP represents its single largest investment in a new product ever and that includes snowmobiles, ATVs and Victory motorcycles.

Add in the new Ranger lineup with improved suspensions and a full heavy duty Ranger line with electro-hydraulic attachments pointed at the commercial end of the side-by-side biz and you’ve got a blockbuster 2009 line-up.

Just down the road in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, Arctic Cat has released a gargantuan new UTV, the Prowler 1000 and a new 550 engine for both ATV and UTV use.

Throw in the new MudPro 700 and you have another manufacturer investing big jing this year. Yamaha has been at the game too, landing the groundbreaking Grizzly 550. Suzuki has extensively revamped its 450 QuadRacer and 750 KingQuad.

There’s more excitement in varying degrees from other players this year, too. When you spin all this new product excitement down, two very positive facts emerge. First, the sale of more powerful, upscale ATVs is strong.

Conversely, the entry level, lower performance models are not so hot. Clearly, the sizzle is off the 450cc Pure Sport market – a market dominated by 18-24 year olds, the same demographic hardest hit by the weak economy.

The second reality is a biggie. The sale of SxS models is advancing rapidly. Since the day it was first introduced, Polaris has not stopped building RZRs in Roseau.

The release of the factory hopped-up ā€œSā€ version covered in this issue will add even more momentum to RZR sales. The same is true at the other camps. Arctic Cat is claiming the Prowler is responsible for up to 20 percent of its ATV sales right now.

Here’s what’s even more impressive: this percentage is expected to climb higher over the next twelve months. Yamaha, Kawasaki and now Honda are all smiling about the sale of their UTVs. Here’s what we look for: way more models in the UTV biz.

Strangely, sales of UTV off-road vehicles are not being recorded anywhere. While big seven ATV sales numbers are readily available, not even the larger players in the SxS biz have a handle on the size of the UTV market.

The reality? Upscale customers: those ATV buyers less affected by current economic strife, are an increasingly larger part of the ATV demographic landscape.

With Sport-Ute and SxS prices near or above the 5-digit mark, it’s great to see our sport moving ahead in tough times on the strength of these customers.

At All-Terrain Vehicle Magazine we’ve heard the message loud and clear. Our editorial plans are directly linked to your buying habits.

We’re already on it and ready to bring you more tests and informative insights on the 4-wheelers you’re most interested in buying.

Dirt Trax Online
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