SKI-DOO VS POLARIS
It's clear as crystal Ski-Doo is the snowmobile market leader right now.
Ski-Doo hasn't missed a beat since the original 2003 REV hit the ground and stole number one sales and market share laurels from Polaris. Up to that time Polaris had held nearly a two-decade-long stranglehold on snowmobile sales market share.
In the late 1990's, Laurent Beaudoin, then Top Gun of Bombardier (which included the aviation and rapid transit businesses at that time) and son-in-law to the iconic J. Armand Bombardier, had made it clear he wanted Number-One status back in the Ski-Doo camp.
As the story goes, Bombardier Recreational Products CEO and powersports visionary, Jose Boisjoli knew he needed two things to happen to satisfy Laurent Beaudoin's call to arms and to elevate Ski-Doo back to leader status - something the company had lost in the early 1980s.
First, he knew he needed a game-changing snowmobile. The REV platform was that game changer, so much so that over the next few model years every OEM moved to imitate the REV's now industry-standard “rider forward” ergonomics.
The second thing Boisjoli needed was for the current market leader to fall asleep. In what will go down in sno-mo-history as a strange aligning of the stars, that exact thing happened.
For reason's too complex to delve into here, Polaris didn't have the "next big thing" in its repertoire and was slow to respond to the arrival of the REV. Back in 2003, Boisjoli got his "two things" and, as they say, the rest is history.
BACK TO TODAY
In case you hadn't noticed, Polaris has kept its head down while on a mission to increase market share. The company's passion for these laurels appears to know no bounds.
Polaris has innovated engine designs, engine technology and has re-invented snowmobile suspension twice in the last ten years. The company has identified competitive areas it can "own" as Polaris distinctives, and bolstered those strongholds on an annual basis.
Specifically, those areas are:
1. Deep-snow performance leadership
2. On-trail handling leadership and
3. The lightest weight on virtually every sled it produces in every segment.
To see how far Polaris has come this decade is doubly remarkable, considering it does not have a 4-stroke snowmobile. We believe this may be about to change soon. Consider this: Ski-Doo sells more 4-strokes than Arctic Cat and Yamaha combined. That's a lot of snowmobiles!
Despite this, Polaris has actually been gaining market share. Most importantly, for now it has grown its 2-stroke business rapidly.
The recent launch of the 850 Liberty engine has been nothing short of impressive. The new Indy XC platform with Pro CC suspension has brought back considerable numbers of former Polaris faithful who had drifted to other brands.
In our humble opinion, if Polaris brings a 4-stroke engine to the party, the company will be fully weaponized and ready to do nose-to-nose battle with Ski-Doo in every segment right down to the last sales contract.
My headline question was "Who is the competition?" I think it's safe to say Polaris is Ski-Doo's competition and even though you'll never hear those two OEMs complain about gaining market share from Arctic Cat or Yamaha, it is clearly double-dipping when one of them gains it from the other!
At this point Ski-Doo knows it cannot take its enviable leadership position for granted. A wise marketing Guru once said to me: "Number One is not a destination, it is a journey!"
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