By: AJ Lester
Unless you’ve been holed up in a nuclear fallout bunker in the back forty of your grandpa Jedadiah’s farm, you’re well aware of the economic stress plaguing the North American continent.
While it’s most evident in the United States, effects of the economic slowdown will spin-off north of the border, too. Some manufacturing plants are being relocated to Mexico where labor is cheap, workers are many and the word “benefits” means living within walking distance to a cantina.
With all this offered for your consideration, I bring you “The Green Debate”. Lets clear the air, I’m not an overdramatic presidential candidate looking to move your mind with pictures of polar bears sipping margaritas and sermons on global warming. My version of “green” is the cold hard cash kind.
With a recession in the air, there’s a strong possibility it’s going to have an impact on recreational activities, especially those involving the combusting of liquid petroleum.
The looming question is: How will this affect our beloved sport of snowmobiling? It’s true the majority of snowmobilers are an affluent middle-aged group who will be less impacted by economic pain than the younger, less established generation.
Thousands of hardcore, seasoned snowmobile buyers will still have the ability to go out and purchase new sleds. They’ll still plan to travel to snowmobile destinations in their late model trucks, will still use their trailers. They’ll still make plans to stay at resorts this winter.
But, what about that aforementioned younger group of snowmobilers? What about those gearheads who are just starting out and have colossal mortgages and bills to pay every month?
While some in our industry will overlook this generation and pray they stay interested during a difficult era, you can’t overlook the importance and need for an injection of new blood to keep the sport more than just alive, but growing.
When I walk into most snowmobile dealership showrooms I’m met by beautiful glistening graphics, big bore clean burning motor technology, buttery smooth suspensions and, the kicker: A price tag that’ll scare a new snowmobiler clean outta the county.
While there have been a few specially priced, budget friendly sleds come to market in the past few years, more often than not, those slimmer margin sleds are sitting in the back corner, taking a back seat to the latest, most expensive snow cannon the dealer was pushed to order too many of.
It’s understandable that the sleds ridden by the influencers are going to be top of mind and out front, however, wouldn’t it make more sense to see a new wave of entry level sleds with mid level technology come to market at budget friendly prices?
Is it really all that hard to take a small percent of the focus off the next best thing and focus it on growing a market that truthfully, isn’t getting any younger?
We know the manufacturers don’t just throw out the old sled molds and various jigs from production, and if we looked back three to five years there are some very attractive sleds an entry buyer would be blown away with.
If these old rides have already paid for themselves, are collecting dust and could be meshed with some new-world EPA passing technology, is there not the possibility to bring new snowmobilers a machine that will allow them to experience the sport at an incredible price and hook them for life?
While I may not regularly peruse billion dollar financial statements, I would imagine the top brass at the Big Four are aware of the current aging demographic and must be on the prowl for an injection of youthfulness into snowmobiling.
Maybe younger enthusiasts are doomed to always be shopping the internet, looking for deals on used sleds. Maybe it’s the best place for this class of buyers: Buy it cheap, fix it up, ride it for a while, put it back on the internet again.
At least we’re learning how to fix things and getting schooling on the basic mechanical elements of snowmobiling. Question: Does this really profit the snowmobile manufacturers?
All this said, I know it’s not as easy as pulling a 2004 widget off the shelf, slapping a new clock under the hood and pricing it two for one. But, there has to be more than just a whisper of truth here when it comes to the economy of scale.