We read your online responses to the question with great interest and we’re very sure many of the marketing people from the snowmobile manufacturers had a good, long look, too.
We were really impressed with both the quantity and the quality of the answers and the long-term involvement of the respondents, many who have owned several different brands over their years of snowmobiling.
Based on the most frequently mentioned issues, here are a few observations we’ve summarized from your responses:
PART 1: 2-STROKE VERSUS 4-STROKE
1. Although there were a few riders who did the opposite, we were surprised how many of you have converted from 2-strokes to 4-strokes the last few years and are determined to stay.
2. The reasons for remaining with 4-strokes are:
a) Smoothness and vibration-free behavior of a 4-stroke (didn’t really see that one coming – mentioned often).
b) No 2-stroke oil smell on clothing.
c) Convenience of not having to carry or top-up oil supply. Also oil costs.
d) Perceived longer life and higher attainable reliable mileage with a 4-stroke.
3. The reasons for remaining with a 2-stroke are:
a) Lighter weight.
b) Perceived better handling (because of lightness).
c) Nice exhaust sound.
d) Perceived better acceleration.
4. Why You’d Change To a 4-stroke
a) Perception that the 2-stroke will need to be rebuilt more frequently.
b) Exhaust smell, even with today’s super-clean 2-strokes.
c) Noise, vibration and harshness levels of a 2-stroke.
Frequent comment: “If they made a really light 4-stroke (comparable to a 2-stroke) I’d buy it in an instant”.
5. Why You’d Change to a 2-stroke
a) Fear of expensive 4-stroke engine repairs long-term.
b) Extra 4-stroke weight affecting handling & get-stuck situations.
c) Perception 4-strokes limit off-trail capability.
PART 2: CHANGING BRANDS
Here are a few of the things responders said about changing brands and why they would do it:
1. Technical advancement by the OEMs is critical and complete chassis revamps are timely. The companies building the same vehicles over and over too long motivate the consumer’s desire to make a brand change to get something new and different.
2. Impersonal or “corporate” attitude of the manufacturer. Consumers want to feel a part of the brand and feel they have an attachment or perceived personal relationship either with the dealer or the corporation itself.
3. Racing and public persona. A brand with recent or past success in racing or a reputation for speed and innovation makes the consumer want to be part of it.
4. Riding demonstrations: Some consumers made a change simply because the dealer let them ride a different brand.
5. Recommendation of someone else. This can range from a trusted friend to a media review to a group of riders they know who have made the change to something new.
6. Availability. If the company makes only 2-strokes or makes only 4-strokes, those particular preferences can’t be served and those owners will not switch brands. (ie: “The leap is too big to buy a Yamaha if I can’t replace my preference for a 2-stroke”. Likewise, the same with Polaris making only 2-strokes.
1. We were surprised how few current owners were disappointed with the reliability of their current brand. Likewise, few of the respondents voiced concern about warranty work or bad treatment by a dealer. This speaks well for the level of quality control and customer service in the industry (exceptions, of course!).
2. Overall, we were surprised at the willingness of the consumer to change. It was almost “give me a good enough reason and I’ll switch brands”. It looks like this is an evolving trend in a business that has been entrenched in rabid brand loyalty for decades.
3. Choice: It appears manufacturers who wish to increase market share would be wise to expand into offering both 2-stroke and 4-stroke choices in their product menus. Certainly, embracing all the different categories of sleds gives the OEM a better shot at reaching the widest base of buyers and may be holding back consumers from making a switch even though they have respect for the brand.
4. It looks like 4-stroke customers are 4-stroke customers and 2-stroke customers are 2-stroke and never the twain shall meet. However, as mentioned above, it looks like there are more 2-stroke buyers who would make the switch to a 4-stroke than visa-versa.