Polaris positions Slingshot to broaden customer base

As powersports sales have yet to reach pre-recession heights, Polaris is positioning its three-wheeled Slingshot as a means to capture younger riders.

Overall vehicle sales in the powersports industry are still down from their peak in 2006. U.S. motorcycle sales were 55% lower in 2018 than in 2006, while snowmobile sales were down 42% in that same time period, according to Timothy Conder, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. As such, OEMs like Polaris are targeting younger customers.

The three-wheeled Slingshot is already proving popular with millennials and younger riders as baby boomers exit powersports, partly due to its accessibility for first-time riders. More than two-thirds of Slingshot owners are new to powersports, according to the company.

However, millennials don’t make up the largest percentage of buyers. Even though the vehicle appeals to millennials, sales have been on the decline in recent months, dropping in the low single-digit percentage during the third quarter of 2019. Polaris blames the sales decrease on quality issues that have led to recalls, and it believes that Slingshot will be well-positioned for the years ahead.

The OEM is currently running a promotion on Slingshots through its “Treat Yourself” sales event, which offers up to $2,000 bonus cash towards the purchase of 2018 or 2019 model year Slingshot.

Polaris is also using its touring program, Polaris Adventures, to introduce riding to a new demographic. Polaris Adventures program has 125 locations and served more than 100,000 riders this year, 90% of which were new to Polaris products, the company reported on its third-quarter earnings call.

Polaris is working on manufacturing new vehicles for millennials and has ramped up research and development on new products, spending nearly $300 million this year, up from $185 million in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Other OEMs have introduced products to broaden their respective customer bases. Harley-Davidson launched the electric LiveWire and acquired StaCyc, which manufactures small electric bikes aimed at children. BRP introduced the Ryker, which drove an increase in three-wheeled vehicle sales by more than 80% this year. The Rycker is priced at $9,000, which is around half the cost of the OEMs other on-road models.

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