What Happens When You Cross a Polaris With a Timbersled?
After this week’s release of the 2018 Polaris line up, many Polaris fans eagerly awaited the launch with sweaty palms and were left disappointed as their expectations of a high profile 2018 launch didn’t materialize. No new engines, chassis or significant upgrades were revealed and the release seemed dull when compared to the 2018 Ski-Doo launch that happened earlier in 2017. Many disapproving posts on social media flowed through my feed from Polaris fans with high expectations for the 2018 model year – like the looming rumours of a 2-stroke triple that never seems to materialize.
It seems the biggest news for 2018 are the new graphics packages and customizable options Polaris is offering. That’s not to say Polaris didn’t make adjustments and improvements to their already very competitive line up as well as the addition of the SKS 146 and the new 2018 Titan crossover utility snowmobile with its massive 20 inch wide track - an interesting machine with amazing capabilities. It only makes you wonder if it was enough to keep existing customers coming back and enough to attract new ones. With Ski-Doo’s high energy launch of their whole new line up armed with the new 850 cc ETEC engine and new technologies like the SHOT start system, as well as Arctic Cat’s new 800cc CTEC2 engine and in the new M8000, Polaris has some tough competition this season!
Regardless of the press over the launch, Polaris will still find success selling their 2018 models due to brand loyalists and ultimately their line up gives a lot of riders what they are looking for: light, agile, quick snowmobiles. I guess it’s the, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it…” strategy? Granted that will work for a while; however, you can only carry that attitude for so long before it comes back and haunts you. I suspect Polaris has something in the works for future model launches and has been putting energy into the development of other products behind the scenes.
A different story over in the Timbersled Products camp: Timbersled has been hard at work designing and building a new snowbike kit called the Timbersled ARO (pronounced “Arrow”) for a 2018 launch. The engineers at Timbersled have devoted significant time and effort to improvements into the redesigned ARO kit with claims of better handling, balance, ease of install and decrease weight. Many are excited by the effort and claims made by Timbersled and reviews have been positive thus far. Polaris influence was noted in the design of the ARO; however, Timbersled lead the redesign and did most of the work.
The snowbike category is an interesting case as it seems the next step in the evolution of mountain sledding; however, more development and refinement of the platforms will lead to better products and the attraction of more riders. On the surface, most manufacturers appear to be playing the waiting game in this category to see if it is a passing phase. I suspect that at least three of the major players are pondering this segment for future products or involvement in some manner (Yamaha, Arctic Cat and Polaris) and may be testing and considering options to enter the category in the future. Arctic Cat’s limited release of the Arctic Cat SVX 450 dedicated snowbike for 2017 was an interesting move; however, there hasn’t been any news on this machine lately...it generated a lot of buzz last spring around this time. In recent releases and articles, there is an absence of any mention of the SVX 450 and no sign of it as part of the 2018 Arctic Cat line up...Does this mean that Arctic Cat is still working out the bugs or have they tossed the idea and given up on the platform? Whatever the case, for 2018, Arctic Cat chose to focus on upgrades to conventional machines. Now that Textron has acquired Arctic Cat, will next year hold more hope for the SVX 450 or a similar product from Arctic Cat? I guess we will have to wait and see.
Last week's blog, “Yamaha – Two-Strokes You’re Out!” provided a recipe for how Yamaha could dominate the mountains with the release of a dedicated, narrow-chassis, mono-ski platform (DNMP) and one can't help but wonder if Polaris could do the same, likely better, in a concerted effort with Timbersled. I believe that Polaris is utilizing Timbersled for real-time R&D on an eventual Polaris snowbike or DNMP product or at least a combined effort for a total package product. Polaris has a real advantage over other manufacturers as they can utilize their experiences from Timbersled to truly bring a tried and tested product to the market.
Also Polaris has never been afraid to make bold moves or take risks with product launches…They don't seem intimidated to break away from the mainstream with products such as the innovative Slingshot 3-wheeled street performance vehicle or the redesign of the trail snowmobile set up for the Switchback models including the articulating PRO-XC rear suspension set up (a departure from the solid tunnel design that is standard in the industry). These are serious departures from mainstream products, but frankly, it’s refreshing that at least one manufacturer is willing to step up and create innovative products for consumers.
It is hard to say if or when Polaris may release a snowbike or DNMP product; however, I suspect that in the next few years this will come to fruition from one company or another – only time will tell. Maybe we will see a Timbaris in the future!