MEDINA (AP) -- Polaris Industries Inc., praised by analysts for creating profitable niche products in its all-terrain vehicle ) and other recreational equipment lines, has rolled out a new ATV model aimed at a big segment of the sport-utility market.
Medina-based Polaris -- which calls the new model an "all-terrain pickup" -- says it has twice the storage capacity of typical ATVs and a rear cargo box that empties like a dump truck.
The target market is hunters, farmers, cabin owners and others who want "more hauling, easier trailering and way more storage," said Bennett Morgan, general manager of Polaris' ATV division.
The ATP also has a new "VersaTrac" drive system that can run in all-wheel and two-wheel drive on rough terrain but also can be switched to "turf" mode for gentler use on lawns and other soft ground, Morgan said.
The ATP is priced at $5,999 for the 330 model and $6,999 for the 500 HO, which has a more powerful engine, he said. Polaris' full-size ATVs are priced from $3,300 to $7,500.
ATVs are a major product line for Polaris, accounting for more than 60 percent of the company's 2002 sales of $1.52 billion.
Last year, Polaris ATV sales were up 9 percent, compared with a 7 percent rise for the ATV industry as a whole, spokesman Richard Edwards said. He said Polaris, No. 2 in ATV sales behind Honda, slightly increased its share of the market, although the company doesn't disclose its market-share estimates.
Although sales of ATVs and similar recreational products have been one of the few bright spots during the economic downturn, industrywide ATV sales fell a little more than 8 percent in January from year-ago totals, Edwards said. He blamed the drop on uncertainty about a potential war with Iraq, which is hurting consumer confidence, along with the continuing slowdown in the economy. Polaris doesn't report monthly sales numbers, and he declined to say whether it was in line with the industry trend.
Analyst Joe Hovorka of Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Fla., said the ATP is likely to generate incremental sales growth for Polaris, which he has rated as a "strong buy."
"I think it's a good product, but not as big as something like the Predator" -- a new Polaris sport ATV that began shipping late last year, Hovorka said.
Robert Evans, a senior analyst with Minneapolis-based Craig-Hallum Capital, said Polaris has been successful at targeting new ATV models for customers who want to use them as work vehicles.
"What Polaris has been very good at historically is creating new niches within the ATV market," Evans said. "They basically created the automatic transmission market, and now that's well over $1 billion a year. The ATP is another niche they're looking at and exploiting with their core customers."
Industrywide, ATV sales are about $5 billion a year, Morgan said, and the recreational-utility ATV category accounts for about 75 percent of that total.
In terms of customer appeal, "The ATP is the center of a bull's-eye for a pretty large segment" of that $3.75 billion recreational-utility market, he said. He wouldn't disclose sales projections for the ATP but said dealers' responses -- and orders -- have been better than expected.
While conceding that the ATP could cannibalize sales of some other Polaris ATVs, he said the company "sees this as a pretty significant growth vehicle."
Polaris manufactures ATVs in Roseau and in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Initially, the ATP is being made in Spirit Lake, "although as things grow, that could change," Morgan said.
He said at this point, Polaris doesn't expect any change in employment numbers because of the new model.
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