A couple of years ago, when viewing a new high-end snowmobile that was being introduced featuring a matching high-end (from our perspective) price tag, we got into a casual, philosophical conversation with a product planner from one of the manufacturers.
“How much is too much?” we asked. “You’ve told us before that the high-end sleds from each brand are usually the best sellers, but at what point do you hit a price wall and end up building a machine that has no shot of selling in much volume?”
The reason for the question is this: Each factory has access to all kinds of expensive materials and components that, in theory, they could put on a bunch of their snowmobiles. But if that would send the price of so-equipped sleds over $25,000, for example, would enough of those sleds sell to make the effort worthwhile?
“Well, we actually do a lot of research on that – and each market is different,” the factory official said. “We think we know roughly where that ‘cap’ is in the snowmobile market, and we’ve seen it play out in other leisure products,” he said.
Then he turned to a specific powersports example.
“The one that’s most interesting to watch right now is the side-by-side market,” he said. He noted that there’s been ongoing features-and-benefits war in the high-end side-by-side/sport UTV market for some time, largely driven by Polaris with its RZRs and BRP’s Can-Am Mavericks. One will introduce a $23,000 model, but that will be topped later in the year by the other’s $25,000 models, which is quickly topped by a $27,000 model from the other factory.
And that brings us to the recent news of Polaris’ 2022 RZR Pro R and RZR Turbo R models. The RZR Pro R features an automotive-style, 2 liter, four-cylinder engine that creates 225 horsepower. The retail price four the four-seater models STARTS at $35,999. But, why stop there because you’ve got to have the best suspension and stereo equipment, right? The “RZR Pro R 4 Ultimate” starts at $41,999 while the limited-build Pro R 4 Launch Edition runs a cool $44,999.
“$45 large for a side-by-side?!” a co-worker bellowed when we got the press release on November 9. “Are they crazy?”
Crazy like a fox: The dang things are already sold out!
Bringing it back to snowmobiling, 20-some-odd years ago companies like FAST Inc. with its Blade snowmobiles plus Redline and Scorpion had plans to serve a high-end market, and a bunch of builders were toying with small-run, high-end creations for the mountains. And, for the racing and mountain markets we know of some folks with pretty darn valuable machines. (Expect to spend six figures for a competitive Outlaw drag sled, for instance. )
But in terms of a factory-built, mass-market snowmobile, what is the reasonable cap? Models like the Ski-Doo Mach Z ($19,699) and Polaris Pro-RMK Matryx Slash 163 with the Patriot Boost engine ($19,599) are pushing $20k in U.S. dollars now, but people lined up to order them last spring and they quickly sold out.
So how much is too much for the high-end of the snowmobile market? We may not have hit the ceiling yet.
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