Big Changes Atop Polaris, Arctic Cat Snow Teams

Just like coaching changes in sports or driver changes in racing, the so-called “off-season” seems to be a time when multiple changes are made at the snowmobile factories, and this year is no different. That said, some of the changes are coming at the very top.

Wednesday, May 26, Polaris announced a major promotion that, in turn, resulted in change in the top of its corporate snowmobiling pyramid. Meanwhile, Arctic Cat and its parent company Textron also had a major change, though at this point it’s only been announced to dealers and not publicly. Also, a top racing, engineering and product management leaders was allegedly let go by the company.

Polaris Announcement

At Polaris, longtime President of Snowmobiles Chris Wolf was promoted to a “c” suite position – he’s the company’s new Chief Product Excellence, Quality and Safety Officer. He slides into an upgraded spot vacated by Todd Gross, who retired out of the position.

Wolf has been with Polaris for nearly 20 years, and spent the vast majority of that time in the snowmobile division.  He was popular among us snowmobile media types – he’s always been engaging, personalable and smart, and also is a true snowmobile enthusiast who grew up enjoying the sport.

Replacing Wolf in the top snowmobile position is John Stockman – his title will be VP and General Manager of Snow, reporting to Steve Menneto, the President of Off-Road.  

Stockman has been with Polaris since 2015, first as a director for the Global Electric Motorcars, then as VP and GM of commercial and government business, and, since 2018, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Corporate Partnerships and Boat Integration. Prior to joining Polaris, according to Stockman’s LinkedIn profile, he was at General Mills for two different extended stints – 2001-2009 and 2011-2015, with the gap in between working for Cereal Partners Worldwide. He’s listed as a BA graduate of St. Olaf College before earning his MBA at Harvard Business School.    

“Our Snow business has just experienced one of its strongest years to date. John’s strategic approach and tremendous track record of furthering business results makes him the right leader to build on Snow’s incredible momentum as we continue to grow and invest in this segment,” Steve Menneto said in a press release from Polaris.

Commenting on Wolf’s new position, Polaris’ new CEO Mike Speetzen said, “Polaris has set out to make product safety and quality a competitive advantage and accelerate how we deliver on our commitment to product excellence across all our brands and businesses globally. Elevating this role reinforces those goals and the importance of this work. Over the course of his career, Chris has been a terrific advocate for our customers. Along with his extensive leadership experience and robust engineering and technical background, Chris’ deep understanding of our businesses, products and processes will be a tremendous asset to our efforts to deliver safe, quality vehicles.”

Changes At Textron/Cat

Meanwhile, last week Textron sent a note out to its Arctic Cat dealers saying that Heidi McNary was being promoted as the new Senior VP and General Manager of Powersports, taking the top role in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, leading the Arctic Cat and Tracker Off-Road brands.

First reported on the website, McNary ascention puts her in the role vacated by Craig Kennedy in December of 2020. Troy Halvorson had been filling the role on an interem basis between those two, and will stay with the company in a different role.

McNary’s most recent job was as VP of Customer Service for Textron, a position she was appointed to in July of 2020. Before that, she was the VP of International Sales & Operations for the company, leading sales operations outside of North America, and prior to that VP of Engineering and then Senior VP of Operations at Able Aerospace Services in Arizona, which became a Textron subsidiary in 2016 when she was working there.

Other career stops include Proterra, Hawker Beechcraft, DeCrane Aerospace and Honeywell. She earned her undergraduate degrees at the University of Arizona and MBA at Arizona State.

We’re still awaiting the official announcement of this move by Arctic Cat.

The biggest buzz coming out of Arctic Cat, though, is the departure of longtime engineer, racer and, more recently, as the Director of Product Strategy Brian Dick. While not as “old guard” as Roger Skime, Donn Eide, Greg Spaulding and many other engineers/designers who have left or were let go by the company in recent years, he was in many ways one of the remaining faces of traditional Arctic Cat at the company, so his departure has caused a stir.

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