In the first substantive news on the recent acquisition of Arctic Cat by Textron, it was announced that Arctic Cat snowmobiles will still be known as Arctic Cat snowmobiles.
The same is not true for Arctic Cat dirt vehicles. “Moving forward, the company will transition all side-by-sides and ATVs to become a part of the Textron Off Road brand,” John Collins, Textron Specialized Vehicles vice president, consumer, said. Textron is keeping the sub brand names, however, so the familiar Wildcat, Prowler and Alterra will still be around but they will henceforth be named the Textron Wildcat, Textron Prowler, etc., as will Textron’s own Stampede lineup.
At an exclusive meeting with a small number of dealers and other invited guests, including SnoWest Magazine, Textron outlined its plans for the iconic Arctic Cat brand and the company Textron bought earlier this year. You might remember that Textron announced it was buying Arctic Cat in late January. The deal was finalized earlier this spring and in one of the hangars at the Fort Worth Alliance Airport we learned what is in store for Cat and its snow and dirt businesses.
Perhaps no one in that hangar on a warm spring day in Fort Worth, TX, was more excited about the goings on than Erik Nelson, vice president & general manager, snow & international, Textron Specialized Vehicles. Nelson was the snowmobile general manager at Arctic Cat at the time of Textron’s acquisition of Cat.
Sometimes in all the news about the acquisition, the snowmobile side of the business kind of took a backseat. According to Arctic Cat’s 2016 annual financial report, sales of snowmobiles and ATV/ROV was fairly equal in terms of dollars. So Cat’s snowmobile segment is still a big part of the overall business. And Nelson did his best to show his enthusiasm for the snowmobile side of Textron in presenting information about sleds to those assembled.
Flanked by a Bell 407GXP helicopter on one side and a Textron AirLand Scorpion, a tactical jet aircraft, on the other side of the side where Nelson was standing, he said, “We couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a part of Textron.” He then added, “We’ll be able to take our products to a level we haven’t been able to before.”
He then talked about snowmobiles, including that the ZR 200 was the best selling sled during the spring sales time, and their place in the parent company Textron. “We can take our product to entirely new levels,” he said. “It’s truly a unique position for a snowmobile manufacturer.”
Across from where Nelson was addressing the group were an array of side-by-sides, ATVs, E-Z-GO carts and snowmobiles. During all the presentations that took place that day with Nelson’s, including one from Kevin Holleran, president & CEO, Textron Specialized Vehicles and one from Collins, there were a lot of things that stood out but one thing that really jumped out was vehicle (snow and dirt) powerplants and where future engines for Textron/Arctic Cat vehicles will be coming from. We learned that a couple of years ago Textron bought engine maker Weber Motor Company, based in Germany. Renamed Textron Motors after the acquisition, those are the engines that power Textron’s gas-powered Stampede lineup. And, according to Holleran, that will be he engine of choice for future Stampedes.
However, Collins pointed out that Textron will still produce engines at Cat’s St. Cloud, MN, engine facility, which makes both two- and four-stroke engines. Collins also pointed out, “We bring a lot of engine technology with us.”
Textron Motors builds engines in its German factory for snowmobiles. The MPE 850 is a two-cylinder four-stroke that offers an engine control system that can be calibrated to provide power ratings between 70 and 130 hp. You might also remember that years ago, like the mid 2000s, Polaris briefly used a Weber four-stroke in a couple of its trail sleds.
So we’ll keep an eye on that.
After all the presentations were done we spent a few minutes with Nelson to get more details on what he expects in the future with Arctic Cat and Textron.
One of the first things Nelson told us was, “We’ll add more head count to our engineering group.” Not only that, but he said, “Our Island Park facility will be growing.”
Those are the kinds of things we like to hear because that bodes well for the western market. Cat is on a bit of a roll these days with its new mountain sleds and the Ascender platform, new C-Tec2 engine and lighter weight sleds. Nelson pointed out that while the ZR 200 was the No. 1 selling sled during the spring, the Mountain Cat was No. 2.
We asked Nelson what the next two to three years will look like for Cat. “Aggressive and bold,” he said. “We are going to do some things we haven’t been able to do.”
Such as? “We’ll be offering new product and maybe stuff you haven’t seen yet.”
He added, “We want the mountain customer to know we’re serious about it (the western market).”
And what about the SVX? “We have a path to make sure it’s compliant (with industry standards) but we don’t just want it to be compliant … that product is going to work.”
One of the first and biggest questions that popped up when the Textron acquisition was originally announced was where does that put the Arctic Cat-Yamaha business agreement? We posed that question to Nelson.
“It will be business as usual with Yamaha,” he said. “In fact, in ’19 we’ll release even more models together.” He added there is no time limit on Cat’s business agreement with Yamaha but that it’s an open-ended agreement.
When we asked Nelson the most exciting thing for the snow side of Cat with the acquisition he said, “Capitalization.”
“The only way to grow is to release more exciting product faster,” he said.
He also pointed out that the acquisition will help Cat lower its cost of sales. Textron owns companies that make some of the products that are used in over the snow vehicles, such as fuel tanks and electronics. That means Cat will be able to get those products for less money and thus, lower its cost of sales. “It’s going to open new doors for us,” Nelson said.
So with all the changes that are likely to come with the acquisition, what won’t change?
Nelson said, “We’ll continue to be nimble and light and strategic.”