Polaris Covid-19 Response

Polaris PRO XD 400D AWD utility Vehicle
Sales of the new PRO XD 400D AWD from Polaris Commercial is likely feeling the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

Polaris Covid-19: Operations & Dealer Response

The Polaris Covid-19 response is wide ranging and impactful. The management is suspending operations at eight plants across the United States, Mexico and Poland for a week. As part of the suspension the company is providing US employees with up to 10 days of pay. For dealers, they are allowing home delivery of products, providing product flooring support and covering flooring interest payments for off-road vehicles and motorcycles through May 31st.

Polaris Covid-19: Financial Response

On the financial side Polaris management announced a:

  • Drawing down of cash from their revolving credit facility
  • Reduction in capital expenditures
  • Suspension of share repurchases.

They have also withdrawn their financial guidance for the first quarter and full year.

SVR’s Take

This is not surprising given the current economic conditions brought on by the Covid virus. Similarly, BRP, maker of Can-Am products, withdrew their financial guidance for the year, suspended their dividend and drew down their $700 million revolving credit line. They are also considering reducing shifts and possibly suspending some plant operations.

Since the powersports industry in general is reliant on discretionary income, particularly in the recreational segment, they will be hard hit by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 virus. Polaris is more diversified than BRP with more commercial customers and products like Taylor-Dunn, Goupil, GEM and military vehicles. In addition, they have a large installed base and customers may choose to fix existing vehicles rather than purchase new ones. On the bright side Polaris points to the ability to maintain social distancing while still enjoying off-road vehicles.

Furthermore, the companies will be hit by sharply lower oil prices in important oil producing states and farmers still feeling the effects of the tariff wars. Several years ago these two sub-segments helped restrain growth in the side-by-side market. Oil prices were lower but not quite this low and farm income was low as well.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

BRP Earnings Call: Q4 2020

Can-Am Defender 6x6 DPS is a new addition for 2020.
New product introductions like the Can-Am Defender 6×6 DPS has helped BRP grow their side-by-side market share.

The BRP earnings call for Q4 and the full year for FY2020 revealed continued strong growth. Annual revenue increased 15% to $6,053 million (CA$) primarily driven by shipments of Year-Round products which includes side-by-sides. Net income increased by 63% and North American BRP retail sales for Seasonal Products and Year-Round Products increased 15%. BRP retail sales outpaced the industry in North America and International markets. For Q4 2020 total revenues improved 7.3% to $1,615.9 and net income jumped 57.1% to $118.2. Management stated that they met key five-year revenue and earnings goals a year ahead of schedule.

BRP Earnings Call Highlights

The following are some of the highlights of the Q4 2020 BRP earnings call that relate to side-by-sides.

  • BRP North American powersports retail sales increased 15% for FY2020 compared to mid-single digits for the industry
  • Side-by-side vehicle retail sales increased low thirty % compared to high-single digit %
  • International side-by-side retail sales increased by over 30%
  • Powersports Parts & Accessories revenue increased double digit %
  • Management anticipates line speed reductions or temporary closures to adapt to demand during the current crisis
  • The company is not issuing financial guidance for FY2021 because of uncertainty driven by the COVID-19 virus
  • About 20% of Can-Am’s US sales are in seven key oil states, which will be hit by the steep drop in oil prices

Learn more: Seekingalpha.com (Earnings call transcript)

SVR’s Take

BRP continued their long streak of strong quarters as they continue to gain market share in the side-by-side market. They have emerged as the number one rival to Polaris. In large part this is because of a steady introduction of new models that meet customer needs. They are the only company that has come close to matching Polaris’ pace of new model introductions.

However, both companies are going to be challenged by the corona virus crisis as well as the sharp drop in oil prices. The oil rich states were a drag on the market several years ago when there was a less severe drop in oil prices. Tariff and flooding troubles in the farming states only adds to the problem. The effects of the corona virus are unclear at this point but are likely to be severe. Furthermore, products like side-by-sides that significantly rely on discretionary income are likely to be disproportionately affected.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Polaris Earnings Call: Strong Annual Sales; Low 4Q Growth

Polaris Ranger XP 1000 utility vehicle
Models like the Polaris Ranger XP 1000 helped drive ORV sales.

Polaris Earnings Overview

In their recent earnings call Polaris management reported strong annual sales despite relatively low fourth quarter growth. Overall sales increased to $6.78 billion for the full year, an increase of 12% from last year. All segments grew with the ORV/Snow segment increasing by 7%. For the fourth quarter sales increased 7% to $1.74 billion despite North American powersports retail sales increasing by only 2%.  There was strength in Ranger/General side-by-sides, full-size ATVs and Indian Motorcycles unit sales. In addition, PG&A sales outside of the TAP business performed very well, up 22%. The company continues to be hampered somewhat by tariffs, a $90 million cost in FY2019. However, the management has been able to receive some exemptions and managed to pass some of the cost on to suppliers.

Polaris Earnings Call

The following are highlights related to small, task-oriented vehicles from the recent Polaris earnings call for fiscal year 2019 fourth quarter.

  • ORV segment (UTVs & ATVs) sales increased by 13%
  • ORV retail increased mid-single digits %
  • Side-by-sides retail up low single digits percent
  • ATV retail up mid-single digits
  • Management reports that the ramp up of 2020 side-by-side retail sales were slightly below expectations and dealer inventory increased as a result
  • They named a top executive from their ORV business head-up their electrification strategy
  • Company-wide average selling price (ASP) jumped by 8% on the strength of ORV and motorcycles
  • ORV ASP increased 10% with more unit sales and more side-by-side sales
  • The company boosted prices 3% to 3.5% on many models earlier in the year
  • Recently they reduced prices substantially on select RZR models
  • Global Adjacent Markets decreased 1% to $120 million with vehicle sales declining but PG&A increasing

Full Year Sales Guidance

  • Full year sales are expected to improve 2% to 4%
  • ORV/Snow segment is expected to increase low single digits percent with ORV up low single digits percent
  • The Global Adjacent Markets segment is expected to increase high single digits percent as all product lines should show growth
  • Side-by-side shipments to dealers should decline in the first quarter as management tries to reduce dealer inventory that increased slightly the last two quarters.

Learn more: Seekingalpha.com (Earnings call transcript)

SVR’s Take

One of the most interesting pieces of information coming out of the earnings call was the appointment of a Senior Vice President for electrification strategy. Management noted that the powersports industry tends to lag the auto industry by 5 – 10 years. They think there is currently an inflection point in the market with regards to electrification. In addition, they talked about making investments and see a need to become more competitive in their core powersports business as it relates to electrification.

While Ranger sales continued to drive growth, RZR sales were not as impressive. This is likely where the higher dealer inventory levels originated. The price reduction of some of their RZR S models is likely a reflection of increased competition in the market segment. Kawasaki and Honda are the last two entrants into the high performance segment which has now become quite crowded. In addition, Polaris lowered RZR XP Turbo prices. This reduction may be to remain competitive as well as an effort to create pricing differentiation between the XP Turbo and their higher priced Pro XP models.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com


New Strategy For Club Car?

Club Car 411 utility vehicle
The Club Car 411 is the result of partnering with AEV Technologies.

My colleague Stephen Metzger discusses Club Car’s product development strategy in a new article. In particular, he analyzes Club Car’s partnership with AEV Technologies and the resulting offering, the Club Car 411 utility vehicle. Rather than develop the vehicle in-house, which Club Car has the capabilities to do, they decided to go outside. Is management embracing a new approach to product development or is this just a one-off exercise? In addition, an interview with Brian Rott, President Cart Mart in California, discusses how the 411 fits in the market.

Club Car 411 Utility Vehicle

Club Car 411 utility vehicle in pickup configuration
The Club Car 411 is an all-electric vehicle developed in partnership with AEV Technologies.
Club Car 411 flatbed configuration
The flatbed version of the Club Car 411 utility vehicle.
Club Car 411 Van Box Configuration
The van box version of the Club Car 411 utility vehicle.

Club Car 411 Overview

Earlier this year Club Car introduced the Club Car 411 utility vehicle, an all-electric vehicle for cargo services and low speed logistics. The 411 is the result of a partnership between Club Car and AEV Technologies, a manufacturer of light-duty battery-electric vehicles. The partnership combines AEV’s expertise in design and manufacturing with the dealer network and brand power of Club Car.

Club Car 411 Target Market

The Club Car 411 is targeting the space between full-sized trucks and smaller golf car based utility trucks. The partners designed the vehicles to have a lower cost of acquisition, operation and overall ownership while meeting the demand for clean energy vehicles. Typical uses would be on corporate and college campuses, in warehouses and as part of municipal fleets.

Vehicle Capabilities

The Club Car 411 comes in three basic configurations: a van box, a pickup with sides and a flatbed. The vehicles have a curb weight of approximately 2,100 lbs depending on the configuration and a payload capacity of 1,100 lbs. As an LSV the top speed is 25 mph and it has a range of 50 miles. A 10 Kw, 13.4 hp AC motor paired with a 240A AC controller powers the rear-wheel vehicle. The six sealed lead acid batteries provide a range of up to 50 miles.

Standard Features & Options

Standard features include a backup camera, 7″ LCM display, reinforced ABS body panels and cabin heating. The 411 has a reinforced steel chassis, 4-wheel, hydraulic disc brakes and power assist steering. Options include fleet management systems including GPS and geofencing.

SVR’s Take

This is a curious move by Club Car. Clearly the vehicle fits with their existing customer base and dealer network, but rather than develop the vehicle themselves they partnered with AEV Technologies. I speculate that the partnership reduces Club Car’s development costs and associated risks. For AEV, the partnership gives them access to a large customer base. AEV Technologies also makes a three wheeled vehicle similar to the Arcimoto FUV. Therefore, if the FUV makes inroads into Club Car’s PTV market then they could have a ready for market vehicle to compete against it.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

BRP Quarterly Results Strong

2019 Can-Am Defender HD8 help drive BRP quarterly results
Models like the Can-Am Defender HD8 features which was upgraded for MY2019 helped drive BRP sales.

BRP Quarterly Results Overview

BRP reported another strong quarter with revenues increasing 17% year over year to $1,334 billion (CA). Year-Round Products segment sales drove the BRP quarterly results for the first quarter of their 2020 fiscal year. In addition, sales increased across US, Canadian and International markets. Management reported that the company’s retail growth outpaced or at least matched industry growth around the globe.

UTV Related Highlights

The following are some of the highlights from the BRP quarterly results as they relate to the UTV market.

  • Similar to other OEMs, BRP noted that snowbelt weather hindered retail sales early in the quarter but rebounded later
  • Weather delayed sales rather than being permanently lost
  • Side-by-side North American retail sales increased high single digits compared to mid-single digits for the industry
  • Retail sales could have been higher except for constrained Defender UTVs supply
  • Management reported strong promotional activity from competitors during the quarter but the environment is improving
  • Side-by-side retail sales for the season(~ 10 months) are up high teens %
  • Globally, BRP side-by-side average selling price is flat and up slightly for YTD and quarter respectively
  • Defender sales have been particularly strong and supply remains tight
  • Management reports taking the most side-by-side market share in the industry for the season in both utility and sport segments
  • Market share is up in Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions as well
  • Do to supplier locations, China related tariffs minimally affect costs
  • BRP is launching a new side-by-side platform in June
  • Increased production capacity will be online
  • Management increased their guidance for FY2020 results, predicting revenue to increase 9% to 13%
  • Guidance for Year-Round Products which includes side-by-sides is for a 14% to 19% increase

Learn more: Earnings call transcript (seekingalpha.com)

SVR’s Take

BRP continues to be the main challenger to Polaris in the side-by-side market. Between the two of them they control around 60% of the market. With both growing market share for the most part, many of the other manufacturers are likely suffering. The success of the Can-Am Defender line, particularly in agriculture markets, is likely hurting companies such as Kubota and John Deere.

Tariffs Affect STOV Market

Polaris 2019 RZR S4 1000 EPS
Tariffs have hit Polaris, the manufacturer of UTVs like the 2019 RZR S4 1000 EPS shown here, hard.

Tariffs Hit Polaris Hard

In a recent interview with CNBC Polaris CEO Scott Wine commented on the affects of the tariffs on the company. He stated that the increase to 25% would be “catastrophic”. The company previously estimated  that they would cost the company $40 million in the last fiscal year. At the 10% tariff level they were guiding towards an approximately $90 million hit for the current fiscal year. However, at the 25% level that would jump to $195 to $200 million. In addition to these China specific tariffs, other aluminum and steel tariffs hurt the company as well.

Polaris More Exposed

Polaris is in a particularly tough spot with the tariffs because of their supply chain relative to the other major UTV manufacturers. The major Japanese OEMs, Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki, mainly source their imported parts from Japan and thus avoid the onerous China tariffs. Can-Am produces products in Canada and Mexico and therefore, are less exposed to the tariff regime as well. Polaris on the other hand sources more of their components from China.

Farmer Segment Exposure

UTV manufacturers exposed to the farm segment are likely to suffer as well. Farmers report lower commodity prices and higher equipment prices. The tariffs are increasing farm equipment prices in the range of 20% according to some farmers. Although this refers to large pieces of farming equipment, if farmers are not spending on these large pieces and trying to cut costs in general, they are likely forgoing UTV purchases as well. John Deere and Kubota are likely the most effected brands as this is a strong segment for them. However, Can-Am could possibly be feeling an impact in their Defender line and Polaris in their Ranger line.

Some Value Brands Vulnerable

In the past few years value brands have made inroads at the lower end of the price scale. Many of these companies are sourcing parts or vehicles from China. For example, CFMOTO is based in China. In addition, Cub Cadet UTVs are manufactured by Hisun in China. Given their value pricing approach, the tariffs are likely putting some pressure on these companies. If they have to raise their prices too much, they lose their value proposition in relation to the major brands in the market.

Can-Am Earnings Strong For Q4 & FY19

2019 Can Am Defender XT UTV
The 2019 Can Am Defender XT in Hyper Silver is one example of the companies constant parade of new models.

Can-Am Earnings Call Summary

Can-Am earnings were strong for the fourth quarter and fiscal year for 2019. Annual revenues increased 18% from $4.5 billion to $5.2 billion (CA$) and quarterly revenues jumped 23% to $1.5 billion. The following are highlights from the recent earnings call.

  • North American powersports retail sales excluding snowmobile sales grew 19% while the industry decreased low single digits in the fourth quarter
  • North American side-by-side sales increased high teens while the industry increased single digits
  • Can-Am grew market share in side-by-sides
  • Increased UTV production capacity by 30% at Mexico facilities with another 50% capacity increase planned for the coming year
  • Continued to introduce a new side-by-side model every six months following their long term plan
  • Side-by-side market remains competitive with promotions or “back end” money going to dealers to reduce net pricing

Can-Am Earnings Guidance for FY2020

Management is expecting continued growth for fiscal year 2020

  • Annual revenue is expected to increase 7-11%.
  • Year-Around Products revenue is expected to grow between 12% and 17% driven primarily by side-by-side models.

Learn more: Seeking alpha.com (Earnings call transcript)

SVR’s Take

Can-Am has grown into the main rival to Polaris in the North American side-by-side market. They have continued to gain market share for several years and have separated themselves from the rest of the pack chasing Polaris. They are the only company that has been able to match the market leader’s level of new model introductions. The development of their Defender product lines to pursue the utility vehicle segment has been a key to unlocking more growth. The complete Can-Am side-by-side lineup now comes close in size and segment coverage to the Polaris armada. Can-Am appears to be running on all cylinders and I would expect them to continue increasing revenue and market share.

Should Polaris Acquire Club Car?

Club Car Tempo
The Tempo, Club Car’s fleet golf car introduced in 2018.

A recent article speculated that Ingersoll-Rand’s acquisition of Precision Flow Systems could pave the way breaking up the conglomerate. Club Car is one of the pieces that seems a poor fit with the rest of Ingersoll-Rand. If this is the case, then Polaris Industries might be a good suitor.

The Pros for Acquiring Club Car

A strong international brand

Club Car has a number of characteristics that match previous Polaris acquisitions. First, Club Car is a leading brand, if not, the leading brand of the three major golf car manufacturers. Second, it is an international brand. Third, Club Car participates, in part, in a fragmented industry. Therefore, Polaris would have an opportunity to use their resources to establish a more dominate market position. While the golf car fleet market is primarily a three company affair, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha, the non-fleet personal transportation vehicle (PTV) and light utility vehicle markets are more fragmented markets. Fourth, a large installed base of vehicles forms the basis for a substantial parts and accessories business. This was a key reason for the Polaris purchase of Taylor-Dunn.

Club Car complements Polaris vehicle portfolio

A large portion of Club Car vehicles sold are electric and would fit well with the Polaris EV portfolio. Other EVs in the Polaris portfolio include GEM, Goupil, Taylor-Dunn and Aixam. Polaris could spread their battery and EV powertrain development costs over a larger number of vehicles. In addition, Club Car’s end markets and distribution network would complement current efforts by Polaris. Their PTVs would complement the street legal GEM vehicles and their light utility vehicles would complement the more heavy-duty Rangers.

In addition, the golf manufacturer’s dealer network would expand Polaris’ footprint. While there is some overlap with the GEM and Taylor-Dunn dealer networks, there would also be a large number of additional dealer locations in the US and internationally. Furthermore, these dealers could be used to expand the GEM and Taylor-Dunn distribution. Club Car end markets such as golf courses, resorts, colleges, airports and other institutions would also take Polaris into new markets or broaden their vehicle offerings where they overlap.

The Cons for Acquiring Club Car

Is there enough growth?

Polaris looks for acquisitions in growing markets and/or traditionally strong but neglected brands that they can leverage. In the case of Club Car, the fleet golf car market has been declining for a number of years. The PTV and light UTV markets are growing but not at really high rates and are a smaller part of the business. Club Car isn’t necessarily a neglected brand but is somewhat lost among much larger Ingersoll-Rand businesses. In contrast, Polaris might be able to focus more attention and resources and make a strong brand even stronger.

Another acquisition to swallow

Polaris has already made a number of acquisitions in the past year, adding Boat Holdings and the Marquis-Larson Boat Group to start a new boating business. Acquiring Club Car would require more management time and focus to successfully integrate the business into Polaris. In addition, the purchase would likely add additional debt to their balance sheet. Polaris management might want to finish integrating their recent acquisitions before adding another piece and avoid increasing their debt.

What Will Polaris Do?

A strong argument could be made that Polaris should acquire Club Car if it’s for sale. The key questions are whether the management perceives if there is enough growth in the market, and do they think they can use their resources to drive more growth. The combination of the PTV and light UTV markets along with the parts and accessories business may offer enough potential. Timing may also be an issue. Any down turn in the economy, which some are predicting, would hurt Polaris. Discretionary income drives a significant portion of their sales.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Polaris Reports Another Strong Quarter

2019 Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000 EPS
The 2019 Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000 EPS in Sunset Red Metallic is part of the Ranger product line that recently commemorated its 20th anniversary.

Polaris Q4 2018 Earnings Overview

Polaris reported another strong quarter and full year with 4th quarter sales of $1.6 billion, up 14% from last year. Full year sales topped $6.1 billion, up 12% from the prior year. The ORV/Snowmobile segment reported sales of $1.1 billion for the quarter, an increase of 7% year over year. The ORV portion declined 2% as the company had a tough comparable with the prior year’s quarter. On a negative note, management expects tariff and trade war costs to total between $110 to $120 million company wide for fiscal year 2019. They will hit the ORV and Motorcycle businesses the hardest. A significant portion of the Q&A on the call revolved around tariff and trade war costs. A summary of the earnings call highlights related to the STOV market follow.

Polaris Earnings Call Highlights

  • Polaris side-by-side retail sales increased mid single digits % while ATV retail sales decreased mid single digits %
  • Average selling price for the ORV segment increased by 7% but were partially offset by tariff, logistics, and commodity costs
  • Polaris gained market share in the side-by-side market for the quarter and the full year
  • Management believes they are gaining share from Japanese competitors and Arctic Cat, now owned by Textron
  • Global Adjacent Markets revenue increased 4% to $122 million on the strength of commercial, government and defense and Aixam businesses.
  • Polaris increased wholegood prices 3.5% for the ORV/Snowmobile segment at the start of 2019 to counter tariff and trade costs
  • Revenue for ORV/Snowmobile and Global Adjacent Markets segments are expected to increase mid-single digits % for fiscal year 2019
  • Management does not expect to enter into electric powered markets until there is large consumer demand. Their response pertained to motorcycles but appears to be their general philosophy.

Learn more: Earnings Call Transcript (seeking alpha.com)