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.
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.
My colleague Steve Metzger recently attended the 2019 PGA Show. He reports on the trends in personal mobility vehicles from established and new players. In addition, he discusses the mainstreaming of lithium batteries and related implications. The following is a summary of key insights from the article.
The personal mobility market in the form of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) is attracting an increased level of product development.
The major fleet golf car manufacturers, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha are turning their attention to PTVs and other non-golf markets.
New models incorporate a greater variety of features and more automotive style features
The Sirius PTV from Star Electric Vehicles is the most likely candidate to seriously challenge offerings from Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha.
Club Car introduced lithium battery powered models and other manufacturers are considering the technology as well
Both Trojan Battery and ReLion Battery presented lithium batteries targeting the aftermarket for PTVs, golf cars and light-duty utility vehicles
Lithium battery market penetration has implications for the recycling of fleet golf cars, used PTVs and future demand for public road access for PTVs
EFI engine technology continues to advance in the face of improving battery technology as market choice will likely increase before a winner shakes out
Potential California LSV legislation could become a model for other states and a market driver
Product engineers may drive the market in the next 3 to 5 years
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.
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.
My colleague Stephen Metzger recently attended the 2019 PGA Show in Orlando, FL. Two trends stood out from his journey through various exhibits. First, the on-going development of feature-rich and customizable personal transportation vehicles (PTVs), particularly through automotive-type features. Second, the mainstreaming of lithium power.
PTVs to the Forefront
The manufacturer announcements at the PGA Show and the current PTV shopping experience points to a clear emphasis on PTV market. Both large and small manufacturers are driving this trend. This is part of an overarching effort by manufacturers to pursue growth in the non-fleet golf car markets. They are targeting the utility and personal transportation segments as fleet sales have declined and then stagnated.
Customization with automotive features
Manufacturer websites now allow for easy and quick customization with the simple click of a few buttons. Build your own functionality adds accessories and provides transparent pricing in seconds. Many of these accessories are automotive-style features like LED lighting, high-end audio systems, premium upholstery, and bodywork accents. In addition, these trends are evident not only in offerings from major vehicle manufacturers but from new and smaller manufacturers as well as aftermarket accessory providers.
Lithium Powers Up at the PGA Show
The mainstreaming of lithium powered vehicles is the second key trend evident at the PGA Show. E-Z-GO the first major manufacturer to significantly move to lithium did so two years ago. Now they are expanding their lithium powered lineup beyond fleet models and some PTVs to include select utility vehicles. More significantly, Club Car announced their own lithium powered fleet vehicle, the Tempo, and likely will offer their Onward PTV with a lithium option later in the year. Missing from the lithium powered party for now is Yamaha Golf Car.
Lithium Market Implications
The move to lithium powered vehicles will likely produce significant changes in the STOV market. Greater range, charging times, and lengthier warranties on battery packs are key improvements. Consequently, they will affect the fleet vehicle cycle, electric powered UTV capabilities and PTV functionality. One effect that should not be underestimated is the maintenance free nature of lithium battery packs. Proper maintenance of lead acid batteries continue to vex individual owners and fleet managers. Maintenance of lead acid batteries continues to be a challenge despite being used for decades and the introduction of advanced watering systems and other technologies. Poor maintenance can lead to a less efficient powertrain, and potentially a large bill for a new battery pack.
For more detail on new products and trends at the PGA Show read my colleague Stephen Metzger’s article.
Textron Specialized Vehicles Launches Hauler 800 ELiTE Electric UTV
Textron Specialized Vehicles launched the Cushman Hauler 800 ELiTE electric powered utility vehicles. Samsung SDI lithium technology powers the ELiTE series. The Cushman Hauler 800 and 800X will feature the lithium battery pack. Textron is targeting golf course superintendents with these models.
The Hauler 800 and 800X ELiTE powertrains feature a 48-volt AC drive with a 11.7 hp (peak) motor and two zero maintenance lithium ion batteries. In comparison, the existing electric Hauler 800 and 800X have a 48-volt AC drive with 4.4 hp continues motor and six deep cycle batteries.
Textron’s initial introduction of the ELiTE lithium batteries in fleet golf cars was successful. As a result, utility vehicles used on golf courses are a logical extension of the program. Furthermore, from a macro market perspective, Textron is the first major manufacturer in the STOV market to make a strong push with lithium powered vehicles. While others have offered lithium batteries as an option on some vehicles, Textron is the first to incorporate them into key models.
Where is the Competition on Lithium Batteries?
Polaris diverse lineup sprinkled with lithium models
With the 2017 acquisition of Arctic Cat, Textron Specialized Vehicle business became an even more direct competitor with Polaris. Polaris has been active in the electric vehicle market for years. They invested in Brammo, and acquired Goupil in France and GEM and Taylor-Dunn in the US. However, to date, Polaris has not made a big push into lithium powered utility vehicles in the US. GEM vehicles have an option and the European based Goupil offers two lithium battery pack options for many models. Polaris briefly offered their Ranger EV with a lithium pack but the model was significantly more expensive. Their volume in fleet golf cars provides Textron with an advantage over Polaris when introducing lithium powered models.
Club Car enters the fray
At the recent 2019 PGA Show Club Car introduced its lithium powered fleet vehicle, the Tempo. According to sources, they are likely to introduce a lithium powered version of their Onward PTV later in the year. Like Textron, Club Car will have the advantage of production volume through fleet sales. They likely will follow suit and offer lithium powered utility vehicles in the future. A smaller manufacturer likely to follow the trend is STAR Electric Vehicles.
Using the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show as a launch pad, Yamaha Golf-Car Company unveiled their new light utility vehicle, the UMAX Rally 2+2. Aiming for a broad swath of the market, the company is marketing the vehicle as crossover model for work or play. The vehicle’s “rugged” styling is less golf car and more closely aligned with the rest of the UMAX line. The UMAX Rally 2+2 features a lifted suspension, front brush guard, wide fender flares and a convertible rear seat. In addition, customers can choose between a electronic fuel injected gas engine or AC electric powertrain.
UMAX Rally 2+2 Features & Specs
Additional features and specs include:
Powertrain Options: Yamaha 402cc, single cylinder EFI gas engine or 48V, 6.7 hp AC electric motor with 350 amp controller
Rear coil suspension system with individual coil springs with dual compressions for standard or heavier loads
Front bucket seats
Basket storage area behind the front seats
Sealed under-hood storage compartment
In-dash storage pockets with anti-slip rubber mats
HybriCore steel chassis
Tru-Trak II fully independent automotive-style strut front suspension
Mechanical drum front and rear brakes
15 mph top speed
This model will be available at authorized Yamaha dealers in Spring 2019.
Similar to many other UTV manufacturers, Yamaha is building out their utility vehicle line to drive sales growth. Marketed as a ‘work or play’ vehicle, this model is also trying to tap into the growing PTV market. The UMAX product line now includes four different models with most offering an option of gas or electric powertrains. Essentially, the UMAX Rally 2+2 adds a crew version to the lineup. The product line is versatile and can appeal to a wide range of commercial and consumer end users. The line offers varying levels of cargo and passenger capacity as well as light off-road capabilities.
Tracker, a leading boat manufacturer, and Textron Specialized Vehicles are forming a partnership to produce UTVs and ATVs and sell them under the new Tracker Off Road brand. Tracker is part of the White River Marine Group that includes Tracker, Triton, and Ranger boats, as well as Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s. The Tracker Off Road vehicles will be sold through select Ranger, Triton, and Tracker, and other independent dealers, as well as at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s locations. They will be built at the Thief River Falls, Minnesota plant that produces Arctic Cat vehicles.
Tracker Off Road Product Lineup
The Tracker Off Road lineup includes four ATVs and four UTVs. The ATV line includes entry level youth and adult models and two more models with more features and capabilities. This lineup should be able to target a wide swath of the ATV market. The UTV lineup includes a personal transportation vehicle (PTV), and three models currently sold under the Prowler nameplate: the Prowler EV, Prowler Pro and Prowler Pro Crew. The corporate presentation also mentioned the potential of selling the Wildcat XX and even snowmobiles through the same distribution network.
The Textron Tracker partnership continues the trend in the UTV market of brands expanding beyond their traditional distribution networks. Typically, an established UTV brand partners with a traditionally non-UTV brand. They either re-brand existing models or develop similar but unique models to sell through the partner brand’s distribution network. Previously, major UTV brands have used this approach to gain access to farm equipment and outdoor power equipment distribution networks. In this case, Textron is tapping into marine distribution and outdoor apparel networks. In a similar vein, Polaris and Can-Am have recently acquired boating manufacturers. Primarily these acquisitions diversify their powersports portfolio. However, it would not be surprising to see them sell a select range of off-road vehicles through these marine networks. If the dealers believe they can make a profit and there is no territorial conflict with the traditional powersports dealers then these networks expand their geographic footprint and reach.
The Talon 1000R and 1000X are Honda’s entry into the sport UTV segment.
The Honda Talon 1000X is designed for tighter and rockier trails.
The Honda Talon 1000R is for dunes and more wide open riding.
Honda Launches Talon Sport UTVs
Honda recently introduced the Talon 1000X and Talon 1000R UTVs. They are Honda’s long awaited entry into the sport UTV market. The Talon 1000X targets tighter wooded trails and rockier environments while the Talon 1000R aims for more wide-open dune riding. The models should be available in early 2019. I’ve seen sources mention January while others mentioned March. The first date might be production and the second could be arrival at the dealerships. In any case, the following specs are common to both versions.
The two models have different widths, wheelbases, slightly different suspension systems with different suspension travel. a slight difference in suspension travel and different color options. The following specs are some of the key differences between the vehicles.
In early January 2019 Honda announced pricing for the vehicles.
Talon 1000R — MSRP: $20,999; Availability: Spring 2019
Talon 1000X — MSRP: $19,999; Availability: Spring 2019
Talon 1000x Key Specs
Double-wishbone front suspension, Fox Podium 2.0 shocks with Quick Switch 3
3 Link rear suspension with high-clearance trailing arm, Fox Podium 2.0 shocks with Quick Switch 3
Front/Rear suspension travel: 14.5″/15″
Red/Gray with red suspension accents
Gray/Blue with silver suspension accents
Talon 1000R Key Specs
Double-wishbone front suspension, Fox Podium 2.5 shocks with Quick Switch 3
4+ Link trailing-arm rear suspension with toe link, Fox Podium 2.5 shocks with Quick Switch 3
Front/Rear suspension travel: 17.7″/20.1″
Red with red suspension accents
Green/Silver with silver suspension accents
The following are some initial reviews and analysis of the Talon from around the industry.
First Look Review (video). Provides fairly in-depth analysis of the engine and drive train and highlights many of the key features that the reviewer likes.
999cc twin cylinder SOHC engine should provide good low-end torque
270 degree firing order makes it run like a single cylinder
Based on Pioneer engine but bigger throttle bodies, bigger injectors, different heads and more flow
Claiming 104 hp but may have higher torque than other UTVs with more hp
Rubber mounted engine to dampen vibration
3 Driving Modes: Sport, Normal and Manual with paddle shifters
Hill Assist – Push dash button and it holds the vehicle from rolling back for 3 seconds
“Big deal” for this vehicle is the transmission has a dual high and low range so you can go rock crawling without changing the gear set out
Claim extra strong driveshaft and axles
i-4WD system with electronic braking control to transfer power up front from a spinning wheel to the wheel with traction
68.4 1000R Front/rear wheel travel 17.7/20.1
64″ 1000X Front/rear wheel travel 14.6/15.1- this may be a little short compared to competitors
Can use 30″ tires – 28″ are standard and custom designed by Maxxis
15″ rims for bigger brakes
1000X has 3 link system podium 2.0
1000R has a 4 link for added strength and Podium 2.5;
More suspension tuning with 3 mode QS3 compression on both models
Power steering sport tuned for feedback and speed sensitive
Standard roof is designed with rain gutters and air vents for trailering backwards
Good seat sliders
Holders in doors and t-bar has nice latching system
Seats have pass throughs for harnesses
Pedals laid out for two or one foot driving and passenger has different places to place feet at speed or more relaxed driving
They provide a top ten feature list for the vehicles
Bolstered seats with harness pass throughs and harness bar
15″ rims for larger brakes and 30″ tires
Sizable cargo bed with tie-downs
Dual Clutch six-speed transmission
Hill Start Assist
4-link trailing arm system on 1000R
Strong, durable build
Honda’s entry into the sport market has long been rumored so this isn’t much of a surprise. People may not have expected two different models, but targeting the main sport sub-segments makes sense. The initial reactions are very positive and Honda’s reputation for quality and performance have riders expecting a good vehicle.
Not surprisingly, Honda’s entry makes the sport end of the market now quite crowded. As a result, the competitive landscape raises the question of how Kawasaki will respond. They have been focusing more on the utility side of the market with their recent model introductions and have not made any really big changes with their more recreationally oriented Teryx product line. I would suspect they might come out with a new high-end sport vehicle in the next year and probably as a separate product line.
A lithium battery from Trojan’s new Trillium product line.
Trillium Lithium Battery Line from Trojan
Trojan Battery, a major player in the golf car and small task-oriented vehicle market, recently introduced their new Trillium line of Trojan Intelligent Lithium batteries. The line is targeting the aftermarket segment and is designed to be a replacement for existing lead acid batteries. According to Trojan the switch can be made “without the need for expertise in Li-ion technology or system integration.” Likewise OEMs can use the new battery line “…without significant investments in custom pack design and development.”
Sign of More Market Penetration
Trojan’s new product line is another indication of the growing use of lithium batteries in the golf car market. For a number of years there has been a lithium battery aftermarket that has largely consisted of smaller companies packaging together the various components. They either sell directly to golf car owners and/or through dealers who can install the components. However, this has been a niche market. In 2015 LiV Golf Cars tried to sell a lithium powered fleet golf car but were undercut by the big players too many times and retreated from that market. There are also smaller volume OEMs like GEM and luxury golf car maker Garia that offer lithium powered vehicles.
E-Z-GO Entry a Gamechanger
The most significant move towards lithium batteries came in 2017 when E-Z-GO, one of the major golf car manufacturers, launched their ELiTE line of lithium powered fleet golf cars. They also offer the option on some of their personal transportation vehicles. Financial reports show that E-Z-GO sold over 20,000 ELiTE vehicles in 2017. Samsung SDI is the lithium battery supplier for E-Z-GO. Rival golf car manufacturer Club Car has been linked to battery manufacturer LG Chem but has not yet introduced any lithium powered vehicles.
What Lies Ahead
The entry of a brand name such as Trojan should boost the aftermarket segment. Customers will likely have more trust in a Trojan backed product. In addition, if it is as easy to use as advertised, then this niche market should expand. The E-Z-GO product appears to have launched fairly successfully. Continued success will likely force Club Car and Yamaha to introduce their own lithium powered vehicles. Perhaps as soon as the upcoming PGA Show early in 2019. Once that happens, the move towards lithium batteries could accelerate quickly.