24 July 2002

Polaris Britain to handle ATVs UK marketing

By Andy Collings

AFTER 10 years of being marketed by EP Barrus, Polaris ATVs are now to be handled in the UK by a new company – Polaris Britain.

Based at Stonehouse, Glos, the new company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Polaris Industries, which has its manufacturing plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

And the man chosen to head up the company is Jack Ford whose long experience with ATVs includes 16 years with Kawasaki.

"The decision to move the marketing from Barrus was an entirely mutual one," he says. "While Barrus undoubtedly did a good job it accepted that ATVs were not its core business. It was agreed that if Polaris was to make a greater impact on the UK market a new approach was required."

Starting a new business from scratch is not without its challenges. One of Mr Fords key tasks was to find a suitable site in the UK – both geographically and one able to offer the necessary office, showroom and workshop facilities. "I believe the Stonehouse site to be ideal in this respect and the M5 is only a few miles down the road."

For his key sales staff Mr Ford managed to recruit a number of Barrus salesmen who were well acquainted with the Polaris ATV product range.

With a full complement of office staff still to be appointed and some structural changes to be implemented in the building, Polaris Britain still has some way to go before it could be said to be fully functional.

Even so, Mr Ford has already set his sights on achieving a larger share of the UK ATV market.

"Currently we only have an 8% share – which is not enough," he says. "I aim to double this in two years and eventually gain a 20%+ share. With the quality of product we have there is no reason why this cannot be achieved."

In terms of product Mr Ford concedes that the Polaris association with diesel ATVs – and more particularly the ill-fated D-Bat diesel machine – has not served the company well.

"We do have a diesel powered ATV in the range but the emphasis is now on petrol models. The publics perception that Polaris is only about diesel engined ATVs has got to change."

He points out that the current range includes petrol-powered machines from 250cc up to 500cc, and there are also six-wheel versions which have proved to be a popular purchase for local authorities and other municipal organisations.

Last year Polaris introduced its Visco-Lok differential locking system which helps to ensure that all four wheels are driving – or stopping – at the same time. This, plus the use of automatic transmissions and sophisticated suspension systems will help to promote sales, believes Mr Ford.

New models are also set to be launched in the UK later this year. These are likely to include larger engined versions and adaptations to ensure that the ATVs are seen as workhorses and capable of operating in a wide range of farming conditions.

On the distribution front, Polaris has 80 dealers in the UK but, with the formation of the new firm, Mr Ford sees it as a chance to reappraise the situation.

"We have a golden opportunity to take a long hard look at which dealers are doing a good job for us and those who are not," says Mr Ford. "If we are to expand our sales we need to be able to channel our efforts into supporting those dealers who are capable of performing well."

So, enter Polaris Britain – a company which believes it has the product, the expertise and the dealer network.

It also has Jack Ford, who is clearly determined to make Polaris a major name in the UKs ATV market. &#42

Jack Ford heads up the new Polaris Britain company based at Stonehouse, Glos. "We aim to grow," he says.

Topping the Polaris ATV range is the magnum 500. The company says it intends to major on petrol, rather than diesel powered machines.