Polaris buys French quadricycle maker

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2013 - 9:00 PM

A deal for a French company broadens Polaris’ small-vehicle efforts.

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Aixam’s City S is one of a line of tiny but sporty “enclosed” passenger vehicles that can be driven on most European streets without a driver’s license. Quadricycles are described as being “carlike” but are lightweight and low-speed.

Polaris Industries Inc. may be known for rugged, testosterone-tinged ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles, but it just bought a whole lot of cute in the form of French-made “quadricycles.”

The recently purchased A.M. Holding S.A.S. gives Polaris a line of tiny but sporty “enclosed” passenger vehicles that can be driven on most European streets without a driver’s license. The company, which goes by the name Aixam Mega, also makes light-duty commercial vehicles. Both passenger and commercial products run on diesel fuel or electricity.

Aixam quadricycles will give Polaris $110 million in annual sales and a network of 400 dealers across Europe. Quadricycles are described as being “carlike” but are lightweight, low-speed and don’t meet the criteria to be considered a true “car,” officials said.

Regardless, Aixam’s petite four-wheelers hand Polaris’ small-vehicle portfolio a decided boost. Medina-based Polaris bought two electric car makers in 2011 — the low-speed Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) it acquired from Chrysler and the French-made Goupil Industrie line of “ultralight” industrial electric/hybrid trucks that sell in 18 European countries.

Polaris paid cash for Aixam but did not disclose the amount or terms. CEO Scott Wine described Aixam as an “excellent fit” because it not only increases Polaris’ small-vehicle offerings but its international reach, as well.

About 33 percent of Polaris’ $3.2 billion in 2012 revenue came from overseas and the goal is to push that higher.

Polaris already sells off-road ATVs, utility vehicles and/or snowmobiles in Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America. In July, it announced a 50/50 joint venture with Eicher Motors in India. And it recently announced plans to build a factory in Poland.

Adding Aixam Mega expands Polaris’ presence in Europe, which has seen growth in recent years thanks to increased demand for snowmobiles in Sweden, Norway, and Russia. The new on-road offerings presented by Aixam “is indicative of our confidence in Europe … to be a contributor to Polaris’s pursuit of … growth,” Wine said.

Polaris’ stock rose Thursday by $1.81 to $89.61 a share.

 

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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