Polaris launches Slingshot three-wheeler and new business unit

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2014 - 9:00 AM

The new motorcycle seats two and includes a steering wheel.

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Polaris Industries Inc. unveiled a three-wheel motorcycle Monday that is so aesthetically slick that Batman just might buy it.

The exotic Slingshot was unleashed before 5,000 dealers at the company’s annual product show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The low-riding two-seater boasts 173 horsepower, up to 20-inch tires and will cost between $19,999 and $23,999.

The Slingshot was engineered in Polaris’ R&D center in Wyoming, Minn., and was a four-year project. Mike Jonikas, the vice president in charge of Slingshot, said the roadster is “designed to deliver head-turning exhilaration.”

“It looks like something from a futuristic movie,” said Art Welch, a motorcycle dealer in St. Paul. “The innovation and idea behind it will definitely raise eyebrows and make people look at three-wheelers differently.”

Slingshot, which debuted in honor of Polaris’ 60th anniversary and will be available in dealerships this fall, is a new direction for the company. Polaris is best-known for manufacturing all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, tiny electric vehicles and traditional motorcycles.

Analysts said the Slingshot is positioned to compete with Harley-Davidson’s “Trike” three-wheel motorcycle, which is designed with one wheel in the front and two in the back. The Slingshot features two wheels in the front and a single, extra-thick wheel in the back, a design similar to the Can-Am Spyder.

Aside from the Slingshot, Polaris unveiled several other products at its dealer show, which had the largest attendance since 2002, Polaris spokeswoman Marlys Knutson said. Polaris also introduced a 2015 Indian luxury touring motorcycle called the Roadmaster that will retail for around $26,999.

The new bike is the latest innovation since Polaris relaunched the Indian motorcycle brand last year with models such as the Indian Chieftain, Indian Chief Classic and the Indian Chief Vintage. Polaris bought the iconic Indian Motorcycle brand in 2011 and has spent millions bringing the beloved bike brand back to life. Its first redesign came last August, and now the company is expanding the Indian brand even further with more models.

In addition, Polaris unveiled its new lineup of 2015 GEM electric vehicles during the show.

Polaris bought Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) from Chrysler in 2011 and has worked since to build out the product line with other acquisitions (mostly in Europe) and through model introductions.

In separate news Monday, Polaris announced the creation of a new Global Adjacent Markets business unit that will handle the company’s emerging products that now sell via nontraditional dealer channels. Such products include electric cars, electric motorcycles, small gas-powered vehicles, military ATVs, government forestry or fire-related vehicles and its commercial diesel utility vehicle known as Brutus.

The new unit will be global, grow quickly and is “expected to be greater than $2 billion [in revenues] by acquisitions and new markets by 2020,” Knutson said.

Matt Homan, a 12-year Polaris veteran, was named president of the new unit. He previously oversaw Europe, Middle East and Africa and small vehicles.

Homan will report to Polaris President Bennett Morgan and will be supported by his own Global Adjacent Markets team of human resources, engineering, finance, business development and legal personnel.

“Building this business is one of the foundations of our long-term strategy and we are excited to apply Matt’s talents to this task,” Polaris CEO Scott Wine said in a statement.

Wine added that the new business unit will combine emerging products under one umbrella and will work to find synergies, build scale and offer clearer accountability.

The structure is not expected to affect Polaris’ core lineup of ATV/side-by-side vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles, small vehicles and parts/garments and accessories, officials said.

 

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  • The Polaris Slingshot seats two riders side-by-side, which required a steering wheel instead of handlebars normally associated with motorcycles.

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