Polaris Industries Inc. has found a new way to power up business with a new line of portable generators for campers, tailgaters and homeowners.
The generators — designed and tested in Roseau and Wyoming, Minn. — were made to be compact and quiet. They are also “digital inverter generators,” meaning they can power sensitive electrical equipment without the problems of traditional nondigital models.
This month, Polaris shipped three sizes of the generators to its dealers around the country.
Polaris’s new gasoline-powered generators offer up to 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 watts of AC power, depending on which model is chosen. They can be linked together to create additional power.
The generators are expected to power TVs, radios, cellphones and lights during camping and tailgating events, as well as homes after a blackout. The largest model offers 3,000 watts of AC power and can run the air conditioner of an RV for 21 hours. The generators retail for $649 to $1,799.
“It’s definitely a new growth platform for us. We are excited about it,” said Steve Eastman, Polaris vice president of parts, garments and accessories. “We have invested two years of research and development into this and we see it as a tremendous opportunity. Polaris continually explores adjacent product markets that complement our existing offerings and strengthen our brand.”
The generators pose a new direction for the $3.6 billion recreational sports company that is better known for making ATVs, military and electric vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, small electric cars plus clothing and accessories.
Entering a crowded market
By introducing generators, Polaris is entering a $1 billion industry that already includes heavyweight players like Honda and Yamaha. Polaris hopes to differentiate itself by only selling through its international network of Polaris dealers so it can tap customers loyal to the Polaris brand. There are no plans to broaden distribution to include big-name outdoor retailers, Eastman said.
Mike Getz, general manager of Best Line Equipment in State College, Pa., said he likes the approach Polaris is taking. By selling only through Polaris dealers like him, it ensures that customers can get products and service. That is what will differentiate Polaris from a Wal-Mart or any commodity product.
Paul Johnson, manager of business development for Polaris Power, said the company is comfortable with its approach. Months of customer surveys, dealer input and employee field tests revealed that the customers who buy Polaris ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles are the same outdoor lovers who want access to power using a beloved brand.
Polaris is also smart about its pricing, said Getz, who also sells portable Honda digital inverter generators, a brand he considers the Mercedes-Benz of the industry.
‘‘The Polaris units that compete with the Honda inverters provide the same technology and provide it at a lower price,” Getz said. “Polaris’s lowest-price model is $125 less and on the higher end it’s $500 less than the Honda brand. The prices are where they need to be to compete with Honda.”
More than $1 million worth of generators have been shipped to dealers so far, Johnson said.
Getz is scheduled to get 60 this month. The generators are being manufactured by a third party that Johnson and Eastman declined to name.
The compact generators will become part of Polaris’ parts, garments and accessories business, which has grown 30 percent to $599 million in the past year amid a mix of acquisitions and product cross-selling.