Polaris Industries and Arctic Cat may be in the same growing recreational vehicle industry, but theirs is definitely a “Tale of Two ATVs.”
While Polaris, even with a reported hiccup, continued to grow in the second quarter, Arctic Cat continued to struggle, posting a loss.
Innovation could be the difference.
“Over seven or eight years, Polaris has done a great job of moving beyond its heritage of just making snowmobiles and ATVs,” said WedBush Security stock analyst James Hardiman.
Polaris first expanded into utility mobiles for factories and then designed “side by side” ATVs that were an instant hit across the industry and copied by many firms. More recently, the company has moved into the motorcycle business and introduced a highly stylized souped-up, three-wheel Slingshot roadster that has stopped street traffic and drawn crowds.
“That’s pretty cool,” Hardiman said.
“Polaris gets the first movers advantage by being first with several industry products,” he said. “But for Arctic Cat, in every case, it seems like they don’t come out with those newer products until Polaris and others do. So Arctic Cat has been playing catch up, and that is hard to do. It will take them a few years to come out with their first entrance into a product. But by that time, Polaris is on their third or fourth iteration.”
On Wednesday, Medina-based Polaris broke a quarterly sales record, seeing 11 percent growth to $1.12 billion from the same quarter in 2014. Net profits grew from $96.9 million in the year-ago quarter to $100.9 million on strong growth of motorcycle sales and a more modest bump for its off-road ATV and side by sides.
But the results — which rose for a 23rd consecutive quarter — did not meet analysts’ expectations. That prompted the stock to take a hit, falling $5.67, or 3.7 percent, to close Wednesday at $147.71 per share. Polaris also had some big problems overhauling its paint processes within its Iowa motorcycle plant. The snafu hit when orders for its Indian branded bikes were way up, causing shipment delays. Still Polaris pushed out a great quarter, analysts said.
In contrast, Arctic Cat reported a quarterly loss of $1.1 million, or 8 cents a share. A year ago, the company saw a $3.6 million profit for the same quarter. Sales slumped 6 percent to $134 million for its fiscal first quarter that runs from April to June (the same time period as Polaris’ second quarter). Arctic Cat’s sales proved better than Wall Street expected; the per-share earnings did not.
Arctic Cat’s stock fell $1.62 a share to $30.09 Wednesday.
The company, based in Plymouth, has been dealing for several quarters with excess inventory and this quarter intentionally cut old ATV inventory by 4,000 units with aggressive dealer rebates, discounts and ad campaigns.
CEO Christopher Metz pointed out that the company is also making investments and is determined to launch new products. In May, Arctic Cat announced that it will spend $27 million to improve its plants in Thief River Falls and St. Cloud.
“We made continued progress in the first quarter against our stated goals to reposition the business for growth and clean up the inventory overhang,” said Metz, who became CEO in November. “In particular, we saw encouraging trends in the company’s core North America ATV dealer inventory levels and gained further market share.”
Metz said the company remains on track with its long-term plan.
Wells Fargo stock analyst Tim Conder said Arctic Cat’s fiscal 2016 is “largely a transitional year as the new management team repositions channel inventories and implements new marketing strategy ahead of upcoming product launches. The key will be to have channel inventories fully corrected before [2017 product launches] when more material innovation is expected.”
At Polaris, CEO Scott Wine noted his firm’s strong growth in motorcycle sales and the three-wheeler Slingshot roadster during the quarter. During a conference call with analysts, he also pointed to the June expansion into the nation of India, with subsequent product launches there. But for the quarter it was motorcycles that stole the show.
Wine attributed much of that growth to Polaris’s 2011 acquisition of North Carolina based Indian Motorcycle. The Indian brand is “obviously a home run … It was our best acquisition in a long time,” Wine said.
With Indian and Polaris’ Victory brand, total motorcycle sales rose 57 percent to $162 million during the quarter.
Polaris bought the then-struggling 112-year-old Indian motorcycle company in 2011. It then spent millions rebuilding the company and during the last two years launched and heavily promoted both revived and newly designed Indian bike models to longtime fans.