March 28, 2007
In the late eighties I was in
‘Data’? …man, was I blindsided. It never occurred to me that I might be called upon to provide research and analysis for an idea which seemed so much common sense (at least to me). I was crushed to the point where I briefly considered packing it in a running for the airport.
Almost ten years later we released the Pro-Action system (trailing-arm chassis) using three, then four engines in one frame to create a whole line-up of sport and touring sleds which essentially carried us into the beginning of the current 4-stroke generation.
Nowadays snowmobiles have become very specialized. Heck it wasn’t that long ago all we to do to build a mountain sled was stretch the track and slap some ski-skins on it. Not any more! Visualize if you will, a tall standing triangle. This is the traditional model used for positioning discussions. At the ‘peak’ sits the ‘flagship’, the highest cost, highest performing model in the line. Beneath it will be a layer of some variants, beneath the second layer is a third with more models but using smaller engines and spreading out into more market niche’s and so it goes until you have completed your line-up. Now you can draw circles and add bubbles to model groups indicating the rider’s demographics and needs with creative titles like ‘rough trail expert’, ‘groomed trail veteran’ my favorite going back a few years was ‘beer belly bubba’… I always disliked this part of the exercise, having to place riders in ‘buckets’ or ‘silos’ to quantify what they do with their sleds. I could never find a bucket for myself as I could see me living in several if not all of them.
For the past few years we have adopted a new design model we like to refer to as ‘
Visualize two elongated triangles standing side by side. The first represents the Apex – Vector models (Made to ride sitting down, but very easy to stand) focused on the long distance trail rider looking for the ultimate in comfort, handling and performance on groomed trails. The second triangle contains the Phazer / FX Nytro models (made to ride standing up, but can sit down). These “FX” models are specifically targeted for the riders that enjoy the challenge of attacking the bumps and riding a very responsive sled in the rough stuff.
Major product planning decisions like ergonomics, styling, suspension type, fuel tank size, calibration direction etc. are made with the targeted primary user in mind. Either design can cover a wide range of trail conditions which the rider may encounter on an all-day ride – but the snowmobile’s “sweet spot” (where each sled performs the best) is geared for very different riding conditions that give each type of rider the most enjoyment. We believe this type of targeted performance will help increase overall customer satisfaction.
The “one-chassis fits all” model being used by our competition relies on a single chassis design to cover the majority of all customers needs. They change the engines, suspension packages, track length and appearance in order to expand sales. While this may be efficient for the design engineers, it makes it significantly harder on the calibration engineers when they try to satisfy a specific-use customer.
There is a lot of compromise required to cover a wide range of use with only one chassis and when the basic design is compromised too much, the “sweet spot” is lost entirely.Our “twin peaks” design direction now offers a true chassis choice. Riders really need to consider ‘where they live’ in the big picture and base their buying decisions on what type of riding “sweet spot” they desire most.