There is a buzz in the air that our acute OSM “spidey” senses have been picking up since mid-summer. Rumors of Yamaha and Arctic Cat becoming bed partners have been growing stronger and stronger as the announcement of 2014 models inches closer. We can’t confirm much with cold-hard facts, but we also sense there is change brewing and whatever it might be, it could very well rock the status quo. Here’s what we “sense” and why we think a YamaCat is not as crazy as it sounds.
- Been There, Done That – The idea of one manufacturer building a snowmobile for another and simply “re-branding” it is not new. In fact during the heyday of the sport it happened often. Polaris built sleds for Sears, Yamaha supplied engines for makers such as Roll-O-Flex and Sno-Jet; Scorpion manufactured sleds for Massey Ferguson and Brut, Arctic Cat built sleds for Scorpion, and so on, in fact the list of rebranded sleds by another maker is rather lengthy.
- The SRX 120 – A year ago Yamaha launched the SRX 120, an Arctic Cat 120 in blue tuning fork clothing. Most brushed it off as just another 120 kids sled. Truth is, the Cat 120 sled has been using a Yamaha built “spec” motor for some time.
- Happy Feet – Yamaha brass has been incredibly upbeat for the past year despite admitting they are “getting by” with the same product for the past several years. In fact, Yamaha cross-country racers at the USXC opener in Pine Lake, MN expressed big time optimism towards “next year”.
- Big Meeting – Yamaha will host perhaps their largest snowmobile dealer meeting in their history in Minneapolis, MN (home to both Arctic Cat and Polaris corporate headquarters). This Yamaha dealer meeting will be the first time both U.S. and Canadian dealers will come together at the same time.
- Weather – If the glorious winter of 2010-2011 would have repeated itself last winter (and this winter as things look at this writing), the snowmobile industry would quite likely be experiencing healthy growth, and such talk of a joint venture would be more likened to an April Fools joke.
- Space Claims – When a new chassis is designed, engineers set aside space to ensure different engines, suspensions, and accessories have a place to call home in the same chassis for several future model years. Space claims for more than the three engines (Arctic Cat’s 600 racer, 800 two-stroke, and 1100 four-stroke) in the new Pro-Cross chassis would not be unusual. To our non-engineering eye, the Pro-Cross appears to have the “space” necessary to accommodate a “larger” engine. Furthermore, Yamaha could reap dividends by simplifying their chassis offerings.
- Market Share – Arctic Cat and Yamaha are currently number three and four in terms of snowmobile market share (by dreher). Despite a growing off-road brand, Arctic Cat still relies heavily on the fiscal performance of their snowmobile division. If for some strange reason the number three and four players joined forces, they would both put themselves in a more powerful position within the industry.
- Single Line Dealers – Yamaha, like many powersports manufacturers (especially Japanese builders) places a strong value on single line dealerships (a dealer who only carries one brand, regardless of the season). The value of the single line dealer is one of the reasons Yamaha continues to participate in the snowmobile business, despite having relatively small market share. It’s the same reason why Honda designed and manufactured a watercraft. What’s more, a partnership allows one or both snowmobile manufacturers to “stay in the game” with less investment.
- Engines – What OEM wouldn’t want to have the ability to secure a Yamaha four-stroke motor into their current snowmobile platform? The other makers have very admirable four-stroke offerings, but no one comes close to a Yamaha four-stroke. After all, Yamaha is a “motor” company and others including Ford, Toyota, and various Formula One teams have used their engines.
Just to be clear…as of today there IS NO HARD EVIDENCE OR PROOF IN OUR HANDS OF A YAMAHA AND ARCTIC CAT PARTNERSHIP beyond the SRX 120; and everything you have read to this point is pure speculation. We’d love to speculate and pontificate further on the possibilities of such a partnership and specific models, but we will save our breath and let you noodle and speculate on your own. As always, time will reveal what is really going on and whether we look like prophets, idiots, or both.