Along with a number of other turf industry journalists, I recently attended a Polaris press day held at the Heart of England Conference & Event Centre near Meriden.
We were there to see their new range of ATV and Side-by-Side all terrain vehicles, along with the opportunity to test drive them in an off road environment.
Polaris is an American company who have been at the forefront of developing new and innovative products since their conception in 1954. It all began when the Hetteen brothers and David Johnson built the world's first ever snow mobile in 1956. Their agricultural engineering background, coupled with one of the country's heaviest snow falls, prompted them to design and develop a practical prime mover to help farmers get around. It was so successful it became their core business for many years.
However, in the 1970s, All terrain Vehicles (ATVs), often referred to as Quad Bikes or Quads, were becoming popular. These three and four wheel machines were developing fast with many being produced by Japanese bike manufacturers, Honda and Yamaha.
Polaris began to look into designing their own range of ATVs in the early 1980s and have, over the years, developed one of the most comprehensive range of off road vehicles offered by any one company.
They continued to be innovative, developing a number of industry firsts:-
1st Snowmobile Proprietary Drive System
1st ATV made in the USA
1st ATV with Automatic Transmission
1st (and only) ATV with On-Demand All-Wheel Drive
1st ATV with All-Wheel Disc Brakes
1st ATV with Independent Rear Suspension
1st ATV Electronic Fuel Injected 4x4
1st (and only) True 6 Wheel-Drive Utility Vehicle
In the early days, ATVs were considered quite dangerous machines to operate, with injuries to operators giving them a poor reputation. However, better design and innovation by Polaris and other companies has ensured that modern machines are compliant with relevant safety guidelines and legislation.
Operator safety is at the forefront of design, and new models offer a range of safety features that include speed regulators, cab roll bars, seat belts, noise reduction, transmission controls, better suspension, anti roll bars and braking systems.
Today, Polaris offer a free training course to improve rider skills, safety levels and awareness of the capabilities of these machines to any one who purchases a new ATV product.
This training scheme is currently being run by EASI®, the European All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute, who deliver these courses throughout Europe. Over 3,200 people have participated in Rider Course Training over the past 36 month with an average of twenty eight courses conducted each month
Whilst other companies appear to be suffering a downturn in sales, Polaris are reporting a 4.5% growth in sales. This may be due to the fact that the company have continued to develop and introduce new products to the market place, attend major shows such as Saltex, LAMMA and Royal Highland Show whilst keeping their prices keen.
The company are also working closely with the National Farmers Union (NFU) with Polaris customers being given free NFU Countryside membership. In addition, existing NFU members get 5% discount off Polaris products.
Polaris have a total of sixteen new products for 2010 along with ten existing models.
Their ATVs, Utility and Ranger vehicles cater for a whole range of user groups that include the military, police, fire and ambulance services, farming, the amenity sector and sport and leisure facilities.
The new vehicles in the range are: -
|Sportsman 300 4x4|
|Sportsman 400 4x4|
|Sportsman 500 H.O.|
|Sportsman 550 EFI|
|Sportsman 550 EPS|
|Sportsman 550 X2|
|Sportsman 850 XP EPS|
|Sportsman 800 EFI 6x6|
|Ranger 400 4x4|
|Ranger EV (electric powered)|
|Ranger 500 EFI HO|
|Ranger 800 EFI XP|
|Ranger 800 HD EPS|
|Ranger 800 EFI Crew|
|Ranger 800 EFI 6x6|
The new Sportsman 550 X2 has a nifty rear seat facility that transforms from a carrier box into a seat for a passenger. The engine produces 42hp, has a towing capacity of 630kg and 286mm ground clearance.
The Sportsman 550 EFI EPS has been built for extra performance and is available as road legal vehicle, thereby making it a good candidate for Local Authority use.
I drove a Ranger 800 EFI 6x6 that can seat three and comes with full ROPS certification. The vehicle is able to carry a one tonne payload and tow 907kgs.
With fully independent mid and rear suspension and fitted with anti roll bar technologies, the vehicle offers a comfy safe ride over testing ground conditions, it has plenty of power at hand with 40hp and a top speed of 46mph.
The Ranger EV 4X4 electric vehicle was no slouch either. Extremely quiet, and with the same performance capabilities as its fuel driven counterparts. Batteries need charging on a daily basis to get the best from them and usually last a full day when in use.
Polaris have an impressive range of vehicles on offer and will be a strong contender in providing the next wave of utility vehicles for the demanding turf and amenity market.
The company have invested a lot of time, money and R&D over the years and will want to capitalise on the new products now available.
From what I saw, they have certainly put themselves at the forefront of innovation and have developed a very wide and fine range of off road utility vehicles that will offer choice to ever-demanding customers.