Polaris has announced that it will no longer be manufacturing personal watercraft or boats effective September 2. This decision was made after the company's marine division had been unprofitable since it entered the personal watercraft market in 1992, losing over $120 million in the process. CEO Tom Tiller cited several factors that contributed to this, including the decline in industry sales since the mid-1990s, ongoing emissions regulations, rising costs associated with those regulations, and the decline in Polaris dealers carrying its marine products.
With the company's marine operations coming to a close, there are now only four personal watercraft manufacturers remaining: Sea-Doo, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda. Tiller said that less than 500 dealers carry Polaris marine products, down from more than 1,000 in the mid-1990s, and that fewer than 20 of the 105 employees in the marine division are expected to leave the company. The Spirit Lake, Iowa, manufacturing plant, which shared personal watercraft and ATV assembly lines, will be converted to assemble ATVs full time.
Polaris' personal watercraft business peaked in 1996 with sales of over $171 million but has steadily declined since then. By 2003, the marine division generated $53.5 million in sales and had a pretax loss of $13.2 million. Overall, Tiller said the Polaris marine division accounted for 3% of Polaris' total sales. As of early September, about 5,000 personal watercraft and boats are in dealer inventory worldwide. Polaris will continue to provide support to its dealers for selling the remaining inventory.
The Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA) expressed disappointment at the news and stated that the personal watercraft market is strong, with sales seeing their first annual increase since they peaked in 1995; current annual sales are over 80,000.
The Polaris MSX was recently recognized by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum for Architecture and Design as a winner in the annual "GOOD DESIGN" competition. Founded in 1950, the GOOD DESIGN award "publicly acknowledges and elevates" the best and finest new design and design innovation for products and graphics designed and manufactured between 2000 and 2002, according to a Museum spokesperson. The awards focus on products that advance new and innovative product concepts and originality and "stretch the envelope beyond what is considered standard product and consumer design." The GOOD DESIGN awards are the world's oldest design competition.
"We set out to design a personal watercraft that would revolutionize the industry," said Polaris General Manager for Watercraft Ron Bills. "We accomplished that with the MSX and are very proud that our thorough attention to detail, styling and finish has been recognized by worldwide experts in design and keeps company with brands highly renowned for first-class styling and luxury."
The diverse list of products recognized in addition to the MSX included the Mini Cooper and BMW 7 Series automobiles, along with Apple Computers iMac personal computer. Award recipients can be viewed at the museums website, www.chi-athenaeum.org.
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