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Polaris Is Buying Up A Huge Chunk Of The Off-Road Industry

RJ Anderson making the RZR a hit. (Image Credit: UTVUnderground/YouTube)
RJ Anderson making the RZR a hit. (Image Credit: UTVUnderground/YouTube)
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Minnesota-based powersports outfit Polaris has been around forever, but hit serious paydirt recently with the immense success of its RZR UTVs. The vehicles basically blazed a trail into an entirely new motorsport segment that’s blowing up. Now it looks like the company’s planning an even bigger takeover of the off-road industry.

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Today Polaris announced it would acquire the Transamerican Auto Parts empire of off-road brands for $665 million.

Never heard of Transamerican? Neither had I. But it happens to be the parent company of a few about every off-road accessory brands I bet you have heard of: Pro Comp (shocks, wheels, everything), Rubicon Express (shocks), Smittybilt (basically anything the sticker will fit on), Poison Spyder (Jeep armor), G2 (gearing), LRG (wheels) and Trail Master (lift kits).

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On top of all those TAP operates the immense chain of 4Wheel Parts stores with advertorial magazine Off-Road Adventures and an online parts supplier called 4 Wheel Drive Hardware.

If you’re still not getting the gravity of the situation, I’ll back up the context a little more– All those brands are basically the Starbucks of off-road gear. Not necessarily standouts in quality (sometimes terrible– never buy a Smittybilt generator), but consistent, readily available, and generally not outrageously expensive.

Pretty much every modified Jeep in Southern California has one of their stickers.

Point is, this acquisition could seriously affect the average off-road accessory buyer and the UTV industry in general.

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4Wheel Parts also recently made a deal with UTV Underground, a Polaris RZR-pimping media company that has produced the UTV stunt videos “XP1K” with driver RJ Anderson, to start selling UTV parts at its shops.

Polaris Chairman and CEO Scott W. Wine’s official statements were mostly platitudes, but he did indicate in a press release that the companies would be collaborating directly as opposed to the deal being a pure financial play:

“TAP’s products and services for customers in the off-road four-wheel-drive (‘4WD’) market correspond closely to our Off-Road Vehicle (‘ORV’) business. Further, by broadening TAP’s proprietary product lines, expanding its retail and distribution footprint, where appropriate, and cross-selling both companies’ extensive product offerings to a large combined installed base, we believe we will create significant value for our stakeholders.”

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Emphasis mine– seems to me like Wine’s planning on selling Polaris vehicles in 4Wheel Parts stores, and selling TAP parts at Polaris dealers.

But an even more interesting side-effect of the deal, or perhaps part of its original intention, is that Polaris will now be able to stop TAP stores and parts sellers from offering things for its competitors in the UTV space. That could leave Can-Am and Arctic Cat at a major disadvantage in trying to cultivate their own aftermarket and dealer base.

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UTVs are here to stay, and based on what I’ve seen them do in races and recreation I think the scene’s only going to get bigger. This deal could seriously shape the future of the industry.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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DISCUSSION

fortnerindustries
Fortner Industries

The Polaris RZR is a pretty interesting study in how to carve an entirely new market out of basically nothing.

The funny thing is, UTVs had been around for ages before the RZR, with purely utilitarian vehicle like the Kawasaki Mule and the John Deere Gator. Polaris just took their existing Mule competitor, the Ranger, and added racing stripes.

I suppose you could make the argument that the Honda Odyssey (not the minivan) and Pilot (not the SUV) were the very first UTVs, although both of those were single-seat buggy-type vehicles, and didn’t have upright side-by-side seating.