The Cost of New Snowmobiles (Randy Toth)
Published on Friday, March 29, 2013 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech
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What’s up with the high cost of new snowmobiles? Every year as the snowmobiling season draws to a close, the brand new eagerly awaited sleds, with their great technology advances are announced along and their dreaded price increases. Many new hi-tech sleds have now crossed the $10,000 price tag barrier. This yearly event always serves as a trigger for my snowmobiling buddy to start in with his annual complaint that the new sleds cost “way too much.” This individual used to purchase a new sled every year and then slowed down to one every two years. Now he just buys them as needed – period. The average snowmobile replacement cycle for the average snowmobiler has more than doubled over the last ten years.

I have heard many snowmobilers blame the manufacturers for the high cost of new snowmobiles. In discussions with Ed Klim, President of the (International Snowmobilers Manufacturers Association), or ISMA, it is clear that the manufacturers certainly do understand and are concerned with the high cost of snowmobiles. Unfortunately, many snowmobilers don’t understand what truly drives up the cost.

Recently, while reading a past issue of SnowGoer Magazine (January 2010), I came across an article entitled “Sticker Shock – The Truth Behind Rising Snowmobile Prices” by Pat Bourgeois which addressed the high and seemingly ever increasing cost of new snowmobiles. The article concluded that snowmobile prices have increased due to a variety of different factors including:

Technology Advancements – New high-tech engines and chassis with their accompanying new computers, electronic sensors, electronic fuel injection, suspension parts, skies, clutches, and creature comfort items have been researched, developed, manufactured and offered on many sleds. Today’s sleds are also much more reliable than those of just a decade ago. These technology advancements are eagerly anticipated and sought after and quite willingly paid for by snowmobilers.

Government Mandates – New snowmobiles are now subject to oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which forced sled manufacturers to clean up sled emissions and noise (a good thing), which they did in a sound, technical manner. Unfortunately, the research, development, and test of new four-stroke engines and advanced semi-direct and direct injection engines incurred lots of additional costs that were, of course, passed on to the consumer. The research, development, procurement, test and certification of new engines and components like computers, electronic sensors, etc. cost big bucks (amounting to over $1,500 per sled) and are paid for by snowmobilers.

More Standard Equipment Features – Electronic fuel injection, electric start, reverse, multiple headlights, multi-functional digital gauges, easily adjustable suspension, multiple configurations of equipment carrying racking systems and new creature comforts liked heated seats, once considered high priced luxury items, are now standard equipment items demanded by and willingly paid for by snowmobilers.

Lower Volume Production – In the past, the research, development and test costs were spread over many more production snowmobile units; but today, with the lower volume production runs, the cost per sled has gone up dramatically and will continue to do so until greater volumes of sled are sold yearly. Unfortunately lower production volumes have reduced the options for manufacturers to obtain components from suppliers and further driven up costs. One example cited was that in 1995 a certain model sled, produced by one manufacturer, had a production run greater than the manufacturer’s entire production run today. The increased costs associated with lower volume production are paid for by snowmobilers.

Inflation – Inflation certainly plays a role in the increasing cost of snowmobiles and is paid for by snowmobilers. However cost analysis shows that if one performs a feature to feature comparison of today’s sleds and sleds from a decade ago, many are now a better value than they were years ago. A number of sleds even under-paced inflation delivering more bang for the buck; however top of the line sled prices rose considerably more than inflation as they came loaded with many sought after technical advancements and standard features.

Some of these price increases can be attributed to the manufacturers, some to the Federal Government and some to the demanding customers (you!). Many are simply beyond our control and a part of everyday life. Basically, you get what you pay for. Today’s high performance sleds are truly fantastic machines that many customers are apparently very willing to shell out big bucks for.

The only way to get sled prices down is to cut development and production costs and/or to increase production by increasing the number of snowmobilers. The manufacturers are striving to drive down costs and trying to increase the number of snowmobilers with campaigns like “Go Snowmobiling” and “Take a Friend Snowmobiling.” They are also expanding the international market, which could help ease the price increases. However, snowmobilers are in the best position to introduce new folks to the sport; so get out there and introduce a non-snowmobiling friend to snowmobiling!

Photos by Dan Gould

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