Polaris Inc. has just played musical chairs among its top leadership.
Industry veteran Steven Menneto — who has been leading the successful motorcycle division — will now lead the unit making off-road vehicles. That unit, which produces ATVs and snowmobiles, is the company's largest.
Chris Musso, who oversaw the $3.9 billion off-road business since joining Medina-based Polaris two years ago, will now be senior vice president of electrification strategy, a new position.
Longbow Research equity analyst David MacGregor said he sees Musso's reassignment and Polaris' entire management shuffle "as a rotation of responsibility within a trusted team of seasoned executives aimed at keeping a fresh managerial perspective on each business and avoiding burnout."
Musso's move appears to be a positive step for Polaris as it figures out a new electrification strategy, said Wells Fargo securities analyst Timothy Conder.
"Musso will be tasked with profitably developing the company's electrification strategy across the powersports portfolio, building on the groundwork of the company's current electric vehicle offerings which include GEM, Goupil and the Ranger electric vehicle," Conder said. "The electric vehicles move effectively centralizes the company's efforts to be better, [and more] quickly leveraged across the portfolio as projects become commercially viable."
Spokeswoman Jess Rogers said Polaris has some electric-vehicle products and "sees the value of electrification." Polaris is working to figure out its strategy and set a clear path to profitability for electric products, Rogers said.
Right now, Polaris offers electric-vehicle products as a subdivision within Polaris' $122 million Global Adjacent Markets division. This includes the Goupil brand in France that sells products in 35 other countries. Polaris also makes street-legal electric GEM vans, utility vehicles and shuttle buses in the United States.
Rogers would not discuss EV profits, the size of the company's electric-vehicle business, what Polaris's ultimate goals are for the new electrification strategy or Musso. Musso is credited with launching several new off-road product models during the last two years.
Menneto has had various roles at Polaris for 22 years and is largely credited with relaunching the Indian brand of motorcycles after Polaris purchased that well-loved but dormant franchise in 2011. The motorcycle division has been gaining market share in the industry.
Michael Dougherty, president of Polaris' international business, will take over Menneto's role as president of Polaris Motorcycles while retaining his international responsibilities. Dougherty has been with Polaris for two decades and is largely credited with driving Indian motorcycle sales into Europe, Japan and other markets beyond North America. Indian Motorcycles are Polaris' largest overseas product, officials said.
"These leadership changes leverage existing talent, and add vital capability, as we further our efforts to be a customer-centric, highly efficient growth company," said Polaris CEO Scott Wine in a statement.
Regularly competing for market share with powersports heavyweights such as Bombardier, Harley Davidson or Yamaha sometimes requires a company to think outside the box, Wine said.
"Winning the competitive battle requires us to allocate and utilize our resources optimally, and that begins with placing our most seasoned and proven executives in roles where they can assume broader responsibilities and deliver greater impact," he said.
The leadership changes come at a time when Polaris is battling significant trade-tariff pressures and revamping after deciding to shut down its Victory motorcycle line in favor of the more popular Indian.
The executive changes also come after weathering several years of fire and mechanical problems in its off-road four-wheeler line that caused the recall of more than 450,000 vehicles over several years. Separately, Polaris faced headwinds last year and early this year as the entire powersports industry saw lackluster demand.
However, after much research, engineering, promotion and process changes, Polaris reported that total sales leapt 7% during the third quarter to reach to $1.77 billion. Of that, off-road vehicles sales alone rose an impressive 11% to $1.1 billion, while the much smaller snowmobile sales jumped 53% to $106 million.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725