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Polaris is one of the giants of the powersports and ORV (Off Road Vehicle) industry, manufacturing recreational vehicles, motorcycles, commercial utility and passenger vehicles, and light utility and tactical vehicles for government and military applications. Polaris offers 40 different snowmobile models for riding trails or deep snow, hauling wood or supplies, or for performance riding on machines like the renowned Indy series. The ORV line includes the Sportsman ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), Ranger and General side-by-side and utility vehicles for work and play, the high-performance single-seat ACE and side-by-side RZR, and models sized perfectly for kids and beginners. Whether you need to transport people or cargo, plow snow, move dirt or many others jobs, Polaris has the commercial vehicle, with available gas, diesel, or electric power. Polaris also offers a full line of ATVs and utility vehicles especially designed with the toughness and mobility needed for military tactical, transport, and search and rescue operations. Victory brand motorcycles and as of 2011, the legendary Indian motorcycles, are subsidiaries of Polaris, and the company also makes the revolutionary Slingshot 3-wheel motorcycle.

Polaris Industries, Inc. has its roots in the small town of Roseau, Minnesota, where in 1945 Edgar Hetteen started Hetteen Hoist & Derrick to manufacture and repair industrial machinery and farm equipment. Hetteen was later joined in the business by his younger brother Allan and friend David Johnson. Getting around in the winter through deep snow was an age old problem in their region, particularly for outdoorsman who hunted, trapped, and fished. Although many had tried building a vehicle that could travel through snow, these men were skilled metal workers and felt that they could construct a machine that could finally do the job. So, using their fabrication skills and scrounged parts like old car bumpers for skis, they created the first practical snowmobile, which was sold in 1954. That first machine worked well and generated substantial interest, as well as orders for more machines. The company changed its name to Polaris and within a few years were producing several hundred snowmobiles a year, mostly for sale to outdoorsman and utility companies. The early model Sno-Cats and Sno-Travelers were joined by the Ranger, which debuted in 1956.

In an effort to broaden the market and increase snowmobile sales, Edgar Hetteen sought to expand their appeal beyond utilitarian use, so in 1960 he led a group of 3 Polaris snowmobiles on a 3-week, 1000 mile expedition across Alaska to demonstrate their durability and recreational use capabilities. But although the journey generated national publicity, it was not well-received by Polaris’ board of directors, who felt the trip was unnecessary. Edgar Hetteen subsequently left the company he founded and launched the snowmobile company that would become Arctic Cat, which to this day is a Polaris competitor. Allan Hetteen took over as company president. In the 1960s, another Polaris competitor, the Canadian firm Bombardier, developed the lightweight, front-engine Ski-Doo, which became the prototype for snowmobiles as we know them today. Up to that time Polaris’ offerings had been heavy, rear-engine machines. To stay competitive, Polaris came out with their own front-engine snowmobile, the Comet, in 1964, but this machine proved to be very problematic. Their second effort, the Mustang, which debuted in 1965 and remained in production until 1973, was very successful, and is generally credited with saving the company.

In 1968 Polaris was acquired by Textron, a conglomerate that at the time contained entities as diversified as Bell helicopters and Schaefer pens. Before they were a part of Textron, Polaris sourced engines from a variety of suppliers, but with their new parent company’s resources they were able to contract with Japanese company Fuji Heavy Industries to develop engines specifically for Polaris, and this helped Polaris snowmobiles gain a reputation in the 1970s for high-performance, both in racing and for recreational use. Performance was also aided by the superior handling that resulted from the IFS (Independent Front Suspension) that was first used on the Polaris RX-L racer. The sport of snowmobiling boomed during the early and mid-‘70s, but despite many other companies entering the market, Polaris continued to prosper. The company engaged first in factory-backed programs and then sponsorship of individual riders in various types of snowmobile racing for advertising purposes and product development.

However, in the late 1970s the economic recession, rising fuel prices, and industry overexpansion caused the boom to go bust, and snowmobile sales fell precipitously. Many companies got out of the business including Textron. In 1981, after a deal to sell Polaris to rival Bombardier fell through, the company was purchased in a leveraged buyout by a management group led by then company president W. Hall Wendel, Jr. The early 1980s were lean times for the company and the snowmobile industry in general, but gradually sales rebounded thanks in part to improvements in technology that created quieter, more reliable machines, and more comfortable clothing, and an increase in winter resorts that catered to snowmobilers. The Indy series of snowmobiles, which featured the best handling chassis in the business, and features like hand warmers, were instrumental in Polaris’ renewed success. The 1980 Indy TX-L was the first Polaris production model with IFS. The Indy 500 was named Snowmobile of the Decade for the 1980s by Snowmobile Magazine, and has been lauded as one of the most successful snowmobile models of all time.

Polaris also realized during the 1980s that the path to company success lay not just with improved snowmobiles, but in diversification, so they entered the ATV market in 1985. This was a time of change in the ATV industry as the dominant Japanese manufacturers of the time were transitioning from the 3-wheelers that would soon be outlawed to 4-wheelers, and the Polaris Scrambler 250 3-wheeler was discontinued after one year. Polaris brought fresh technology to the ATV market like the long travel suspension, automatic transmission, and floorboards instead of footpegs that debuted on the Trailboss 250 4-wheel ATV. Innovations continued with the Polaris Sportsman, which during the course of its production has been equipped with industry firsts like IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) when the rest of the market used straight axles, long travel suspension with shaft drive, on-demand four-wheel drive, single lever brakes, locking differential, and electronic fuel injection.

In 1992 Polaris further diversified into the personal watercraft market. The Indy series continued to lead the way in snowmobiles and in the 1990s they introduced 3 variants of the Indy line, the 800cc 3-cylinder high-performance Storm, Ultra, and twin-cylinder 500cc Trail. In 1995 Polaris brought engine manufacturing in-house when they opened their own engine plant in Osceola, Wisconsin. In the late ‘90s Harley-Davidson could not build motorcycles fast enough to meet demand, and buyers who wanted a new “Hog” ended up on waiting lists that stretched months and even years. Polaris saw an opening for riders who wanted a big American-made V-twin motorcycle, but didn’t want to wait, so the company developed their own line of big twins. The first Victory V92C rolled off the assembly line in 1998.

As the 2000s dawned government regulations restricting snowmobile use on certain public lands went into effect because of noise and emissions. This, along with unfavorable economic conditions severely curtailed snowmobile sales and ATVs accounted for the largest part of Polaris revenue. The personal watercraft business had also declined and that unit was shut down in 2004. However, the company continued to look to the future, and in 2005 opened a research and development center for the design and testing of ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles in Wyoming, Minnesota. In 2007 Polaris introduced the RZR, as the first trail-ready and fastest accelerating side-by-side. In 2011 Polaris acquired the GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) line of electric vehicles, with models designed for use as personal transports, shuttles and tour vehicles, security and patrol vehicles, and cargo hauling and utility vehicles. Indian motorcycles were also purchased in 2011, with production moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa. Indian relaunched the Chieftain model at the 2013 Sturgis motorcycle rally.

The Polaris Slingshot was introduced in 2014. With its 2 front wheels and single rear wheel, the Slingshot is classified as a motorcycle, but unlike the Can-Am Spyder the Slingshot has a car-like control layout with steering wheel, gearshift lever, and brake, clutch, and throttle pedals. The Slingshot is powered by a 2.4L DOHC (Double Over Head Cam) in-line 4-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower, which is sent to the rear wheel through a 5-speed manual transmission. The Slingshot is available in standard, SL, and SLR trim levels. Standard features include electronic power steering, tilt wheel, ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), traction control, and stability control. The SL adds premium 18” cast aluminum front wheels and 20” cast aluminum rear wheel, clear windscreen, hood accent graphics, 4.3” LCD console screen with backup camera and Bluetooth, and Rockford Fosgate speaker system. The top of the line Slingshot SLR features premium 18” forged aluminum front wheels and 20” forged aluminum rear wheel, SLR branded exhaust manifold cover, open air intake, 2-tone paint with special graphics, tinted windscreen, composite brake rotors, 305mm wide rear tire, Cut & Sew sport seats, Sparco steering wheel, shift knob, and pedal covers, and interior LED lighting kit.

Owning a car gives you comfort, owning a motorcycle gives you freedom. Your bike is your therapy, your passion, and your access to off-the-beaten-path places. In our selection of motorcycle accessories and parts, we have everything you need to keep your Polaris running, show some love to your prized possession, and hit the road or trail with confidence. We take the hassle out of your motorcycle maintenance, repair, and tune-up experience.

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