Three years ago, a couple of Polaris employees had a hunch.
If vacationers could rent the latest models of Polaris snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles or Slingshot three-wheelers, they would gain "an experience" and become fast fans of one of America's top power-sports vehicle makers.
With the blessing of their boss -- and a budget -- Jan Rintamaki and Paul Vitrano spent 2016 researching their concept of vacation vehicle rentals in Colorado.
They then tested the business model with equipment outfitters at resorts in New Hampshire and California and developed a system that allows vacationers to rent the vehicles, sign waivers and buy a day's worth of insurance using a simple computer tablet.
"Today, we are in about 75 locations in 30 states. We have done over 25,000 rides," said Bob Mack, senior vice president of corporate development and strategies. "It's exciting."
The new unit partners with local outfitters and leases a fleet of GPS-equipped vehicles from Polaris, whose main business is actually to manufacture the vehicles -- to the tune of $5.5 billion in annual sales.
Polaris created Polaris Adventures to both market and diversify its fleet of power-sports vehicles. By partnering with several vacation vehicle renters throughout the United States, the company is now "in about 75 locations in 30 states," said Bob Mack, senior vice president of corporate development and strategies. "We have done over 25,000 rides."
Polaris CEO Scott Wine sees the venture as a smart marketing tool -- and one more way to diversify. In recent years, the Medina-based company has expanded its riding-accessories line, bought stores that customize trucks and acquired two big boat manufacturers.
"Polaris Adventures arose from our passion to introduce people to power sports and the realization that we could extend our reach by introducing a new, premium opportunity for off- and on-road day trips," Wine said. "With the growth of the 'sharing economy' we see this as a unique opportunity to share the excitement of riding and driving Polaris vehicles with new customers all across the country."
The program was designed to be the first of its kind and "really pairs epic locations with fantastic products to create a magical experience," said Rintamaki, now Polaris Adventures' general manager. "Simply put, we're empowering families to explore," enjoy nature and discover new places.