It’s easy enough to read about the rush you’ll get from driving an ATV. You can imagine that travelling at fast speeds on unpaved roads will be an exciting, or thrilling experience much different from driving your car to work every morning. But until you’ve strapped yourself in and pushed down the throttle through a sand dune or rocky desert, you can’t understand how good it feels. The adrenaline rush and the wind in your face will unleash a part of you that’s usually kept quiet, stifled by life’s responsibilities.
As leaders in the ATV industry, Polaris and Arctic Cat are two brands dedicated to getting you acquainted with your inner speed demon. Both originated in Minnesota with roots in the snowmobile industry, the similarities between Arctic Cat and Polaris have helped to make them bitter rivals in the snowmobile and ATV worlds. We have used both on our exciting Las Vegas ATV tours so here’s a look at the evolution of both brands:
Origins in Snowmobiling
Originally the owners of a hoist shop, brothers Edgar and Allan Hetteen created the first snowmobile in their shop in the mid ‘50s. Weighing close to 1000 lbs and moving about 20 mph, the vehicles were initially difficult to develop a market for. In an effort to create product buzz, Edgar led three snowmobiles in a trek across the Alaskan wilderness that took several weeks. After his return, conflict with the board of directors caused Hetteen to leave Polaris, where he went on to form the rival company that would eventually become Arctic Cat.
From Snow To Land
In 1985, fifteen years after Hetteen’s Arctic trek on the original snowmobile, Polaris released the first ATV made in America, the Trail Boss. Although Japanese companies like Honda started making three-wheeler ATCs in the ‘70s, these models were rendered obsolete once safer, sturdier models like the Trail Boss became available. Following their inaugural ATV, Polaris continued to release innovative models that have created nearly two billion dollars in revenue through to 2010.
Arctic Cat Catches Up
After leaving Polaris, Edgar Hetteen created a new company and jumped into competition with his former brand. Initially this was confined to snowmobiles, but like a case of ex spouses trying to get revenge after a bad break-up, they eventually threw their hat into the ATV ring, spurred on by the will to compete with their rivals at Polaris.
A Feud-Driven Market
In their intense competition, driven by the feud, Polaris and Arctic Cat have continually put out new ATV models, often shockingly similar to one another. Comparing the 2017 Polaris RZR XP 1000 and the 2016 Arctic Cat Wildcat X, the vehicles’ dry weights are within twelve pounds, and fuel capacities are less than one gallon apart. Arctic Cat has the edge when it comes to suspension, but Polaris is the narrow winner when it comes to pure power.
Like any market driven by competition, the real winner is the consumer. The continued drive for Arctic Cat and Polaris to out-do each other should make ATV owners feel like an MVP that the top teams in the league are fighting over. While the two brands improve with each new model, potential buyers are left with a choice where there’s no wrong decision.