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POLARIS MOVE INTO DIRECT RETAILING

US powersports giant Polaris Industries, North America’s dominant ATV manufacturer and second-largest motorcycle producer, has taken over Transamerican Auto Parts (TAP) in a deal worth about £540m. TAP is a market-leading manufacturer, distributor, retailer and installer specialising in off-road accessories for Fiat-Chrysler’s Jeep range and 4WD pick-up trucks. This acquisition will add £600m-plus to Polaris annual sales revenue.

Although TAP supplies its seven proprietary aftermarket brands — Pro Comp, Rubicon Express, Smittybilt, Poison Spyder, G2, LRG and Trail Master — to independent franchises, most of its business is transacted through a wholly-owned nationwide chain of more than 70 retail stores.

That vertically-integrated structure has attracted immediate attention from US trade commentators. Some have highlighted the temptation for Polaris to sell its mainstream complementary off-road products — quadbike and side-by-side ATVs, along with associated accessories — through this established direct channel too. Inevitably, a lot of current Polaris dealer independents would then become surplus to requirements. And if such a move proved successful, could it eventually extend to a wholly-owned motorcycle retailing network?  

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