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Reflecting on the Sign of the Times


(6/4/2018)

Textron and Arctic Cat sign in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

In a sign of the times, last Thursday the display sign in front of the plant in Thief River Falls changed.

Gone was the "ARCTIC CAT" that had stood for many years. In its place, a new display that includes "ARCTIC CAT" and "Textron Off Road" underneath "Textron Specialized Vehicles".

I know that for many people in TRF and around the world, the change was shocking. Some people are saddened. A few are mad.

Everyone I talked with was also damn glad there's still a sign, still an Arctic Cat and is thankful that Textron stepped in when they did. Because they know that the alternative would not have been pretty.

 

Shock and Sadness

It doesn't surprise me one bit that some people are shocked and saddened by the new sign. Frankly, I understand because I also feel a bit of both.

I felt the same way when, a year ago, the company changed the brand name of the dirt products from “Arctic Cat” to “Textron Off Road.” At the time, I understood the rationale for that decision. It was perfectly reasonable. But it still hit me in the gut.

And I knew that once that decision was made that it was only a matter of time before the signs outside the buildings would change to reflect the new reality.

In the 18 months since Textron first announced its intention to purchase Arctic Cat, followed by the actual sale a few months later, I’ve had to wrestle through a lot of tough emotions and feelings.

Loss...for a company I’d known and loved for decades.

Anger...at the previous management team who seemingly drove that company into the ground at full-throttle.

Failure...for being unable to change the speed or trajectory of that downfall.

All of those feelings have nothing to do with Textron.

We develop powerful and deep connections to the things we love. And like many of you, I have loved Arctic Cat. It’s what happens when we dream about a machine and then eventually spend our hard-earned money to purchase it. It happens when we buy and wear the branded clothes and the gear. It happens when our vacations revolve around these machines, when our children experience their first adventures upon them, when we spend time working on them in the garage and when we feel great thrills and see new places while riding them.

That’s why we have deep, powerful connections to our brand.

So when the name changes on the side of a machine or the sign outside the building, it’s a reminder of the monumental changes that occurred to our brand over the past year and a half. Time heals all wounds, it’s true, but each of us requires a different amount of time for healing. Some aren’t quite healed, while others are.

 

Thankful and Grateful

As I said earlier, pretty much everyone I’ve talked with over the past 18 months has been extremely thankful that Textron stepped in when they did to rescue Arctic Cat. While the actual financials from those last six months or so of Arctic Cat, Inc. appear to be known only to a select few, it appears now that bankruptcy was imminent by the time Textron cut the check for $247 Million.

So we’re thankful. The lights are still on, the production lines are humming, people have jobs and sweet machines are fulfilling the dreams of people like you and me.

We. Are. Really. Thankful!

It's true that Arctic Cat is now a small part of a huge company. That’s different than the previous 55 years.

But here’s the thing: what made Arctic Cat the brand we love hasn’t changed one bit.

Because what made Arctic Cat great – going all the way back to 1962 – is the people. And people are still doing EXACTLY the same cool things at Arctic Cat that they’ve always done.

When I was in TRF on Friday, I talked to dirt and snow engineers who are deep into new projects we’ll see in the coming months and years. I talked to District Sales Managers who are pumped about the spring success of ALPHA ONE and iACT, as well as the soon-to-be-hit Prowler Pro.

I saw page proofs of catalogs highlighting all sorts of cool new Parts and Accessories for dirt. I saw riders on the test track putting miles into some of these ideas and projects. I saw a Race Shop busy entering in the information of race team applicants who are planning to race for glory this coming season.

I saw beautiful, gleaming new Wildcat XX, Stampede 4 and XF 8000 Cross-Country machines coming off the assembly lines. And these machines will be shipped all over the world to dealerships that are stronger now than they were 18 months ago.

And once at dealerships, people who have dreamed and saved to buy one will purchase these machines. People who are anticipating and planning riding weekends with friends and family. And who will experience the thrill and adventure and satisfaction that ultimately drives this WHOLE process each and every day.

“ARCTIC CAT” is still on the sign out front, along with “Textron Off Road.”

The family has grown, that’s all. It’s a sign of the times.

Thanks for reading (and thanks for being part of the family).

2018 Wildcat XX on the assembly line in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2018 Stampede 4 on the assembly line in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

2019 Arctic Cat XF 8000 Cross Country models on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com



Comments (25):

Scott Norlander says:
6/5/2018 7:34:00 PM

I was wondering when the sign would be changed. A friend of mine at Arctic said if Textron would not have bought them out the doors would have been closed a year ago. What a shame! I remember when the old Arctic Enterprises sign was turned into the Arctco sign in 1983. Again, what a shame!!
catman since 72 says:
6/5/2018 7:41:00 PM

How well I remember Jan. of '81. Remember, Rodger Skime said the Textron buy out was a good thing. If it's good enough for Rodger, It good with me.
Mike Mattson says:
6/5/2018 9:14:00 PM

I am glad that they are building my favorite brand of snowmobile using the same great hard working people in good old Thief River Falls Mn. Don't know what I would have done if they had quit making those Cats!! thanks Textron for keeping all those jobs and for the addition of more jobs and for many more years of Arctic Cat sleds.
Bobby Flame says:
6/6/2018 6:32:00 AM

Do you know who I can send my freestyle resume to at Textron?
Ken says:
6/6/2018 6:55:00 AM

I am too sadden and somewhat angry about the new sign. When I first saw it I had a big pit in my stomach. After a few days now I am starting to feel a little bit better about it. I am thankful that Textron saved Cat. I do not know what I would do if Cat was gone. When Textron bought Cat I was at least hopeful that they would keep the plant and most importantly keep the Cat workers. They did and I thank them for that. I do like the new Cat logo that was added. Just wished it was bigger and Textron was smaller in the lower corner. We have made our plans to visit TRF on July 18 and 19. We want to tour the plant on the 19th. Very excited! Hopefully they will be building my new sled I ordered at that time. Probably not. Just excited to see Arctic Cats being built by Arctic Cat people.
gbarchives67-72 says:
6/6/2018 7:48:00 AM

Textron kept Polaris going through the turbulent 70's. A decade I remember well. Looks like they are trying hard to keep Cat going into the 2020's, and succeeding. Good news.
Jeff says:
6/6/2018 9:24:00 AM

Cat was going bankrupt, or very close to?
Well this is news!! There was no mention of any of this till now.
I guess now I also feel better if Textron saved them.
Derek says:
6/6/2018 10:18:00 AM

I for one love AC sleds no matter what some people say. As a loyal AC fan and rider/racer from Canada's Arctic, my pack of AC sleds have never failed me once.

I am glad Textron came into the picture. Keep up the excellent work.
Kevin says:
6/7/2018 9:13:00 PM

Well.... a picture is worth a thousand words and those pictures bring the reality of the situation to light - sadly.

First there was Irv the Liquidator; thankfully the real Arctic Cat men and women brought it back to a great success. Then there was Claude the Home Depot man and the new sign is there to remind everyone that a great company and a great name are now a footnote in history and a footnote on the new sign.

I hope this once great name and the people of TRF find their identity and find their success with Textron.
krom says:
6/7/2018 9:17:00 PM

Claude, and Metz both did what the board hired them to do
Klikitarik says:
6/7/2018 10:02:00 PM

Living in the far north, where snow is often blown hard as rock, good fan engines are valued for being able run without cooling snow. AC has had great, reliable fan engines, and the 570 is no exception, being the best of the current production fans. Glad that AC is still with us!
Jim W. says:
6/10/2018 11:06:00 AM

I hope that Textron knows they should give the old sign to Roger, so he can put it on his sled stable at his ranch. Thank you John, for some great words of wisdom.
Oldcrow says:
6/11/2018 10:50:00 AM

Krom,
Are you indicating that Arctic Cat Board of Directors wanted to sell the company?
krom says:
6/11/2018 9:16:00 PM

No idea what they had in mind. But the CEO doesn't operate in a vacuum. They are hired, fired, and given marching orders by the board
Dave says:
6/12/2018 9:28:00 PM

So I just showed this to my 15 year old (who I toured the factory with a few years ago), and he said "How sad!" He followed that with "Well they might make it a better company, but it won't be about Arctic Cat anymore". The boy saw it right off.

The thing is, Arctic Cat was about the most passionate "fans", not merely customers, that any company in the history of all companies, could be. With this move, they undoubtedly reminded us all what has happened.

After seeing this same movie play out in the corporate world time and time again (where one mistake is not seen for what it is, and other "correcting" mistakes are made because CEO's and their boards simply don't "get it"), it is truly tragic to watch it happen here, in this hallowed land.

This is not the end, but it is probably the beginning of the end. Maybe they will sell the brand off. Otherwise I fear it is over. BTW, I did want to buy a new AC 8000, but I bought my first Polaris since 1985 for this upcoming season (I still have 3 Arctic Cats). Up to now I felt a bit guilty about it, but I guess this damn sign made it a bit easier.

Lastly, I just got into UTV's. All the people I have talked to said "who the hell is Textron" and "Why would I buy Chinese junk". I realize that's not true, but brands do mean a lot. And I just can't see them being successful with that name.
Gary says:
6/13/2018 6:59:00 AM

Just my 2 cents, people have to move on about Textron buying Arctic Cat! If they wouldn't have Cat would probably be out of business. I don't believe Textron bought Cat to liquidate snowmobiles, As long as sleds are selling and the company is making a profit I don't see that changing.

As far as changing the dirt product name, I've come to terms with it. In my opinion not that big of deal. Machines are still being made in TRF. If people are so passionate about Arctic Cat products they should hail this as one of the best things to happen for Cat. I would rather ride Textron/Arctic Cat machines then reminisce about machines that are no longer made!

Sorry for the rant
Bulldog says:
6/13/2018 10:08:00 AM

I agree Gary. I hope they make them even better as they should now be able to compete with the Big Boys (BRP & Polaris) in the sled world. AC just didn't diversify enough in the beginning like BRP and Polaris did to keep a steady income stream going. They were late to the ATV / UTV Game and didn't have another revenue stream (watercraft or motorcycles) to help carry the sleds in low snow/sales years. Textron gives them the deep pockets they never had. Hopefully they can use those to keep advance the sleds, manufacturing line and overall product.
Jim W. says:
6/13/2018 8:38:00 PM

Strongly agree with those statements from both Gary and Bulldog, i think you guys hit it right on the head.
Randy V says:
6/14/2018 6:32:00 AM

I believe Textron will solidify Arctic cat like Bain Capital created BRP to solidify Ski doo. I still wonder about all the sudden "Retirement" of the talent that got Arctic Cat to where they are now.
Snowowl says:
6/14/2018 8:01:00 AM

I also agree with the last couple of comments. Let's hope Textron gives Arctic Cat the tools and money to go after Polaris and Skidoo on the sled side. The Alpha One looks like a good start. It's disappointing that they chose to pull Arctic Cat off the dirt products, however, I see the ATV and UTV market exactly like sleds were in the early 70's with way too many manufacturers and way too much capacity. There has to be some rationalization in that business and Textron is big enough to stay the course. Arctic Cat wasn't.
Flintstone says:
6/20/2018 9:23:00 PM

Way I look at it is this; textron isn't in the business of loosing money. They have deep pockets and they know there is money to be made long term in the cat name and game.
If textron wouldn't have done it somebody else would have.

I always but always but always spend my hard earned $$ on what ever I think is best and the last 15 years it has been cat and I was right. Brand new sleds since 2003; 03 f7 6500 miles, 08 F1000 8500 miles, 2012 f1100 turbo 9000 miles.

ive been riding sleds for over 35 years and have zero brand loyalty. But let's look at this? What sled should have I bought different in the model years I listed? Oh, that's right!!! I bought the right ones!!
Joe Rainville says:
6/21/2018 1:02:00 PM

John, et al,

I am glad to see Cat survive and thrive as part of the Textron family compared to seeing a repeat of the early 80. Change is always hard, especially for a proud, independent company like Cat.

Disclaimer: I am employed by a Textron Aerospace company. Cool part of working for a Textron division: employee discounts on my favorite new brand of sleds!

It does make my 2017 Roger Skime ZR6000 a touch more special since it was the last sleds built by Cat, but I have no reason to hesitate to buy my son sleds built under the new ownership. Long live the Cat!

"John Deere Joe" Rainville

Mark says:
7/2/2018 9:44:00 AM

As a father of 2 young racers (@ctrain686 instagram) in the AC race division, I am even more excited to be backed by Textron/AC. Just look around ANY series/division/age bracket and you'll see AC leading the way. Go Team Arctic.
Scott Norlander says:
10/5/2018 6:02:00 PM

Arctic has always had financial problems since the 1960's and '70's. This makes me not want to ride anymore! What a shame they have that beautiful factory and such a legendary past and they can't get people to run it!!
Scott Norlander says:
10/5/2018 6:07:00 PM

Textron bought Polaris out in the 1960's and owned them till 1982! Now they own "Arctic Cat"!! unacceptable!!

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