The History of Polaris®

Polaris has been around for over 60 years, growing from a small mechanical shop into one of the largest powersports companies in the world. Nowadays their machines symbolize an escape from the ordinary and freedom from routine. Polaris powersports vehicles have a dedicated and growing customer-base

At MOMS Foxboro, we’re powersports enthusiasts ourselves and we know that owners like to stay informed about their machines and the manufacturers. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this history of Polaris so you can understand the company and their vehicles better. To get yourself a Polaris powersports vehicle, come to our dealership in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The Start

Polaris has its origins in the remote community of Roseau, close to Winnipeg, Maitoba. It started out in 1945 as Hetteen Hoist & Derrick, a job shop that built problem-solving, one-of-a-kind machines for nearby farmers. With World War II putting the price of metal at a premium, Edgar Hetteen’s inventive approach helped people utilize what they had. His close friend David Johnson bought into the company while he was still in the Navy and his brother Allan Hetteen joined in the early 1950s. At first, the company manufactured farm equipment like straw choppers, grain elevators and sprayers while also doing repair work in the off-season.

The Snowmobile

Farm work in these icy-cold areas was seasonal and the three men behind Polaris were the outdoorsy types, so it’s no wonder that they were the ones to fully develop the idea of a snowmobile. It was customary for people to go hunting, fishing and trapping across vast snowy areas using skis or snowshoes.

To make these journeys easier, the men came up with an early version of the snowmobile in 1955; they had no intention to focus on this machine until they saw how interested people were in it. To demonstrate how durable and versatile their snowmobiles were, Edgar Hetteen and three men made a 1000-mile trip across Alaska in about three weeks.

The Growth

Polaris snowmobiles were so successful that the company began to manufacture them exclusively. In the 1960s, snowmobiling emerged as a popular sport which boosted market sales. The company grew so rapidly that the owners needed more management skills to keep it going.

In 1968, Textron bought Polaris and kept the manufacturing in Roseau, but they also started research and development into wheeled turf and watercraft vehicles. Textron brought in Fuji engineers to design a high-quality engine specifically for Polaris. The newer models set the standards in terms of performance and power and also made their name in racing.

The Buyout

The ‘70s saw a boom in the snowmobile market with around 63 companies manufacturing different models. However, by 1980, the boom had turned into a bust and many companies shut down or sold off their snowmobile divisions. Textron, too, wanted out and told Polaris then-president W. Hall Wendel Jr. to sell the company. Wendel had faith in Polaris and led a leveraged buyout in 1981.

The company began production at the Roseau plant with only 100 workers and a tight budget in an uncertain market. They were able to pay off the Textron debt earlier and expanded to employing 450 people. Five years after the buyout, their sales stood at $40 million. They began to work closely with dealers to get better forecasts and avoid extra inventory.

The Diversification

Over the years, Polaris had focused mainly on snowmobile production despite having tested diversification into vehicles for lawns and gardens, watercrafts and go-carts. In the mid-1980s, they entered the ATV market, which was dominated by the Japanese, and saw great success almost immediately.

In 1990, they were the first big American company to launch a personal watercraft, which was again a raging success, drawing in high-income first-time buyers. These endeavors quickly placed Polaris as a major American player in the international market of powersports vehicles, an accolade that it has held since then.

Can’t wait to get a Polaris powersports vehicle for yourself? Head to MOMS Foxboro in Massachusetts and talk to our helpful staff about what kind of sports you’d like to pursue. We’ll be happy to suggest the right vehicles and models for your needs. We are proud to serve our friends from Foxboro, Brockton, Norwood and Milford, Massachusetts, as well as Pawtucket, Rhode Island.