Let’s face it, BRP knows how to throw a party. The Canada-based OEM kicked off its inaugural Club BRP — a combination dealer convention, press extravaganza, music festival and brand marketing event — in Montreal, Quebec and nearly 10,000 people showed up to celebrate.
Designed to allow new and existing dealers a chance to learn more about the company history and sample the entire BRP vehicle lineup, something it also did for an audience of worldwide press. Club BRP, which ran from July 12-17, also gave the company a chance to announce new retail programs and detail its aggressive growth strategy.
One major bit of news was the company’s new flexible ordering program that will help Can-Am dealers to better match unit orders to demand by allowing them to place up to 12 orders per year instead of just two. The opening-night announcement — accompanied by local rockers Body Groove, accessory-clad dancers and fire-spitting models — was made by BRP’s top-level executives, who also outlined the company’s recent success and passion for the powersports market.
BRP opened the show with the concept of “Yellow Blood,” a term that has come to represent the passion for which the fans and employees of BRP are known. The enthusiasm was infectious, and it’s easy to draw similarities between BRP’s culture and that of other passionate brands such as Ducati. With that enthusiasm in full swing, it was explained that the goal of Club BRP was to convince visiting dealers that not only was BRP the best company to deal with in the powersports industry, but that BRP offered the best value proposition for dealers looking to grow their business overall. Less than 15 years ago, BRP was a two-product company, but it now includes seven product lines in 110 countries. Despite the increased globalization, North America is still BRP’s primary market, but the aim is to offer a coordinated premium brand image despite the market in question.
According to Yves Leduc, general manager of BRP’s North American division, since spinning off from Bombardier in 2003, BRP no longer benefits from the protection offered by the larger parent company. Because of this, BRP is “condemned” to innovate — to develop products that not only will earn worthwhile market share, but also will expand and develop new segments of the powersports market. It is this thinking that leads to machines like the Spyder. BRP also benefits from its products for all four seasons, with a unique synergy available in marketing, design and engineering.
To be a technically innovative company requires major investment, and for BRP, innovation translates to CTA. The Centre des Technologies Avancées in Sherbrooke, Quebec is a joint effort between the University of Sherbrooke and BRP that aims to develop new technologies for future products. One such concept developed at the CTA is the Can-Am Spyder Roadster Hybrid, mating the established Spyder platform with an all-new 600cc hybrid engine. In addition to the university tie-in with the CTA, BRP awards more than $500,000 each year in scholarships and includes many standing relationships with colleges to find and grow the best new talent (just like auto makers such as BMW, Audi and Porche have done for years). With such a focus on development investment, BRP aims to create a pace of new products unmatched by competitors.
All of this led up to BRP’s newly created Rebound and Reinvent Challenge, a program designed to create a company that not only rebounds from the recent recession, but comes back stronger than ever. This entails three major goals: one, to raise the focus on the consumer to the same level as the products themselves; two, to be recognized as a global employer of choice; and three, to out-innovate competitors with exciting, high-performance and yet still environmentally responsible products. (On that note, BRP actually planned the entirety of the Club BRP week to be a carbon-neutral event, complete with carbon offsets for all the included air travel.)
As part of the week of Club BRP, guests were treated to a tour of BRP’s factory and design studios in Valcourt. Seeing a modern assembly line in action is an amazing display of technology, and BRP representatives were quick to point out how various practices were in place to improve workflow, safety and most importantly, employee involvement. BRP claims to receive and utilize thousands of employee suggestions each year to improve the factory environment and output.
After watching Spyders and Ski-Doos get built from the ground up, we closed the day with a trip to the J. A. Bombardier museum, to see where BRP’s passion for innovation began. Bombardier was a classic inventor in that he saw a problem and didn’t stop working until the day he created a solution. In this case, the challenge was Canada’s very white winters, and at the museum, visitors were able to see the entire timeline of development that led to today’s Ski-Doo.
After spending time at Club BRP, it was clear that BRP intends to earn and, in fact, create, market share. This not only will come in the fields where BRP is well-placed, such as the Ski- and Sea-Doo brands, but in all-new products and technologies in the near future. And after a celebration concert at the Bell Center headlined by Styx and a party that closed down all of Montreal’s famous Rue Crescent, it was also clear that BRP intends to use the passion of its dealers and employees to drive itself to their collective goals and beyond.
By Land, Street and Sea: Riding the 2012 BRP and Can-Am lineup
Without a doubt, one of the star attractions for attendees to Club BRP was the Ultimate Playground, a private test site where attendees could test out products produced by BRP. Set in a quiet park on the Lachine Canal, the Playground gave press and dealers the chance to sample nearly every BRP product line, including many of the fresh-from-the-assembly-line 2012 models.
Even a short blast was enough to get the blood pumping on many of the latest machines. Starting with the Can-Am Spyder Roadster, the updates for 2012 include an elegant new paint and upholstery scheme for the RT and new Fox Racing Shox for the RS. The Spyder still can be a strange beast if you come from purely a motorcycle background, but once you remember that you aren’t riding a bike, its charms quickly become apparent. Powered by the fantastic Rotax 990 V-twin, the Spyder offers enjoyable power and the various electronic rider aids make it a blast because you never feel like it will bite you, no matter how silly (read: stupid) you try to behave.
Bigger changes come to Can-Am’s Renegade and Outlander ATVs. The new G2 versions boast an all-new chassis and are now available with the 976cc V-twin from the Commander side-by-side, producing 82 horsepower. Even with the fact that we had to contain our throttle hands in the confines of the Playground park, this new 1000cc quad was an absolute monster, tearing through the finely manicured park with abandon, often on only two-wheels. Can-Am already claimed the highest power-to-weight ratios in the ATV world with the 71 HP 800cc versions, so this simply cements that claim. Also new for the G2 models are a range of well-integrated accessories such as hard cases and racks designed alongside the ATVs.
Speaking of the Commander, there were two new side-by-sides at the Ultimate Playground. One was the new Limited model, which decks out the Commander with nearly every accessory an owner could want, including air suspension with an on-board compressor, a 200 watt stereo with iPod integration, GPS, a five megapixel camera and more. But perhaps more interesting was the concept electric Commander that was available to test ride. As an concept derived from BRP’s work with the Canadian Space Agency, this all electric side-by-side offered stealthy performance with impressive stats: a 100 mile range that could be recharged in as little as two hours (using 220 volt power).
Finally, a complete lineup of Sea-Doo boats and PWCs were available to ride at the Playground, but time constraints forced us to forego our seat time. Headlining the 2012 range is a new single-engine Challenger 210 for value-minded buyers, an updated Speedster, and the all-new RXP-X 260. This new RXP-X is claimed to offer a whole new level of performance thanks to an multi-leveled hull and a new ergonomic package that allows the rider to use the lower body to ‘lock-in’ with the legs, giving the rider a platform to better control the machine. It certainly seemed fast as it made a pass down the canal.