Snowmobile shortage expected in Yellowknife, northern Canada — again

Joey Sutton, owner of Polar Tech Recreation, says ongoing, pandemic-induced supply chain issues are affecting the flow of all kinds of merchandise, from motorcycles to lawnmowers. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Demand for snowmobiles far outweighs supply for second consecutive year, says owner of Polar Tech Recreation

Snowmobiles will likely be in short supply in Yellowknife this winter, yet again.

For the second year in a row, demand for sleds far outweighs available stock, says the owner of snowmobile retailer Polar Tech Recreation.

“We ordered 300 snowmobiles and they cancelled 100 of them. And then they called again last week and said 100 of the sleds that are coming, won’t be here until February,” said Joey Sutton.

“So it’s going to be a challenge this winter, for sure. There’s going to be some fairly unhappy customers, I think, again this year.”

Inventory is low as a result of ongoing, pandemic-induced supply chain issues, said Sutton. A global shortage of things such as shipping containers and semiconductors — microchips found in everything from pickup trucks to PlayStations — is affecting the flow of all kinds of merchandise, from motorcycles to lawnmowers.

Sutton said every vendor and manufacturer he works with is low on goods. And what products Polar Tech does get, could cost more.

In the face of the shipping container shortage and higher fuel prices, many manufacturers have added a “commodity charge” of about $400 per vehicle, he said.

“We never had these [issues] before the pandemic, and I don’t know how long it’s going to stretch on, but it seems to be ongoing.”

Demand ‘higher than it’s ever been’

There’s also the matter of new interest in recreational vehicles, something that shot up early on in the pandemic. COVID-19 related travel restrictions meant more people were staying inside the territory, and trying new outdoor activities.

“A lot of people tried these things for the first time — sleds and ATVs and boats and stuff like that — and they were so surprised, I guess, that they enjoyed it so much,” said Sutton.

Last year, he told CBC News that Polar Tech sold out of snowmobiles before the first of December. This year, Sutton said, demand is even greater.

“It’s got to be three or four times higher than it’s ever been, and we can’t get the products.”

Supply chain issues affecting car market

Supply chain issues are affecting the Northwest Territories’ rental, used and new car markets, as well.

Daniel Ireland, general sales manager at Aurora Dodge in Yellowknife, said the dearth of semiconductors is significantly hampering the shipment of new vehicles, sometimes for up to six months.

Ireland, who sells used vehicles too, said customers are turning to pre-owned options, which are also in shorter supply.

And to those considering selling their ride, he said, now is the time, “because the actual overall value of the used vehicle marketplace has significantly raised, and that’ll continue on for the next little while.”

Neither Sutton nor Ireland could predict when vehicle supply networks might return to normal.

“Things change so rapidly that I don’t know how you can keep your thumb on that,” Sutton said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Soaring price of lumber puts squeeze on builders in Yukon, Canada, CBC News

Sweden: From rescue work to construction, next generation of drones creating new opportunities, Radio Sweden

Sidney Cohen, CBC News

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