Bobcat, Polaris Team Up

Maker of skid-steer loaders is forming an alliance with snowmobile company, Polaris Industries, in effort to add customers and boost profits as they battle an economic slump.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota-based Bobcat Co., known for its skid-steer loaders, is forming an alliance with snowmobile-maker Polaris Industries Inc., in a move both companies hope will add customers and boost profits as they battle an economic slump.

Polaris CEO Scott Wine said his company will make work vehicles and sell them to Bobcat, for sale through Bobcat's dealer network. Later, the two companies will develop other vehicles and share technology, he said.

Polaris spokeswoman Marlys Knutson said the initial wave of vehicles will be made at the company's plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa, beginning next year. They will be sold as Bobcats but will be "highly different than what we are selling at Polaris now," Knutson said.

Polaris, based in Medina, Minn., makes all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and motorcycles. Bobcat, based in West Fargo, N.D., makes compact construction equipment.

Knutson and Bobcat spokesman Christopher Weishaar said the deal does not involve a sale or ownership change.

"It's just an alliance," Knutson said. "This is the first alliance of this type that we've had with another company."

Both companies have struggled in the global economic downturn.

Polaris announced in January that it was eliminating 160 full-time jobs and about 300 contractors in several plants due to weakening demand. It said its 2009 sales could drop as much as 20 percent from last year.

Bobcat announced last week that slack demand for construction equipment will force a production shutdown for part of this month at its plants in Gwinner and Bismarck. The company employs about 2,000 people at the two plants.

Workers at the two plants returned to their jobs Feb. 16, after an eight-week layoff that started in mid-December. Company officials said the layoff was aimed at giving dealers a chance to move inventory to clear the way for more machines.

South Korea's Doosan Infracore Co. purchased Bobcat in 2007 from Bermuda-based Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd., in a deal worth $4.9 billion.

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