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Published January 25 2010

Q&A with Wayne Hartmann of Fargo's Wheels Inc.

Wayne Hartmann likes snowy winters, which is natural in his line of business.

His Wheels Inc., 432 36th St. S., Fargo, sells snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles.

The business, established in 1977 and now employing 19 workers, moved to its current location five years ago.

Snowmobiles, which cost from about $7,500 to $12,000, have seen many changes through the years.

For example, most machines once seated two passengers. Now, most seat only one rider.

Q: Who buys snowmobiles?

A: We have two different types of buyers.

We have buyers who buy them to ride around here, on the trail systems of North Dakota and Minnesota.

We also have other buyers who do only mountain riding, who go to Montana or Wyoming to do most of their snowmobiling.

The snowmobiles used in the mountains are different, right?

It’s a completely different type of machine. It’s a much longer machine – with a deeper lug track, with a lighter weight.

Has the recession affected snowmobile sales?

It has had some effect. There’s probably not as many new buyers getting into it. It’s more of the enthusiast that’s still riding.

And the late farm season has affected snowmobile purchases somewhat. They (farmers) were pretty preoccupied this fall, and some still are, with their crops.

How fast can modern snowmobiles go?

I would say most are able to go anywhere from 75 to 100 miles an hour.

Just because you can drive that fast, doesn’t mean you should … .

Right. It’s just like a car. A lot of cars out there will do 130. That doesn’t mean you drive ’em that fast.

What recreational vehicle provides the biggest part of your business?

It varies. It changes as different parts of the industry goes through cycles.

The motorcycle business had been the strongest business for the past five or six years.

Now the ATV business is probably the strongest because the motorcycle market started to slide last year.

Have snowmobiles become more durable through the years?

Much more durable. Electronic fuel injection so they start much easier – easier on fuel, run more consistently, more reliable.

We also have some four-cycle engines, which are quieter and smoother.

You’ll get a little more horsepower out of a two-cycle.

Do you snowmobile yourself?

Yes. Quite a bit.

If you don’t snowmobile and live in Fargo in the winter, what else are you going to do outside?

It’s pretty scenic.

It’s enjoyable.

It isn’t fun when it’s 30 below. Zero and above with no wind is excellent.

And it’s a sport where you can get the whole family involved instead of sitting in front of the TV.

If you could pick snow conditions to boost snowmobile sales, what would a perfect winter be like?

An 8- to 10-inch snowstorm the weekend before Thanksgiving.

That’s happened a few times in the past 32 years.

(And after the first pre-Thanksgiving snow), a 2-

to 4-inch snow once every couple of weeks to freshen up the snow.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530