VARTA® batteries make North American debut
Newest launch from Johnson Controls set for AIMExpo
By Dave McMahon, Editor in Chief, Powersports Business
A new entrant into the North American powersports battery category launches at AIMExpo, with VARTA Powersports introducing a range (16 SKUs) of 12-volt spill-proof batteries for motorcycles, ATVs , UTVs , snowmobiles , PWC and scooters. A brand of Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls, Inc., VARTA has had a strong footprint in the European battery market for decades. Johnson Controls, of course, has worldwide manufacturing facilities, and has been a private label manufacturer in the industry as the largest global supplier of lead acid batteries. "This is the first battery launch under Johnson Controls, showing our level of commitment and that we want to move strongly into this industry," said VARTA Powersports product manager Doreen Lucht. "It's a world renowned brand; we're ready to launch it in North America to create a powerful line of powersports batteries. We're really excited to be moving into North America with VARTA." VARTA's applications include both aftermarket and OEM strategies, with dealers—via national and regional distributors—on tap to bring the fully charged battery lineup to market at the retail level in the U.S. "From the dealer's perspective, you don't have that hassle of adding the acid, doing the initial charge. You get your customers ready to go sooner. It's ready to be sold," Lucht said. "You take this product out of the box, put it into your vehicle and you're ready to go. [Dry-charge conventional batteries] do have their place for certain applications, but this is a premium product that gets your customers going faster and, from a dealer's perspective, allows them to focus on things other than prepping batteries." Lucht, a former engineering manager at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., spent some time with PSB in anticipation of the product launch at AIMExpo in Orlando to discuss some of the specifics of the launch. PSB: What are VARTA's origins? Is it available in other countries, and when will it launch in the U.S.? DL: Under Johnson Controls leadership, VARTA batteries has become the strongest premium brand of automotive and powersports batteries in Europe, with a growing presence in Asia and South America. This world-renowned VARTA brand will now launch in North Amer-ica with a powerful lineup of powersports batteries. The VARTA Powersports batteries North American launch takes place officially in Orlando at the American International Motorcycle Expo on Oct. 16-20, and the VARTA Powersports battery lineup will be on display in Booth 737. VARTA Powersports batteries will be available for purchase on VARTApowers-ports.com in early October and will be found in retail outlets beginning in early 2014. PSB: Is it an aftermarket product, OEM, or both? DL: VARTA is a major supplier for a wide variety of OEMs in Europe, including BMW, Mercedes and Honda, among others. VARTA also has a full complement of aftermarket products available as upgrade products as well. PSB: Why is the market ready for this type of product? DL: The VARTA product line is proven, and offers a high level of quality and convenience (with no charging or spillage concerns) to North American enthusiasts. The VARTA name carries a strong, well-earned worldwide reputation, and North America is ready for a premium powersports battery product with a proven track record. VARTA Powersports batteries feature Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology that is engineered to extend the life and improve performance of the battery. VARTA AGM batteries can be installed at any angle, are maintenance free, feature a non-spillable design and last longer in demanding applications. PSB: What is the competitive landscape for VARTA batteries? DL: VARTA powersports batteries compete head-to-head with every other powersports battery product available in Europe already, and are very successful there. As a proven Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) product featuring an established grid design, it offers both dealers and consumers premium quality and a level of safety and convenience above other products. VARTA Powersports products will be freshly charged at the Johnson Controls facility located in Middletown, Del., guaranteeing the freshest and best possible charge quality upon initial customer use. This "factory activation" process ensures each VARTA PowersportsAGM battery is freshly charged, with no need to hassle with measuring, filling and waiting for a charge. PSB: Why did you feel it was important to launch it at AIMExpo? DL: The AIMExpo represents the largest motorcycle show to reach both commercial and consumer audiences. Additionally, all the relevant motorcycle media (both print and digital) will be in attendance, along with regional and national distributors. It's an ideal place to introduce V ARTA to the North American mar-ket. V ART A Powersports is also sponsoring the Top 1 Oil "Ack Attack" streamliner, currently the world's fastest motorcycle, which will be on display in the VARTA booth at the AIMExpo. PSB: What role will dealers play in selling the battery? What type of distribution channel(s) will there be for the battery? DL: Dealers are critical, and can service customers quickly. It's an immediate sale for retailers, so VARTA recognizes the importance of dealerships in the supply chain. National and regional distributors have advantages within their respective territories, and we are looking forward to speaking with them at the AIMExpo. PSB: What are some other products ]ohnson Controls has launched for our market? DL: OPTIMA Batteries is also a Johnson Controls brand, and last year they launched the OPTIMA Chargers Digital 400 l2V Performance Maintainer and Battery Charger that is a perfect complement to VARTA Powersports AGM batteries. While targeted for the motorcycle and powersports markets, the compact charger is compatible for use in automotive, truck, marine and RV applications as well.