A Closer Look — ASV Holdings, Inc.

Winter in Minnesota is unforgiving. During the fury of it, snow squalls swallow roadways before your eyes; trucks lose their grip on asphalt, cars spin into ditches and everything grinds to a halt. That’s bad for business.

 Two fiercely entrepreneurial gentlemen with experience in the snowmobile industry put their heads together and founded ASV, named for all-season vehicles. And up in Minnesota, they don’t take that kind of label lightly.

Snowmobile pioneers Edgar Hetteen (founder of Polaris and Arctic Cat) and Gary Lemke turned their attention from snow machines to compact track trucks when sparse snowfall adversely affected the snowmobile industry. Hetteen, often referred to as the grandfather of snowmobiling, along with Lemke, came up with the idea that snowballed into ASV.
The first ASV product was a track truck, developed out of necessity back in 1983. Minnesota winters are known for their brutality, creating an environment that vexes transportation needs. The track truck, a combination of a tractor and a snowmobile, was designed specifically to overcome winter’s unfriendly challenges and traverse the wet northern climate. The track truck’s success laid the groundwork for the compact track loader in the 1990s, and the rest is the story of ASV’s success.

 “We were the first in the United States to build the compact track loader,” said Justin Rupar, ASV’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We beat everyone to market. The concept caught on and boomed.”

 Back in the early 1990s, ASV’s Posi-Track included a quick-attach mechanism and a three-point hitch that allowed it to function as a brush cutter, bulldozer, auger, mower, and more, with an amazingly low ground pressure of just 1.5 psi, the only one of its kind on the market.

Today, ASV creates industry-leading compact track loaders and skid-steers that improve the quality of life for customers, have minimal impact on the environment they work on and deliver maximum value for the people who rely on them, primarily in the construction, landscaping and forestry markets. The unique rubber-on-rubber wheel-to-track contact points and fully suspended frames reduce wear and tear on the machine and track while also improving ride quality. A specialized platform provides owners and operators with increased traction, flotation, ground clearance, stability and overall capability.

 The tracks used on ASV compact track loaders are unique – they don’t have a steel core. Instead, these patented ASV tracks feature rubber construction with embedded high-tensile cords (similar to kevlar) that run the length of the track to prevent the track from stretching and derailing. The pliable cord allows the track to conform to the shape of the ground, improving traction. Unlike steel, it doesn’t break from continuous bending, it’s lighter, and it doesn’t rust. Better traction and long life come standard, ASV pledges.

 ASV compact track loaders use an internal positive drive to efficiently transfer tractive effort from the powertrain to the rubber tracks. Independent drive motors turn sprockets that engage the drive lugs on the inside of the rubber tracks. The low-friction design maximizes power transfer, conserving engine power for other machine functions. Wear between sprockets and track lugs is minimized through free-turning steel roller sleeves on the drive sprocket teeth. Wide sprockets – three to five times wider than competitive designs – and an open support frame that sheds material, keep the sprockets lasting longer. When it is time to replace, the bolt-on rollers keep user costs below traditional non-serviceable designs.

 ASV roller wheels (up to 48 rollers on ASV’s largest model) distribute weight evenly across a large ground contact area, minimizing ground pressure and increasing traction. A revolutionary single-rail, open wheel design helps shed material, improving wheel and seal life over enclosed tub frames and saving cleaning time. The wheels are made of a durable UHMW polyethylene molded directly to the hub and coated with a final layer of rubber to provide the perfect balance of a strong center core and the needed track cushioning that results in premium ride and long life.

 Undercarriages on ASV compact track loaders are mounted to torsion axles that suspend machine weight and allow controlled movement up and down. The suspension on ASV compact track loaders improves stability and absorbs impact for increased operator comfort and machine durability. This design also keeps the track on the ground to improve digging and maximize traction. When combined with its superior balance and longest track base in the industry, this machine offers excellent grading capabilities.

 ASV strives to be known as the worldwide expert in designing and producing premium, hardworking machinery. It is the company’s vision to break through traditional performance standards, pushing the limits of what’s possible.

 The same entrepreneurial spirit that gave ASV its start has remained with the company these 35 years, Rupar said.

 “Every single product has had that level of innovation. We are constantly trying to push the boundaries with design, capability and performance. We want our dealers to have a premium experience with us. That spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in us, and that’s what drives us forward.”
 One tenet that reverberates within the company is the notion of getting the job done, no matter the conditions – not surprising for a company based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “Even the ASV name –  which stands for all-season vehicles – falls right in line with why they developed the products they developed. We want to be able to operate in every environment, every condition,” he said. “Where others don’t operate in the snow, we say go for it. ASV works in the snow where others struggle.” Not just in snow, of course, but in “all seasons.”

 It’s ASV’s deeply held belief that no matter what site you’re working on, or its condition, you should be able to complete the task at hand quickly and with ease. That’s why they strive to make machines that help customers get more done in more places than they ever thought possible.

 “We want people to know when we develop a product, we keep the dealer in mind. We empower people to elevate the level of product and reach a new standard. We want them to be able to work in places they’ve never been able to work, while being stewards of land: We have the lightest ground pressure of any other compact track loader on the market. That translates to more work in more places.”

 Not surprisingly, ASV wants to be the company that’s out in front, pushing the limits, Rupar said.

 “If you take a look at the landscape of equipment manufacturers, and you compare A to B to C and D, we want to do everything that they do and more,” Rupar said. “If someone says, ‘You can’t do that with a compact track loader,’ we want to be the company that gets out there and innovates beyond the expectations of that consumer. When a consumer gets into an ASV product, we want them to say, ‘I had no idea you could do that with a product like this.’

 “We want to set the bar that all the other manufacturers are forced to chase. Constantly pushing the limits is the foundation of that goal.”

 Traded on NASDAQ as ASV Holdings Inc., the company employs 190 on-site in Grand Rapids. Manufacturing and the parts warehouse are in the same complex.

 ASV does business with approximately 190 retail dealers and 100 independent rental dealers. Most are in the United States and Canada, but since innovation is in its DNA, the company has a mature distribution channel in New Zealand and Australia – not only that, but ASV is the market-share leader.
“We were one of the first entrants into the New Zealand market and had it to ourselves for a while,” Rupar said. “It was a well-kept secret for a while, but now it’s pretty competitive.”

Up in Minnesota, company culture is vibrant against the backdrop of the long northern winters. It’s collaborative, Rupar said, with open communication lines.

 “People are very excited to share their ideas and comments, improvements to the assembly line, procurement, fabrication and welding, sales – people are very passionate about the company’s success,” he said.

 It’s no mystery why the esprit de corps is so strong: The company is the epitome of local.

“And it’s been local for a very long time, it’s part of the community, and it’s part of the culture, really,” said Rupar. “People here are very hardworking, passionate and loyal, and they live here because they want to be in this environment. That translates into their work – they love what they do.”


Founded by Edgar Hetteen and Gary Lemke, both pioneers in the snowmobile industry, ASV’s first innovation was the Track Truck. Lemke and Hetteen created the Track Truck to be a rubber-tracked vehicle. It was an imaginative utility machine the size of a pickup truck that delivered less ground pressure than a person. And just like that, ASV was formed.

ASV introduced the first Posi-Track rubber track loader to meet the needs of construction, agricultural and landscaping industries. The machine featured a rugged rubber track undercarriage while blending the power of a steel track dozer with the versatility of a loader-mounted quick-coupler.

ASV moved from its original facility in Marcell, Minnesota, to its current location in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The facilities in Grand Rapids grew, as did ASV’s reputation for its unique machines and track-driven undercarriage technology.

Eight years after its loaders were introduced, ASV entered into an agreement with Caterpillar Inc. to produce rubber track undercarriages for some of the Cat compact equipment product line. This alliance continues today.

Terex Inc. purchased ASV Inc. from its original shareholders and later began to offer ASV-designed loaders under the Terex brand. A line of ASV-built skid-steer loaders was added to the Terex product line in 2011.

Manitex International Inc. purchased 51 percent of ASV, allowing ASV LLC to begin marketing its own line of compact track loaders, once again under the ASV brand in 2015.

ASV Holdings Inc. completed its I.P.O. to become an independent public company and began trading on NASDAQ under the symbol ASV.

The tradition of innovation and expertise in rubber track undercarriage design that started in 1983 charges on today and into the future as ASV continues to manufacture a full range of industry-leading ASV-branded compact track loaders and skid-steers.

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