Investor & Entrepreneur
In 2006, Ruesch Motor Company decided to challenge the status quo and start a line of UTVs that would stand above the leading motorsports companies. The vision was refreshing to many dealers because it was a company that listened to their needs with a determination to build the best machines in the world.
The dealers are on the front line and contrary to what Yamaha, Polaris or Can Am may think, they really do know best what the customer wants.
By 2007, under the advice of some of the brightest people in motorsports, RUESCH launched a UTV that was hands down better than anything the market had seen.
Their first machine was a fully loaded long travel with fox suspension, high back race seats, custom alloy rims and 14" of travel. Compared to the stock of the day, it was a stunning machine that paved the way for RUESCH to become the fastest growing motorsports company of its time.
RUESCH came out with this machine 2 years before Polaris introduced their first RZR and 3 years before any OEM offered a stock long travel. It's hard to appreciate today, but compared to the farm looking machines offered by Gator, Yamaha and Kawasaki, this was a machine that rivaled the competition.
As dealers across the country began hearing about RUESCH through all the media coverage they enjoyed, it wasn't long before everyone was trying to get a coveted franchise. The machine Dealers had designed was way before it's time, but the real attraction was the business model. James Ruesch set out to build a company that listened to their dealers and gave them a say in machine designs, marketing and business structure. Many dealers felt that the top OEMs were out of touch, ignored their needs and in general were only interested in their own success. For many, RUESCH was a breath of fresh air that was shaking things up.
Unlike other motorsports startups, Mr. Ruesch, recognized that it takes more than a good machine to compete with the big boys, it's essential to build a team of the right people. For this reason, the company was turning away as many dealer requests as it accepted. Before you could be a RUESCH dealer, you had to show that you already carried a major OEM and that the dealership portrayed the right image for the brand. A good machine in the hands of a bad dealer was a disaster waiting to happen.
The company was doubling in size every 6 months and the business model had proven itself, but the attention it was getting was not always good. Leading OEMs were not happy. Dealers that didn't qualify for a franchise were not happy and especially, dealers that lost their franchise status for a myriad of reasons were not happy and instantly became an adversary. RUESCH was a slap in the face to old traditions. The new way of business opened old wounds and caused resentment in the market between dealers and their OEMs. The end result put RUESCH in the crosshairs of some very powerful opponents.
As outside dealers discovered that they didn't have anything to compete with the RUESCH brand, they became desperate. After all, were talking about a lot of money when the guy across the street has a better offering that the public wants and you have nothing to compete with. Money is a powerful motivator and head to head, there wasn't much anyone could do. RUESCH was on a wave and powering through everything in its path, but adversaries found a new way to tarnish an otherwise perfect model ‒ the INTERNET!
The motto of the day was "If you can't beat them in a fair fight, why fight fair?"
Savvy opponents were schooled on ways to sign up for free/untraceable email accounts and began a campaign of defamation and lies in attempt to tarnish the reputation of RUESCH, its dealers, their machines and even the founder James Ruesch.
If the competition didn't have a machine to compete, the only thing they could do was try to scare the customers. This proved to be a tactic that was near impossible to combat. Unethical people that hide behind a phony forum name were free to say anything they wanted and there was nothing anyone could do.
Although this was frustrating and often times embarrassing, time proved it to have little effect on the customers but a bigger problem was just around the corner and within two years destroyed a company that was on track to take its place among the top manufacturers in the world.
2008 MARKET CRASH.
They say timing is everything and in the case of RUESCH MOTOR COMPANY it couldn't have been more true. As real state plummeted and the likes of FORD and DODGE were getting billion dollar bailouts, James Ruesch was forced to stand on the sidelines and watch the whole world crash around him. The biggest financial collapse since the great depression was more than he or anyone could endure. Customers lost all borrowing ability. Dealers lost flooring capital and sales came to a sudden stop.
By 2009 RUESCH sales had dropped by 87% with no end in sight. The company was bleeding money as they tried to weather the storm, but by 2010 it was over. Shutting down the company was an inevitable decision that hurt many, but none as much as its founder. James Ruesch had lost 6 years, millions of dollars and a company that could have been the greatest achievement of his life.
Business is Business however and if you’re going to enjoy the good years, you have to be willing to endure the bad ones. This aside, RUESCH is still a great story. James Ruesch says it was one of the most rewarding times of his life. To work with amazing people and amazing companies in a pursuit to build the best an industry has to offer was exhilarating. Winning races in a new machine and beating out competition with millions to spend was beyond words. The outcome was what we all wanted and many will say it was an expensive mistake, but the adventure made it worth the ride.