David Johnson, one of the original founders f Polaris, has passed away at age 93.

David Johnson, co-founder of Polaris Industries, died Saturday in Roseau, Minnesota. He was 93.

Since he helped start Polaris in the early 1950s, Johnson focused his career on product engineering and manufacturing, and developed a deep connection with Polaris employees during his four-plus decades with the company. In the years following his retirement in 1988, he remained one of the faces of Polaris as he enjoyed visiting the Roseau manufacturing facility and often gave tours at the Polaris Experience Center located near the plant.

“David Johnson embodied the Polaris culture and work ethic, and his positive impact on the company continues to inspire us today,” said Polaris Chairman and CEO Scott Wine. “David valued hard work, passion for the riding experience, and an unwavering spirit of innovation. He set a tremendous example with his dedication and commitment to the company and employees. We are saddened by his passing and offer our sincere condolences to Eleanor and David’s family and friends.”

David and his two cousins, Edgar and Allan Hetteen, officially founded Polaris in 1954. Polaris produced a variety of agricultural products, but David and several co-workers who were avid outdoorsmen envisioned a a snow machine they could use in winter to reach their remote hunting shacks. In 1955 they created the first Polaris snowmobile. Mr. Johnson is perched in the saddle of the second generation of those original sleds in the photo above.

Polaris began producing snowmobiles and helped create the global market for the versatile winter machines. Johnson later said that while Polaris did not invent the snow machine, the company was the first to successfully market snowmobiles. Polaris became the industry’s long-time market share leader, and the dominant brand in snowmobile racing. By the time David retired in 1988, the company had begun to diversify and was also producing and marketing off-road vehicles.

David was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1999. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Eleanor, and their children, Rodney, Mary, Mitchell, and Aaron.

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