Last August, the Minnesota-based powersports company Polaris Industries muscled into the No. 1 spot on the IndustryWeek 50 Best list of American manufacturers over Apple Inc. The 61-year-old organization that pioneered the snowmobile had double-digit growth for two-years running. Strategic acquisitions —including Indian Motorcycle and Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcars business in 2011—and an R&D department staffed with 500 engineers have helped the company expand the notion of what constitutes a vehicle that’s not a car, truck or piece of heavy equipment.

CEO Scott Wine, who grew up riding off-road vehicles and uses adjectives like “liquid cool” and “drop-dead gorgeous” to describe his company’s rides, has been the driving force behind Polaris’ growth. He took charge in 2008, after a short stint at UTC Fire & Security and before that, four years as president of Danaher’s Jacobs Vehicle Systems. After beginning his career as a supply officer on a missile frigate in the Navy, he had his first taste of management running the chairman's dining room at the Pentagon, where his boss was Gen. Colin Powell.

Wine arrived at Polaris two weeks before Lehman Bros. failed, “so it wasn’t a honeymoon at all, and guiding us through a recession gave me the opportunity to really learn the company in depth and help shape our future as it grew out of the recession," he says.

Today, after a long stretch of growth, Wine says he expects Polaris’ powersports niche to slow down a bit. “You caught us at a good time,” he jokes of the IW nod. 

“The consumer’s not as strong as people think right now,” he says of the economy writ large. “We’ve seen traffic in our dealerships lighten up a little bit, and some of the industry’s numbers that I see are lower than I would have expected them to be.”

“But we have a mantra here,” he adds. “We call it making growth happen. We don’t let external factors become an excuse for us not to grow, and that’s part of the reason we’ve become moderately successful."