Eicher-Polaris Adjusting Multix Strategy

Eicher Polaris Multix

The Multix utility vehicle, the first offering from the Eicher-Polaris joint venture.

Eicher-Polaris, the Indian joint venture between Eicher Motors and Polaris, is adjusting their Multix marketing strategy to boost a lackluster rollout, according to reports from the Economic Times of India. The less than expected performance has been mentioned in recent quarterly earnings calls with analysts. Eicher-Polaris has already boosted the Multix’s power with a more powerful and BS IV compliant engine. The company plans on doubling their dealer network to 150 locations over the next six months and looks to more aggressively market this new concept vehicle. Additional resources are being allocated to marketing strategy consultants and customer research to inform future marketing initiatives.

The joint venture’s management has moved back their breakeven time frame by up to two years and may start producing ATVs at the Multix plant to help in that regard. The plant, located in Jaipur, has a capacity to produce 60,000 vehicles annually, so ATVs could fill some of that capacity until the Multix can develop some momentum.

This isn’t the first time Polaris has had difficulties in markets outside of the powersports arena. They have had some challenges along the way with their Bobcat partnership, Brutus line sold to commercial and government markets, as well as, some issues with traditional Polaris dealers trying to sell GEMs after the brand was first acquired.

While one might expect the past success of Polaris might produce different results, these difficulties are not completely unexpected. Selling to commercial and government customers is different than selling a new off-road vehicle to a powersport customer. With the latter, Polaris’ established presence in the market facilitates a build it and they will come approach, and the company has had years to hone their PR and marketing campaigns for a market often eager for the next best thing. Literally, dealers can wait for customers to walk through their doors,

In the commercial/government market customers are often constrained by budgets and budgetary calendars, and a dealer has to be pro-active. The successful dealers I have met in this market all aggressively make on site visits and demo vehicles for potential customers, as well as, attend trade shows, exhibitions and other venues where potential customers congregate. This is essentially a different type of dealer than the powersports dealer. This is not to say that Eicher-Polaris and Polaris won’t be successful in these markets. Despite these hurdles, Polaris has continued to grow their commercial business and their recent acquisition of Taylor-Dunn shows they are committed to a long-term strategy. In fact, overcoming these hurdles is building an institutional knowledge of these markets that should improve help them moving forward.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

How Will Textron’s Arctic Cat Acquisition Impact The STOV Market

Textron E-Z-GO Logo

Textron’s recent acquisition of Arctic Cat raises some interesting questions about the acquisition itself and how other companies in the market may react. In particular, what does the acquisition mean for Club Car.

One question is whether or not Textron will continue investing in the Bad Boy Off-Road brand. Except for the electric powered Bad Boy Off-Road UTVs the brand’s product offerings are redundant given the more popular Arctic Cat product lineup. One can argue that the dealer networks are sufficiently different that the brands can effectively reach different customer bases and not cannibalize each other’s sales.  A quick perusal of the Bad Boy dealer network indicates that most of their dealer s are golf car related with some power sports dealers. Moving forward, Bad Boy how much resources are put into product development, and what type of vehicles they develop should indicate the direction the brand will take in the context of Arctic Cat acquisition.

Another issue is the potential clash of corporate cultures between Textron Specialized Vehicles and Arctic Cat. Textron is a large conglomerate with over $13 billion in sales annually and a particular corporate culture while Arctic Cat is a much smaller company coming out of a powersports background. How well these companies will mesh will be interesting to see. Keeping Arctic Cat as a stand alone operating unit can mitigate any cultural problems to a certain degree. However, any future financial difficulties at Arctic Cat could generate more intrusion from Textron management regarding Arctic Cat operations.

Club Car is targeting the commercial market with the Carryall 700 and other vehicles.

A more intriguing question is how the acquisition of Arctic Cat might impact Club Car, which is now the only large stand alone fleet golf car manufacturer. While Yamaha Golf Cars are separate from their UTV and ATVs business, they are both part of their Power Products division. Similarly Textron has developed their Textron Specialty Vehicles division that combines a range of small, task-oriented vehicles from airport tugs, to fleet golf cars to off-road ATVs and UTVs.

Ingersoll-Rand and Club Car has taken a decidedly different approach. Rather than collecting other categories of vehicles, they have opted to focus on building out the sales of golf cars for personal/golf use and commercial oriented utility vehicles that are based off of their golf car platform. Management confirmed this approach when asked about the Arctic Cat acquisition during their recent fourth quarter earnings call.  According to recent financial results Club Car has been successful with positive growth in the commercial/utility segment while the fleet side continues to lag. However, the business is relatively small compared to the overall size of the company which had $13.5 billion in sales in 2016, and Club Car is part of their smaller Industrial segment.

This raises the possibility that Club Car may be an inviting candidate for divestiture. But who might be interested in buying Club Car? One possibility is Honda Motor. They already have a range of motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and scooters. An acquisition of Club Car could further diversify their vehicle portfolio. In addition, golf is a popular sport in Japan so there could be some degree of personal affinity among the management towards owning a leading golf car company. Club Car would offer a premium brand and a different distribution channel that might be useful for moving other Honda products. It would also add some electric vehicle expertise to Honda as well as additional global manufacturing capabilities.

Another possibility is Polaris, which has been acquiring small vehicle brands over the past several years. Polaris tends to acquire leading brands in a particular segment and many consider Club Car to be the leading golf car brand. Besides the premium brand, Club Car would bring some other positives to the table:

  • Global brand and distribution
  • China based manufacturing facilities as well as Southeast US facilities and supplier network not far from Polaris’ new Huntsville, AL facility
  • Large volume of electric vehicle sales that can be used spread costs of new battery and electric powertrain development.
  • Entry into the golf car segment
  • Largely separate distribution channel from existing products but similar enough to cross-sell some other Polaris brands
  • Good presence in commercial small vehicle market that Polaris has been targeting

The one drawback is that, from previous presentations, Polaris management considers the golf car segment a low growth segment. In large part this is due to the stagnant fleet golf car market which is the major portion of the golf car segment. However, E-Z-GO’s recent introduction of lithium battery powered fleet golf cars represents a potentially significant shift in the market. If lithium battery golf cars can disrupt the fleet market, this might create a more appealing market to Polaris. Providing an opportunity to leverage their expertise in electric vehicles, increase electric vehicle unit volume to lower costs and find a growth avenue in an otherwise stagnant fleet market. Despite recent headwinds from recall issues, Polaris still has the financial resources for such an acquisition. It will be interesting to see if they move in this direction.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Textron Acquires Arctic Cat

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Textron Specialized Vehicles will now compete in the recreational side-by-side market with vehicles like the 2017 Wildcat X from Arctic Cat with RG Pro suspension.

Textron is buying Arctic Cat for $247 million. Arctic Cat will become part of Textron’s Specialized Vehicle business and Textron’s management stated that the current manufacturing, distribution and operational facilities will be maintained. Arctic Cat employs about 1,600 people in production and management facilities mostly in Minnesota. Textron management remarked that the acquisition will allow for “…more aggressive investment in product development, dealer networks, marketing and customer service.” For the full fiscal year ended March 31, 2016, Arctic Cat reported a net loss of $9.2 million on net sales of $632.9 million. Sales are roughly split between ATVs/UTVs and snowmobiles. For fiscal year 2017 they were expecting similar sales.

This acquisition by Textron makes them much more of a direct competitor with Polaris. While Polaris has been expanding into more work and transportation related products with acquisitions of GEM, Aixam, Goupil and Taylor-Dunn, which puts it in direct competition with Textron’s Cushman, TUG and E-Z-GO vehicles, Textron has been expanding with their roll-out of the Bad Boy Off-Road brand of UTVs and ATVs. This acquisition significantly adds to the products and markets where they will be competing head to head.

This deal should provide the Arctic Cat brand with a lot more financial muscle to expand their dealer network and develop new products. For Textron there are a number of benefits:

  • In Arctic Cat they acquire a well established brand.
  • They acquire a power sports dealer network which is distinctly different then what they currently have.
  • They expand their reach in the UTV market, not only in terms of sales volume and distribution, but in the pure recreational market segment
  • They add a completely new type of vehicle to their portfolio with snowmobiles
  • They add geographic diversity to their manufacturing facility portfolio

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Bad Boy Off-Road brand. There is some overlap of product lines with Arctic Cat. A quick perusal of the Bad BoyOff-Road dealer network reveals that many or even most of the dealers are golf car related dealers with some power sports dealers. They could continue to develop the brand or fold some of the products into the Arctic Cat brand. Perhaps, lower than expected success of the Bad Boy Off-Road launch was one reason for acquiring Arctic Cat. Why spend a large amount of resources building a new brand in a very crowded market with no guarantee of success when they can acquire a well established brand such as Arctic Cat.

Learn more:  Arctic Cat

Should Autocycles Be Next For STOV Manufacturers

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Arcimoto SRK

The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available later this year.

I have come across a number of articles recently focusing on autocycles and I thought this might be a potential product development direction for STOV manufacturers.

First, what is an autocycle? It is basically a three-wheeled vehicle such as the Slingshot by Polaris, or offerings from start ups such as Elio Motors and Arcimoto. There is no standard definition for an autocycle in the US or other countries. In the US, an autocycle is typically classified as a motorcycle, although not always, as Polaris discovered with their Slingshot. They have had to work with some states to develop legislation to allow their vehicles on the road. (See how the classification for the Slingshot varies by state.)

The benefit of being classified as a motorcycle is that the vehicle does not have to conform to more expensive automobile safety standards. This benefit is key to providing STOV manufacturers with a new product opportunity. In particular, I believe Polaris and the golf car manufacturers are well positioned to produce a more practical neighborhood electric vehicle that can provide a good value proposition in relation to street legal golf cars (new or used), low speed vehicles and lower priced highway capable cars.

Now Polaris already has the Slingshot, but this is more of a recreational vehicle designed for those interested in a motorcycle like experience with a greater sense of safety and requiring less driving skill. The Slingshot is highway capable, features a gas engine and pricing starts around $22,000. The not yet in production Elio Motors autocycle is also gas powered, highway capable and has a base price of $7,300. The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available this year, has a top speed of 80 mph and starts at $12,000 for the 12kWh model which provides a 70 mile range. Like Slingshot, the Elio and SRK provide seating for two but they are placed front to back rather than side to side as in the Slingshot. All three feature two wheels up front and one in the rear.

While all three of these vehicles are capable of highway speeds, I propose that there is a real market opportunity for a medium speed vehicle (MSV). The medium speed, say up to 40-45 mph, would make the vehicles more practical to use for personal transport than golf cars or LSVs which top out at 19-25 mph. STOV manufacturers have pushed for a MSV designation but NHTSA has not been willing to budge on the costly safety standards for four-wheeled vehicles. This is why the motorcycle/autocycle classification is critical to this opportunity. A MSV autocycle would be a more viable second vehicle for many households and a more versatile neighborhood vehicle for those in gated or retirement communities.

The vehicle should also be electric powered to maximize the environmental benefits and also take advantage of electric motorcycle incentives where available. An electric autocycle would provide a significantly less expensive electric vehicle option to green consumers than the currently available electric cars. A MSV would also require a smaller battery pack than a highway capable electric autocycle, further reducing costs. Of course, a highway capable option could be made available but that would start driving up the costs.

Besides the aforementioned startups, who is positioned to develop these type of vehicles? Polaris is an obvious choice. They already have experience designing, engineering and producing an autocycle and they are innovators. They also have been acquiring electric drivetrain technology (Brammo) and electric vehicle brands such as GEM, Goupil and Taylor-Dunn. It is a vehicle that could potentially fit nicely into their portfolio of the brands that are sold internationally. The biggest challenge for Polaris would be distribution. A MSV autocycle would probably not be a good fit for their powersports dealers, as the customers would be more transportation than recreation oriented. Their brands such as Goupil, Taylor-Dunn and even GEM are geared more towards the commercial customer. Polaris might have to partner with another company to access the right distribution channels.

This brings us to the golf car manufacturers. They have the expertise in developing and selling electric vehicles, but not necessarily the three-wheeled variety and have been more focused on lead acid battery packs. One could argue that they also haven’t been that innovative. They do however have the right distribution network. Their customers are already coming to them for personal transportation solutions.

A MSV autocycle could find a home in Textron’s (maker of E-Z-GO) Specialty Vehicle division which encompasses a wide range of small, task-oriented vehicles. They have also been striking out into new territory with new ATV and UTV products under the Bad Boy Off-road brand. Another option is Yamaha Golf Car, although they are the smallest of the big three manufacturers. This leaves Club Car. As a subsidiary of Ingersoll-Rand they certainly have the financial wherewithal to develop a vehicle on their own, and they may be the best fit for a partnership with Polaris. Unlike Yamaha and Textron they do not compete directly with Polaris in the recreational UTV space. They are also considered by many to be the highest quality brand of the three and have over 600 distributors, dealers and factory branch locations.

It will be interesting to see if the autocycles from Elio and Arcimoto prove to be popular and encourage other manufacturers to join the fray.

Learn more:  Arcimoto.com

Learn more:  Eliomotors.com

 

Hisun Adds Sector Crew Models

Hisun Sector 1000 Crew

The new Sector 1000 Crew from Hisun builds out their work-recreational product line.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Hisun Sector 750 Crew

The new Sector 750 Crew from Hisun.

Hisun Motors recently added two new Crew models to their Sector line of utility vehicles. The Sector 750 and the Sector 1000 expands Hisun’s work-recreational product lineup. Hisun’s 4-passenger Sector Crew series feature 4-wheel independent nitrogen suspension, 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, hydraulic assisted dump bed, bench seating and Electronic Power Steering. Each model features a 350 lb. capacity cargo bed and 1,200 lb. towing capacity. The new Crews come standard with roofs, windshields, turn signals, aluminum rims, and a 4500 lb. winch.

Compared to the 1000 Crew the 750 Crew has a smaller engine, slightly less ground clearance and 26″ rather than 27″ wheels. The Sector 750 Crew MSRP is $12,499 and the Sector 1000 Crew MSRP is $15,999. Hisun is following a similar pattern to other manufacturers of starting with a lineup of two-seat vehicles and then adding a crew version.

After being a contract manufacturer for a number of other brands, Hisun has been making a bigger push of late to develop their own vehicle brand. An important part of their dealer network are Rural King farm and home stores located primarily in the upper Midwest.

SVR recently added the complete array of Hisun utility vehicles to our vehicle database. This includes the sport oriented Strike product line as well as the Sector product line. If you are a Hisun dealer and not already in our dealer database you can add your listing for free.

 

4ekolka: A 3D Printed LSV

4ekolka

The 4ekolka, a prototype electric powered city car.

The 4ekolka is a 3D printed, electric powered vehicle out of Prague from Petr Chladek. The estimated cost to build this prototype vehicle was $12,000 with half of that for the batteries and battery management system. The vehicle is designed for a top speed of 55 km/h or approximately 34 mph. The 9.6 kWh battery pack consists of LiFePO4 batteries with a capacity of 200Ah @ 48V and the estimated range per charge is 200 km or 124 miles. The 4ekolka is expected to consume about 100 Wh compared to 200-300 Wh for most electric vehicles.

The expected market is for intra-city driving and as a secondary car. The designer is also investigating commercial uses. The vehicle is currently being tested on roads in Prague. Learn more:  Electrek.co

CFMoto Reveals 2017 UTVs

cfmoto zforce 1000

The new 2017 ZForce 1000 EPS sport utility vehicle from CFMoto.  Photo credit:  Powersportsbusiness

At a dealer meeting at company headquarters in Hangzou, China, CFMoto revealed new utility vehicles for model year 2017. The highlight of the line-up is the new sport side-by-side, the ZForce 1000 EPS with an MSRP of $13,999. Key features include:

  • 77 hp
  • 82 foot-pounds of torque
  • CV Tech clutching
  • 27″ mud tires
  • 14″ aluminum wheels
  • New seats

The rest of the 2017 sport line-up includes the following models:

  • ZForce 500 HO Trail EPS, $8,999
  • ZForce 800 Trail EPS, $10,799
  • ZForce 800 EX EPS, $11,599

The 2017 utility line-up includes the following models:

  • UForce 500 HO EPS, $8,999
  • UForce 500 HO EPS TT Camo/Hunting, $9,449
  • UForce 800 EPS, $10,799
  • UForce 800 EPS TT, $11,249

Learn more:  Powersportsbusiness.com

Tata Motors Launches SuperAce Mini-Truck in Vietnam

Tata Motors SuperAce

Tata Motors has launched their SuperAce mini-truck in Vietnam.

Tata Motors, with their partner TMT Motors, have launched the Tata SuperAce mini-truck in Vietnam. The SuperAce is positioned as a versatile replacement for a small pick-up truck. The vehicle has a one ton payload and comes with either a diesel or gas engine and has a top speed of 130 km per hour. The vehicle can be used for inter or intra-city transport and for a wide range of goods including construction material, produce and consumer goods. According to Tata Motors management, “Through our partnership with TMT Motors, we are committed to shaping the commercial vehicles industry here and are determined to build a long-lasting relationship with the customer for competitive business advantages and the trusted credentials of the Tata Motors brand,”. Tata Motors sees a lot of potential in the fast growing Vietnamese economy and announced their intention to enter the market last year.

Learn more:  Thestatesman.com

Comment:  While not as popular in the US market, in Southeast Asia and in other countries mini-trucks are quite popular. They are integral for delivering goods in the hub and spoke system employed in these countries. The small-sized trucks can more easily maneuver in crowded and narrow city streets to deliver goods the “last mile” from large distribution centers. In the US they can be seen on farms and are usually imported used vehicles. With their top speeds mini-trucks don’t meet the safety standards for full on-road use in the US and are too fast too be considered low speed vehicles. Approximately 20 states allow mini-trucks on roads where it is locally permitted. Depending on the state mini-trucks are not allowed on highways or, in some cases, not allowed on roads with speed limits above 35 mph. Vantage Vehicle International offers vehicles that are mini-truck like in styling but are configured as LSVs.

Polaris Ranger vs. Kubota Comparison

The Polaris Ranger 4×4 570 being put to the test. Credit: Horticulture Week

Horticulture Week out of the UK features a comparison of the Polaris Ranger 570 to the Kubota RTV-X900 by several testers as they put the vehicles through their paces on varied terrain that included fields, college grounds and a quad bike training facility with steep hills. The three testers included a groundskeeper, gardener and forester.

As is noted in the review, the vehicles are both UTVs but quite different with the diesel powered Kubota geared more towards heavy duty work and the Ranger providing more speed. Some key specifications for comparison.

________________Kubota RTV-X900          Polaris Ranger 570

Engine                  21.6 hp Diesel                44 hp Gas

Top Speed            25 mph                         50 mph

Transmission        Hydrostatic                    Variable Transmission

Steering               Hydrostatic Power         No Power Steering

Cargo Capacity   1,102 lbs.                       1,000 lbs.

Towing Capacity  2,204 lbs.                       1,500 lbs.

Ground Clearance    10.4″                          10″

Drive System

Kubota:  Front: limited-slip differential; Rear:
foot-operated differential lock

Polaris:  On-demand true AWD/2WD/VersaTrac Turf Mode

Some of the testers’ takes on the Kubota:

  • The hydrostatic transmission may require a learning period but works well once you’ve adapted
  • Smooth riding and feels safe
  • Feels durable
  • Can go anywhere
  • Dynamic engine braking most impressive
  • Hydraulic dump bed works quickly
  • Good protection for vulnerable parts of the vehicle
  • Wide range of applications

In general the Kubota received positive reviews.

The reviewers testing of the Ranger 570 produced the following reaction:

  • Most noticeable is the speed of the vehicle, a result of the 44 hp ProStar engine. One tester easily reached 80 km/hr.
  • Seat belt sensors that govern the vehicle’s speed until the seats belts are engaged was a well received feature.
  • Easy to use multiple drive settings – 2WD/4WD/Turf
  • Smooth and responsive
  • Feels light and not always secure particularly in tight turns
  • Perhaps too much plastic to remain durable in really rough terrain and driving
  • Easy access for typical maintenance
  • Good for use in applications that requires the operator to cover a large area where its’ speed could save time. A good replacement for quads on farms and such where more hauling capability and/or the ability to carry a passenger is needed.

In general the Ranger received positive reviews as well. The most important determinant in choosing one vehicle over the other would be how the vehicle would be used. If you have heavy duty hauling in difficult terrain but in a more limited area then the Kubota would be more appropriate. If you need to use a vehicle over a wider range and with not as much heavy duty hauling then the Ranger would be the best.

Learn more:  Hortweek.com

Hisun Motors Introduces Electric UTV With 45 Mile Range

The new Sector E1 electric UTV from Hisun Motors.

The new Sector E1 electric UTV from Hisun Motors.

HISUN Motors takes a big step forward with the announcement of the all-new Sector E1 electric Utility Vehicle, adding yet another quality vehicle to their line-up. Building on the success of the Sector UTV line’s performance and modern advancements in electric technology, HISUN is excited to enter the growing electric UTV market. The Sector E1 4×4 is a mid-size UTV which provides quiet performance thanks to its powerful 48 volt 36hp AC drivetrain. The Sector E1 starts at an MSRP as low as $10,199.

HISUN’s Sector E1 features 4-wheel independent nitrogen suspension, 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, and an industry best run time. The Sector E1 is the first electric UTV on the market with the Discover EV Traction Dry Cell Battery technology that is maintenance free and designed for longer run times and a longer life. The Discover EV Traction Dry Cell Battery is also recyclable, built from recycled parts, and will deliver an estimated 45 miles on a single charge. HISUN has leveraged superior North American technology for integral components such as the Kinetek Motor, Delta Q IC1200 Chargers, and 450 Amp Sevcon Gen IV controllers. Dealer and customer feedback has helped refine the end product of the vehicle resulting in the Ultimate Electric Utility Vehicle.

The introduction of the Sector E1 will strongly position HISUN into a segment of the UTV market which has grown year over year in comparison to the gas UTV market. “We felt like with the improvements in battery technology coupled with the North American sourced supply chain of critical drivetrain components will lead to a much more reliable product and runtime that is “first in its class” compared with price,” said Shane Wilson, VP of Engineering and Operations. Learn more:  Hisunmotors.com

Comment:  Whereas in the past electric utility vehicles have mainly been targeted at the hunting market, newer models like the Sector E1 are looking for a broader appeal for work or recreation applications. In part the trend is because the hunting segment has turned out to be a niche market, but advances in battery and powertrain technology is also increasing the range and potential end use applications for electric UTVs.