Polaris To Offer Non-Pneumatic Tire For Consumer Side-by-Sides

Polaris Non-Pneumatic Tire Technology

Polaris Non-Pneumatic Tire Technology

Polaris will be bringing their non-pneumatic tire technology from the battlefield to the recreational trails and work environments in the second half of 2014. While originally targeting military applications and available since December on a limited number of ATVs, the tires will now be an option on a wider range of vehicles including side-by-sides by the end of the year. The non-pneumatic tires (NPT) consist of a rubber tread similar to a pneumatic tire that surrounds a polymetric web with a honeycomb design. The technology produces a tire with lateral stiffness for less tire roll while cornering and better grip over rocky or rough terrain since the web part of the tire allows the tire to deform while traveling over an obstacle. The main characteristic is that the tire cannot go flat. In testing the tire has withstood 50 caliber bullets and railroad spikes and remained operable for thousands of miles.

While these characteristics obviously appeal to recreational users, Polaris is initially rolling out the technology for work applications since the company has been getting a lot of feedback from that market according to management. Another issue that hinders a quick and broad roll-out of the NPT is that matching a NPT tire to a given vehicle is complicated. The characteristics of the web design, web material, tread design and material and lug pattern must be adjusted for each vehicle and application. The company has received interest from mining, turf, agriculture, construction and even the aviation markets. Rail industries are also very interested.  Learn more:  Powersportsbusines.com

Comment: This could grow into a nice sized adjacent business for Polaris. It will be difficult for competitors to enter the market. Not only does Polaris own patents for this technology but they are also developing expertise in understanding the complexities of matching different tire characteristics to specific vehicles and end-use applications. Competitors will have a difficult time both acquiring or developing a similar technology as well as the related engineering expertise. Polaris also has the advantage of being the leading brand with a large installed base of potential customers. The tire technology could also provide a differentiator in the commercial UTV market which Polaris has been making a more determined push.

Eicher-Volvo Joint Venture May Enter Mini-Truck Market


Eicher is considering a mini-truck offering to enter the small commercial vehicle market through their joint venture with Volvo.

A joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd. of India and Volvo, VE Commercial Vehicle, may enter the growing small commercial vehicle market in India. The small commercial vehicle market consists of the vehicles of 5 tonnes or less. The joint venture is considering a mini-truck offering in the 1-3 tonne range. This segment already features vehicles like the Ashok Leyland Dost, Tata Ace and Mahindra’s Maxximo Plus. The decision to enter the market will be made within the next six months with a potential product launch in 2016-17.

The small commercial vehicle market represents over 50% of the commercial vehicle market with an estimated 359,000 vehicles sold every year and growth to over 500,000 expected by 2019. The market is driven by the hub and spoke distribution system in India where large trucks transfer goods to or between hubs and smaller vehicles deliver the goods the last few miles. Learn more:  Economictimes.com

Comment:  For regulatory reasons, mini-trucks have not been a major market in the US although farmers often purchase used mini-trucks coming out of Japan and use them as of-road work vehicles. In some areas they are being allowed more access to public roads, but this is often in the context of agricultural use rather than the general public. Eicher, which also makes motorcycles, has a joint venture with Polaris that started in 2012. This joint venture is focused more on a range of personal vehicles with reports of a four-wheeled vehicle to be launched in 2015. At the same time, there could be opportunities for the companies to work together in the small commercial vehicle space given Polaris’s acquisitions in the past few years of GEM, Aixam and Groupil.

E-Z-GO Acquires Tug Technologies Corporation

The TUG Technologies Corp. M1A tow tractor is used at airports.

The TUG Technologies Corp. M1A tow tractor is used at airports.

E-Z-GO recently announced the acquisition of Tug Technologies Corporation, a manufacturer of ground support equipment for the aviation industry. TUG Technologies Corporation, based in Kennesaw, Georgia, manufactures ground support equipment servicing airlines, air-freight companies, ground handlers, government agencies and airports worldwide. TUG’s extensive product line includes cargo tractors, belt loaders, tow tractors, pushback vehicles, air-starts, ground power units, and mobile heating and air-conditioning units. The company was acquired from a New York based private equity firm but their manufacturing is based in Kennesaw, GA along with approximately 200 people. The terms of the acquisition were not released. Learn More:  Marketwatch.com

Comment:  The acquisition makes sense for E-Z-GO on a number of fronts. They already serve the same markets with E-Z-GO and Cushman vehicles but for different applications with minimal overlap and they are also both Georgia based companies. The greater resources that E-Z-GO has at it’s disposable in terms of product development, manufacturing expertise, sales force and existing relationships should help grow the company. Tug Technologies is a strong brand in their markets that can be leveraged for new products and new markets.

NHTSA Final Rule For Rear Visibility Technology Impacts LSVs

Garia LSV In NYC

In the future LSVs such as this one from Garia will need to have rear visibility technology.

In March, 2014 NHTSA finalized a rule requiring  rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. The final rule

“…requires all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents. The field of view must include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including image size, linger time, response time, durability, and deactivation.”

The rule would also apply to LSVs. According to NHTSA, on average, there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries per year caused by backover crashes with more than half of those involving children under 5 or adults over 70.

Learn more:  NHTSA.gov

Comment:  While rear view technology is becoming more common in full-size vehicles, it will be more expensive to put into LSVs relative to their overall price. On the other hand, certain market segments such as the college/university market, which already purchase LSVs in part for their safety features, may be willing to pay for this additional feature. Consumers purchasing LSVs for personal transportation may not be as willing.

You could argue that many LSV models offer much more visibility than trucks or buses and full-size cars. Here are some come comments from NHTSA regarding this issue.

Like all other vehicle types covered under today’s final rule, LSVs are required to provide the driver with a rearview image meeting the requirements specified in the regulatory text at the end of this document regardless of whether the vehicle has any significant blind zone. However, like other manufacturers, low-speed vehicle manufacturers can petition NHTSA for an exemption or for rulemaking.


NHTSA did receive some comments regarding the difference in blind spots between LSVs and other vehicles. This is the agency’s response.

…the latest agency research indicate that low-speed vehicle blind zones vary greatly within this vehicle class. Some also contain significant blind zones similar to other passenger cars and light trucks. However, some others may have very small blind zones.  As low-speed vehicles may have a GVWR of up to 3,000 lbs., these vehicles are also fully capable of causing injury and death to vulnerable pedestrians. As backover crashes do not typically occur at speeds above 25 mph (the top speed of low-speed vehicles), we believe it is appropriate to include low-speed vehicles in today’s final rule. Further, the agency requested comment on low-speed vehicles in the NPRM and sought information as to whether the agency could reasonably conclude that low-speed vehicles present no unreasonable risk of backover crashes, but nocommenter provided any substantive information on this point. Therefore, the agency cannot reasonably exclude, as a category, low-speed vehicles from the requirements of today’s rule because the available information

The agency estimates the cost per vehicle of such a system will be $132 to $142. However, this includes some assumptions of manufacturing efficiencies and volumes which are more likely to accrue to high volume full-size vehicle manufacturers than lower volume LSV manufacturers. For LSV manufacturers the best approach to this issue may be to petition the agency for specific models or hope that they may share some in some of the cost reductions the rest of the market creates or that future technology becomes less expensive.

Another market response may be for consumers to switch to golf cars or utility vehicles. From SVR’s scanning of road use regulations, more municipalities are allowing golf cars and UTVs varying access to public roads, not just LSVs. This regulation will only add to the cost differential that consumers consider between LSVs and these other vehicles, especially new or used golf cars and lower priced UTVs.