Polaris’s new manfuacturing facility in Opole, Poland. (Photo: Business Wire)
Polaris announced the opening of their new 345,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Opole, Poland. The company will manufacture ATVs and utility vehicles at the site for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Opole will also house research and design for the Europe, Middle East and Africa markets allowing vehicles to be tailored to local needs. The building features include a 2,500 meter product test track and energy saving paint systems. Products should begin shipping from the facility in early 2015. Learn more: Seekingalpha.com
Polaris Industries continues to lead the small, task-oriented vehicle (STOV) industry in an aggressive and highly effective strategic vision. This could not be better demonstrated than by its groundbreaking initiative to put engineering and manufacturing assets in Poland and to tie Opole-based production to a logistics and marketing strategy for the entire EMEA region. Management has made increasing international sales a long term strategic goal and has steadily been taking steps towards that end over the last few years. The new facility is testament to the growth they have experienced in the EMEA region.
It has to be said that Polaris is, far and away, the leader in terms of strategic vision, implementation (in engineering, production, and distribution systems), and market development. Moreover, Polaris is not wedded to ICE technology. It’s acquisition of GEM Electric Vehicles, a company long-established, but treading water for years, constituted a strategic move into electric power (along with their investment in Brammo). Polaris immediately upgraded the look of the product line with the eM1400–and gave its dealers more flexible offerings with the gas-powered M1400 series.
Green Tech Automotive recently announced pricing for their MyCar and G2 sedan with the MyCar starting at $17,140 and the G2 sedan at $21,250. Green Tech Automotive is projecting to build 30,000 vehicles annually, down from earlier projections of 250,000 several years ago. Learn more: Torquenews.com
Comment: As the article notes, these price points are pretty high. They will be double or close to double the price of some of the other LSVs on the market. In addition these vehicles appear to be targeting the personal transportation segment of the LSV market. This is not the majority or the fastest growing portion of the LSV market. The biggest market for LSVs in recent years has been commercial/institutional uses such federal, state and local governments, colleges and universities and parks departments. As Polaris has found out with GEM this is a slower sales process than the consumer end of the market. The current LSV market does not have the demand to meet production volume of 30,000 vehicles annually. I would be surprised if Green Tech Automotive can even reach 10% of their target.
The Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail XT in Mat Black being recalled.
The Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail in Lime Green being recalled.
Last week Arctic Cat announced the recall of approximately 5,600 Wildcat Trail and Wildcat Trail XT side by sides because of a potential fire hazard related to leakage from oil cooler lines. Arctic Cat has received 60 reports of oil leaking and one report of fire but no injuries have been reported.
The recall involves all 2014 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail and Wildcat Trail XT side-by-side utility vehicles with Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) 000001 through 316232. The VIN is located on the frame tube near the driver’s side front wheel. These units were sold in red, green, lime green, team arctic green and mat black. The words “Arctic Cat” and “Wildcat Trail” appear on the sides of these vehicles and on the hood.
Consumers should stop using the recalled side-by-sides and contact an Arctic Cat dealer to schedule a free repair. The vehicles were sold nationwide from December 2013 through July 2014 for about $11,400 to $12,400. Learn more: CPSC.gov
Comment: This UTV recall is a little larger than the usual UTV recalls we see which often involve up to 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles. The Wildcat Trail UTVs are more narrow than typical UTVs to access trails that in the past were only accessible by ATVs. Earlier this year Arctic Cat recalled some Prowler 500 HDX vehicles but had not recalled any UTVs for several years before then.
EV-Fleet of North Carolina has started selling a pick-up sized electric truck, called the Condor which features a robust 5 speed transmission, a carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, and multiple configurations for the rear cargo area. The vehicle has a range of more than 100 miles when equipped with a 50 kWh battery and can be recharged in under an hour when using a 90 amp DC charger. The programmable powertrain has a top speed of 85 mph. The Condor’s MSRP is $49,995. Learn more: EV-Fleet.com
Comment: The Condor is more of a full-sized highway speed vehicle but I thought it was worth a mention since it could appeal to certain segments of the STOV market such as universities and parks. There has been a trend in this market to replace gas-powered pickup trucks with STOVs, often electric but sometimes gas. The trend is being driven by both green and sustainability initiatives as well as cost-savings and work efficiency. An electric truck such as this might provide some competition to STOVs in certain circumstances. There is obviously a green element to the truck but it would have trouble matching STOV performance for off-road use as well as access to tight spaces. On the other hand, a sprawling campus or one with satellite locations might be a good fit for this vehicle by cutting down on travel time. The other issue of course is price, at almost $50,000 multiple STOV vehicles and even highway capable pick-up trucks could be purchased instead of one Condor.
Last month Kandi Technologies announced the delivery of 208 neighborhood electric vehicles for the launch of the Shanghai Jinshan“Car-Share” Program. The program’s manager plans to have 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles in service by the end of 2014. The first car-share program was launched last year in Hangzou.
The car-share stations which provide a variety of services, such as charging, maintenance, battery recycling, are located at airports, train stations, hotels, business centers, selected residential areas and other places that are typically congested. A network system provides EV rental service to individual drivers in and around the city. It also provides EV maintenance and battery charging to self-service users. Lastly, a tracking system allows the Car-Share Program management to keep a close watch at the status and precise location of each vehicle.
The company expects to roll-out the program to many more cities in the next few years.
In China the vehicles for this program are sometimes referred to as neighborhood electric vehicles, they are similar but not the same as NEVs in the US. While they are small and lack some of the features of a fully functional highway capable vehicle like NEVs in the US, these vehicles from Kandi Technologies have a reported top speed of 80 km/hr compared to 40 km/hr. Learn more: Kandivehicle.com
Horticulture Week based in the UK test drove a Toro Workman MDE and HDX-D 4WD utility vehicles as well as a Brutus HD PTO from Polaris. They were operating in the vehicles in a golf course and park grounds type setting. In general they liked how all the vehicles performed. Here are some highlights from their review.
Toro Workman MDE (electric powertrain)
“nippy and grippy”
Comfortable and ergonomic layout for driver
Performed well on hills
Comfortable ride and good handling
Play in the accelerator pedal
Steel diamond-plate floorboards slippery when wet
Toro Workman HDX-D 4WD (Diesel)
Easy to read gauges
4WD on hills
Low engine noise
Good turning circle for a long vehicle
“But it’s a smooth ride. The steering is light, gear changes smooth and the seats comfortable. It’s a very stable vehicle.”
Third gear lockout for novice users cuts out engine
1,229kg cargo bed capacity
Looks like an airport baggage-handling vehicle
Polaris Brutus HD PTO
Easy to drive
Functionality of the PTO and attachments especially the angled broom
Ease of switching attachments
Ergonomic seats and controls
Smooth ride and light steering
Noisy going up hill
Some limits to suspension
Niche vehicle for those who need attachment specific functionality – sweeping, pallet moving, snow removal and sanding/de-icing
A research report recently published by ResearchInChina estimates that 302,000 low speed electric vehicles were produced in China last year, an increase of 46.6% from the year before. The market has grown rapidly since 2009 and is marked by manufacturers and intense competition. From the report:
At present, domestic LSEV producers concentrate their production bases mainly in Shandong Province, whose LSEV output rose from 16,300 in 2009 to 175,000 in 2013 at a CAGR of 81.0%. Key players there are Shifeng Group, Shandong Baoya New Energy Vehicle Co. Ltd., Shandong Tangjun Ouling Automobile Manufacture Co., Ltd., and so on. At the same time, spurred by the robust downstream demand for LSEV, Chery and BYD have also ventured into this field.
Comment: As we have noted previously, the LSVs in China and LSV compliant vehicles in the US are two different animals. Relatively speaking, the Chinese LSV market is largely unregulated so the quality and safety features of the LSVs are not the same. On the other hand a dynamic LSV market has arisen with a host of manufacturers and component suppliers. China is a very large market so even a niche market like LSVs can result in sizable market demand. The relatively inexpensive LSV option is appealing to those consumers who have some money but can’t afford a highway speed vehicle or don’t need that level of features and functionality. The Chinese government is also encouraging the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles.