Smallvehicleresource.com has added models from Vantage Vehicle International to our vehicle database. Vantage Vehicle International offers a range of electric and gas models, all of which are low speed vehicles. There are three product lines: the electric powered Green line, the Primo line with 4WD designed for all terrain and the Premium line with a 2,500 lb. payload. Each line offers models in a cargo or passenger van configuration and standard cab truck configurations. The Premium and Green lines includes trucks with extended and crew configurations. If you are a Vantage Vehicle International dealer you can add a basic listing for your dealership to our dealer directory for free or if you are already in our database you can add Vantage Vehicle International to your listing.
Kubota Tractor Corporation (KTC) and Kubota Manufacturing of America Corporation (KMA) announced plans to invest approximately $80 million in their Gainesville, GA manufacturing operations to increase production of utility vehicles, sub-compact tractors and turf products. The investment includes a new 502,000 square foot facility close to existing facilities for the production of RTV utility vehicles, as well as, upgrades to their existing facilities to enhance production for sub-compact tractors and turf products. The new facility will have the capacity to produce 50,000 utility vehicles per year. Construction is expected to begin in September 2015 and mass production in spring of 2017. Learn more: Businesswire.com
Comment: Kubota joins Polaris and Arctic Cat as the latest utility vehicle manufacturers to announce sizable investments in new and/or upgraded manufacturing facilities. This indicates that manufacturers are optimistic about the overall market in general and their products in particular. It also indicates that competition in the utility vehicle market will continue to be fierce and likely become more intense as these manufacturers will have to increase sales to generate returns on these sizable investments. SVR estimates that Kubota sells approximately 20-30 thousand UTVs a year in North America.
Delta-Q Technologies announced that their new QuiQ 1500 Industrial Battery Charger has begun full-scale production. The charger can be used with burden carriers, utility vehicles, golf cars and LSVs, and is available in 48- and 72-volt models. From an earlier post about the new charger:
The QuiQ 1500 is a higher power version of the original QuiQ 1000 that is found in many electric utility vehicles used in material handling. The QuiQ 1500 allows users to charge existing battery packs up to 30 percent faster than the QuiQ 1000 or equip machines with a bigger pack and still meet a 5- or 8-hour charging time requirement. The QuiQ 1500’s compact design matches the exact dimensions and mounting configuration of the existing QuiQ 1000, allowing swift replacement of any existing QuiQ charger. With a standard North American 110V AC power source, the QuiQ 1500 provides 1200 watts of output power, and at 220 or 230 VAC, 1500 watts of output power.
Arctic Cat recently released their financial results for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, 2015. Management reported a net loss of $21.5 million on net sales of $98.9 million for the fiscal 2015 fourth quarter. In the prior-year quarter, Arctic Cat reported a net loss of $1.6 million on net sales of $145.4 million. Full-year net sales were down approximately 4% to $698.8 million from $730.5 million in fiscal 2014. Net earnings decreased to $4.9 million. Full-year net sales include an unfavorable foreign currency impact that reduced net sales by approximately $18.1 million.
Highlights of the earnings call related to the utility vehicle market include:
- ATV sales (includes ATVs and UTVs) for the year decreased 15% to $284.1 million from $333.2 million in the prior fiscal year.
- Strong sales of Wildcat side-by-side models were offset by lower sales of core ATVs to North American dealers and in international regions, including Russia, as the company reduced bloated dealer inventory of core ATVs.
- At the retail level ATV and side-by-side sales increased low 20s% for the fourth quarter.
- Management reported gaining market share in the side-by-side segment
- Management announced $27 million of investment in US manufacturing facilities and is investigating establishing a facility in a lower-cost region of the world
- In the fourth quarter Arctic Cat began shipping UTVs to Toro under their OEM agreement
- Arctic Cat ATV sales are expected to increase 9-12% at the wholesale level for the coming fiscal year, primarily from Wildcat sales. Retail sales are expected to be in the 15-20% range.
- Dealer feedback on the newest Wildcat Trail models has been positive as well as the new 2016 Prowler HDX announced in Febuary
Learn more: Seekingalpha.com (earnings call transcript)
Analysis: The new CEO Christopher Metz is moving aggressively to improve the company. One of his first moves was to take a significant write down related to excess ATV inventory. He appears to be moving more quickly to clean up inventory in the ATV as well as other business segments than his predecessor. He also created a new position, Chief Marketing Officer and added a new NA sales executive. In addition they are investing $27 million in improving manufacturing facilities.
While there will be some new products in 2016, with launches in August, the year will be dedicated more to cleaning up inventory and laying the foundation for a more efficient and productive company. Fiscal year 2017 will feature a more robust slate of product introductions. Despite some difficulties overall for the company, Arctic Cat’s side-by-side business continues to be a growth area. Expect the company to continue to aggressively buildout their product offerings in this area, targeting both the recreational sub-segments with new Wildcat vehicles and trying to expand into more areas of the work/utility segment under the Prowler product line.
Arctic Cat recently announced that they plan to invest $27 million in their Thief River Falls and St. Cloud, Minnesota manufacturing facilities. The bulk of the investment will be in Thief River Falls where a new state-of-the-art paint line will be installed and other improvements made. In St. Cloud Arctic Cat’s engine manufacturing and assembly capabilities will be expanded. The paint line will be used for the company’s recreational off-road vehicles. The investment is expected to result in an additional 50 jobs. Learn more: Arcticcat.com
Comment: This is another sign of the aggressiveness of the new CEO Christopher Metz who came in at the end of last year. Previously, after some sales and inventory problems with their ATVs, he immediately took a write down and quickly moved to reduce inventory rather than slowly trying to reduce the inventory over the next year or more. With companies like Honda and Yamaha renewing their UTV efforts, strong competition from Chinese manufacturers like Kymco and CFMoto and continuing efforts by Polaris and Can Am, Arctic Cat needs to continue to invest in their UTV product line in order to just maintain their market position, let alone improve it.
A Limited Edition DARPA Polaris Ranger XP 900 EPS will be used in part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge held June 5-6, at the Fairplex, in Pomona, CA.
This DARPA Robotics Challenge was created to spur development of robotic technology that can help humans to better respond to future disasters. The Challenge Finals will have robots perform a number of tasks in a continuous course, simulating what might be encountered in a real disaster situation. DARPA will use the RANGER XP 900 EPS in one of the most difficult tasks to help demonstrate a robot’s ability to operate and to egress from a vehicle, since they are among the tools commonly on hand in disaster zones.
The Ranger XP 900 EPS was modified for use in the event including:
- A remote SafeStop electronic throttle kill
- Brake actuation technology
- A 1,000 lb. capacity bed for the robot’s power supply
- Bench seat and tilt steering to create more room for a robotic driver
- Terrainarmor airless tires
For Polaris the event is an opportunity to further develop a vehicle platform with which robotic companies can integrate their own products. Polaris is also providing GEM vehicles for robot, people and supply transport at the event. Learn more: Polaris.com
Comment: The Challenge is a good opportunity for Polaris to work on product development for autonomous vehicles for both disaster relief and military applications as well as creating a vehicle platform for robotics companies. Building vehicles for speciality applications with specific features and options is also an effective way to produce higher margins in an increasingly competitive UTV market.
Google is planning on testing its own Google prototype self-driving vehicles on the roads of Mountain View, with safety drivers aboard. The vehicles will be low-speed vehicles (LSVs) produced by Roush Industries and will be on the road this summer. Roush provides services to move from concept to prototype to manufacturing and has experience in the automotive, motorsports and alternative fuel vehicle markets. The vehicles will have manual controls to conform with California autonomous vehicle code but Google has reported that it plans to make vehicles in the future without steering wheels or manual brakes. Learn more: Autoconnectedcar.com
Comment: Perhaps the next place to test the vehicles will be in gated communities where there is a defined and limited road network and all the traffic is low-speed.
We’ve posted a pair of articles in our tech section on annual maintenance for electric and gas golf cars. It’s aimed at the owner who is pulling their vehicle out of storage for seasonal use but can also be used as an annual or semi-annual maintenance guide, if you use your vehicle year around. If you are a hands-on owner, most or all of the maintenance can be done by yourself. If not, some of the maintenance checks you can do yourself and the more complicated procedures can be handled by your local golf car dealer. In any case, the guides give you some knowledge about key areas of your electric or gas golf car that you should check at least once a year. The guides are courtesy of Jack Triolo of Mountaintop Golf Cars in Banner Elk, NC and www.golfcarcatalog.com.
An article from Battery Watering Technologies has been posted in our Buying Guides/Tech section. The article provides some tips on when and how to water your electric vehicle batteries and provides some information about their single point watering system and new i-Lite sensor which helps you keep track of water levels. Learn more: Smallvehicleresource.com
Polaris Industries has chosen two Nashville, TN firms for the design and construction of their new manufacturing plant in Huntsville, AL. T.W. Frierson Contractor, Inc. and the architectural firm Design Constructors, Inc. were chosen for the $48 million, 775,000-square-foot plant that is scheduled to be operational within a year. The production facility is the first for Polaris in the southern half of the United States, and will initially be producing the Ranger side-by-side utility vehicles including vehicle assembly, chassis and body painting, welding, fabrication and injection molding. Learn more: Madisoncountyrecord.com