What’s Cooking on the STOV: Ordinance Enforcement & Off-Road Emergency Response

Highlighting some of the many applications for Small, Task-Oriented Vehicles

One of the GEMs being used by local police for ordinance enforcement.

One of the GEMs being used by local police for ordinance enforcement.  Photo:  Kendra Peek

Ordinance Enforcement:  In Lancaster, KY the local police department received a donation of two military surplus GEM vehicles from the US Defense Department. They are putting the vehicles to use to patrol for ordinance violations and for use at community events. While not appropriate for instances where they need to transport someone who has been arrested, the vehicles have so far been a good fit for their current tasks. The police chief finds the GEM vehicles make officers more approachable when interacting with the public. Other positives include less pollution and lower fuel costs. The chief estimates that fuel savings for the year will be about $3,000 when compared to a full-size patrol vehicle. The vehicle’s low traveling speed is not an issue since most of the small town’s roads have speed limits of 30 mph or less. They will assess the vehicles after a year but are already looking for a larger electric vehicle to pilot test, one that is more truck like and could haul barricades, signs and other items. Learn more:  Centralkynews.com

The recently acquired Polaris Ranger for use in off-road emergency response.

The recently acquired Polaris Ranger for use in off-road emergency response.

Off-Road Emergency  Response:   In Mokena, IL the local fire department used a grant to purchase a Polaris Ranger for emergency response in difficult to access areas. The Mokena Fire Protection District includes 2,000 acres of forest preserves as well as some trails and 15 parks. The six-wheeled Ranger will now provide them with a greater ability to respond to emergencies in these areas. Learn more:  Mokenamessenger.com

Comment:  These are great examples of how STOVs can be used in very specific applications that are more effective and cost efficient than traditional vehicles. The six-wheeled Ranger vehicles have been used by the US Forest Service for many years. The use of LSVs for specific aspects of local police enforcement represents a potentially very large market for these vehicles.


Arctic Cat Launches New SPEED SxS Accessory Line Developed with Robby Gordon and Todd Romano

Arctic Cat recently announced their new SPEED brand of accessories for side-by-sides. The accessory line is the result of an exclusive product development agreement the company has with Robby Gordon and Tony Romano, who have recently formed SPEED RMG. Under the agreement, Gordon and Romano are providing research and development consulting on new technologies, and assisting with the development of new Wildcat racing and high-performance accessories being launched under the SPEED brand. Among the full line of SPEED accessories initially launched are: high-back racing and suspension seats; multi-point harnesses designed for performance and rider comfort; stylish, lightweight aluminum racing wheels; durable radial tires; rigid, contoured steering wheels; high-strength suspension and shocks; and SPEED garments. Learn more:  Businesswire.com

Comment:  Accessories have become an important profit center for side-by-side manufacturers and dealers. The margins can be high and, especially in the high-end recreational segment, customers are willing to spend thousands of dollars on accessories when purchasing a new vehicle.

Arctic Cat Launches New 2016 Side-by-Sides

The new 2016 Wildcat Trail Special Edition model from Arctic Cat.

The new 2016 Wildcat Trail Special Edition model from Arctic Cat.

The new 2016 Wildcat X Special Edition Model from Arctic Cat.

The new 2016 Wildcat X Special Edition Model from Arctic Cat.

Arctic Cat has announced their 2016 side-by-side lineup which includes a more powerful Wildcat Sport line, special editions for the Wildcat X and Wildcat Trail, and some new tires and pricing for the Wildcat X and 4X models. They also added to their Prowler line with the Prowler HDX 700 SE Hunter Special Edition and the new Prowler HDX 500 XT model. Key features of the 2016 models include:

  • Wildcat Sport models:  5% increase in engine power from a new exhaust system; MSRPs $13,599 to $15,999;
  • Wildcat X Special Edition: aluminum bumpers, color-matched beadlock wheels and roof, and desert tan colored bodywork. MSRP $19,999
  • Wildcat Trail Special Edition: full-sized doors, color-matched aluminum wheels, and an industry-first color combination of true timber camo and orange metallic paint. MSRP $13,599
  • Wildcat X and 4X:  New Duro PowerGrip tires and new pricing; MSRPs $17,499 and $20,999 respectively.
  • Prowler HDX 700 SE Hunter Special Edition: Electric bed lift, painted aluminum wheels, a 5,000-lb. winch, gun scabbard and true timber camo paint; MSRP $15,799
  • Prowler HDX 500 XT: Tilting 2-in-1 cargo box that converts to a flatbed for 1,000 lbs. of carrying capacity, side and under hood compartments, three-person capacity, tilt steering, new body styling and an automotive-style hood; MSRP $11,999

The new models will be in dealerships starting in September.

Learn more:  Businesswire.com

Comment:  This is a fairly extensive model year introduction with some new models or changes across all the Arctic Cat side-by-side model lines. Not surprisingly, there was some increased horsepower for some models as the fight for engine power supremacy continues in the high-end recreational market segment. The introduction of the Prowler HDX 500 XT, which is priced $2,500 less than other HDX models and $2,000 less than the Prowler 700 XT, indicates Arctic Cat is trying to expand their offerings in the work utility vehicle segment. While not cheap, the new model hits more of the sweet spot in this segment in terms of pricing as a vehicle priced at $12,000 compared to $14,000 to $14,500 should appeal to a significantly broader range of customers.

E-Z-GO Introduces Next Generation RXV Golf Car

The new 2015 E-Z-GO RXV golf car.

The new 2015 E-Z-GO RXV golf car.

E-Z-GO recently announced their newest version of their RXV golf car. This next generation model includes an AC motor and their IntelliBrake technology. The IntelliBrake technology consists of a motor brake that automatically slows the vehicle when traveling up or down steep grades, a parking brake that automatically engages when the vehicle stops and full-time regenerative braking to recharge the batteries. Other features of the new RXV include:

  • 4.4 hp, 48-volt AC motor
  • 230 Amp AC controller
  • Fade-resistant automotive-quality paint
  • Integrated front bumper as well as side and rear bumpers
  • Redesigned rear body to maximize storage space and offers the industry’s largest bagwell
  • Contoured, ergonomic seating
  • Larger dash storage
  • Optional USB port to power smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices

The RXV is also available with a 13.5 hp Kawasaki gas engine. Learn more:  Textron.com

Club Car Targeting Commercial Market

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

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

With the golf car fleet market declining or stagnant the past few years, key suppliers like Club Car have had to look to other markets to find growth. A key target is the commercial UTV market. Towards that end Club Car has recently rolled out some new marketing initiatives emphasizing their Carryall utility vehicle.

One of the initiatives is Club Car’s Corporate Solution Program, which provides customers with fleet management and maintenance programs. The initiative is designed to address the problem of haphazard fleet vehicle development, where over the years an organization purchases a mixture of vehicles from a range of different manufacturers. This can lead to non-uniform vehicle standards and maintenance schedules, as well as more parts inventory, complexity and employee training. Under the Corporate Solution Program, experts from Club Car examine a customer’s vehicle needs and help them find the right mix of fleet vehicles to meet those needs. They also can establish maintenance schedules and logs and assign accountability for various aspects of fleet management. Key customer segments are universities, resorts and government agencies.

Another initiative targeting the commercial customer is Club Car’s new Bank on Carryall sales event which allows qualified commercial customers to purchase new 2015 or 2016 Carryall with no payments for six months or to lease 2015 and 2016 Carryall 500 or 700 models with special financing rates. With this initiative Club Car is hoping customers waiting for the next fiscal year’s budgets will be enticed to purchase now and pay later. One of the difficulties in selling to commercial customers is that they tend to purchase on a particular fiscal/budgetary cycle and within budgetary constraints, so there can be a limited time in which purchases or leases are made. It helps to have both purchase and leasing options available since funding can be drawn from either capital budgets or operating budgets depending on the customer, and the type of funding budget can determine whether a vehicle needs to be purchased or leased to “make the numbers work”. Learn more:  Pressreleaserocket.com

Comment:  The Corporate Solution Program is a clever way of leveraging one of the advantages that Club Car has, namely the range of vehicle types they offer. They can provide LSVs, people movers like trams as well as a range of utility vehicles. They also have extensive experience in both electric and gas powered vehicles. Target segments like universities, resorts and government agencies, or any customer that has diverse vehicle needs is well-suited for this program. Compared to say a Toro or John Deere, who only offer UTVs, this program could provide Club Car with an advantage. The one potential hurdle might be where a customer is looking for a more heavy duty UTV and may look more towards a John Deere or Polaris for that type of vehicle.

Cub Cadet Challenger Targets The UTV Value Segment

The 2015 Cub Cadet Challenger 700 utility vehicle.

The 2015 Cub Cadet Challenger utility vehicle.

SVR recently interviewed Jeff Salamon, Director of Marketing for MTD Products, the manufacturer of the Cub Cadet brand of products including the new Challenger series of UTVs, which we discussed at length. The Challenger represents a renewed commitment to the UTV market for Cub Cadet whose Volunteer line of UTVs has been on the market for a number of years. While the Volunteer is more of a heavy duty work UTV, the new Challengers, the 500 and 700, are more of a mixed use line that can be for both work and recreation. As Salamon states “Whereas we say work and off-road for the Volunteer we say task and off-road trail for the Challenger.

With MSRPs starting at $8500 and $9500 respectively, the 500 and 700 are clearly priced for the value segment of the UTV market. But that is not to be confused with being low quality or bare boned in the features department. In fact, one of the prime selling points for the Challenger is their wealth of standard features including large 26″ off-road tires, alloy wheels, windshield, roof, 3,500 lb. winch, horn, digital dash display, bumper guard, halogen lights and hand brake. They also beefed up the vehicle’s hardware with a reinforced frame, high-strength steering components and dual row wheel bearings.

At these price points Cub Cadet is competing against the value priced imports from the likes of Kymco and CFMoto as well as the lower priced UTVs of the major players in the market like Polaris and John Deere. Against the former Salamon believes Cub Cadet has an edge with their strong and established American brand combined with a well-trained and well-stocked dealer network. Against the more established brands, the wealth of standard features gives Cub Cadet the advantage.

Cub Cadet expects to launch a crew version of the Challenger in the near future and will be building out the Challenger line on an ongoing basis driven by consumer demand and dealer feedback. Learn more:  Cub Cadet Interview

Data Shows Decline In Indian Mini-Truck Market

The Tata Ace mini-truck

The Tata Ace mini-truck is the leader in the Indian mini-truck market.

Data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers shows that the mini-truck market is declining as larger pickup trucks are displacing them. Last year’s figures have pickups outselling mini-trucks 140,000 vehicles to 131,000. Estimates for this year put the pickup market at nearly 200,000. Increased urbanization and improving road conditions are driving the pickup trend according to industry executives. The pickup trucks can carry more cargo and have more horsepower than mini-trucks whose sales declined last year by 21% from nearly 167,000 units the year before.  Learn more:  Business-standard.com

Comment:  The decline in the mini-truck market would appear to be a problem for the Polaris-Eicher joint venture which just launched their Multix vehicle. However, the Multix is being positioned as a multi-purpose vehicle that users can easily transition from using for work to using for family purposes to even using for power generation, since the vehicle also has a generator that can be used for operating tools or provide electricity to the home. A primary target for the Multix is the rural and semi-urban independent business person. In contrast, urbanization is cited as one reason for the decline in the mini-truck market. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of where mini-truck sales have been declining, in terms of urban versus rural.

Polaris India Expects Strong Revenue Growth In India

Executives at Polaris’ subsidiary in India, Polaris India, expect strong revenue growth over the next three to five years. By 2020 they are targeting a 100% to 200% sales increase at the subsidiary which sells ATVs, UTVs and motorcycles. The long term strategy is to build up enough volume to justify investment in local assembly plants. This would be the plan for motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Currently Polaris India imports all the Polaris vehicles they sell including the complete line of Indian motorcycles.

The management reports good sales of the Ranger EV in certain parts of the country and is exploring adding the GEM line of vehicles to their offering. Off-road vehicle sales are helped by the 39 Polaris Experience Zones, which are off-road vehicle tracks. They have also made sales to the Indian army and police. Polaris India distributes products through 16 dealerships in India and two more in Nepal and Kazakhstan. Export sales are made to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Unrelated to Polaris Inida is the Polaris joint venture with Eicher. Learn more:  Timesofindia.com

Comment:  Of course, having sales targets and meeting them are two different things, but Polaris has consistently hit most of their long term strategic goals across many products. A lot will depend on how well the Indian economy grows but even slower growth in such a large market offers great potential.

American SportWorks Recalls 3,500 UTVs

One of the UTVs manufactured by Amercican SportWorks that is being recalled.

One of the UTVs manufactured by American SportWorks that is being recalled.

American SportWorks announced the recall of approximately 3,500 utility vehicles because the throttle can fail to return to idle and cause the rider to lose control of the vehicle, posing a risk of injury. The recall includes certain Bulldog 300, Chuckwagon 300, Landmaster 300, Landmaster 400 and Trailwagon 400 UTVs sold between September 2014 and June 2015. Owners should stop using the vehicle and contact American SportWorks at 800-293-0795 to arrange for repairs.

The following information is from Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Recall Summary

Name of product:  Off Road Utility Vehicles

Hazard:  The throttle can fail to return to idle causing the rider to lose control, posing a risk of injury.

Consumer Contact:  ASW toll free at 800-293-0795 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.amsportworks.com at the top of the page under the SAFETY tab under Recalls click on “TSB167 & TSB168” for more information.

Recall Details

Units:  About 3,500

Description:  This recall includes six models of American SportWorks Four Wheel Off-Road Utility Vehicles. The name of each model is located above each front fender and along the sides of the dump bed. Affected vehicles include:

BullDog 300, ChuckWagon 300 and LandMaster 300 all powered by Kohler 277cc engines with the last 6 Characters of the product identification number between A11746 and A13294, and LandMaster 400, TrailWagon 400 and ChuckWagon 400 all powered by Honda 390cc engines with the last 6 Characters of the product identification number between A24835 and A26806. The product identification numbers can be found on a sticker on the firewall above the accelerator and brake pedal.

Model                          Color
LandMaster 300          Red, Green, Black, White, Camo
LandMaster 400          Red, Green, Black, White, Camo
BullDog 300                Red
Trail Wagon 400         Red, Camo
Chuck Wagon 300     Red, Green, Camo
Chuck Wagon 300     Red, Green, Camo

Incidents/Injuries:  None reported

Sold at:  Atwood Distributing, Rural King, The Home Depot, Tractor Supply Company and other dealers from September 2014 through June 2015 for between $4,300 and $5,300.

Manufacturer(s):  American SportWorks, of Roseland, La.

Manufactured in:  United States

Learn more:  CPSC.com

Comment:  While the size of this recall is typical for the industry, for a smaller manufacturer of UTVs this a significant number. The cost to repair each vehicle will determine how big an impact the recall has on the company. A number of the models were manufactured by American SportWorks and sold under different product line names through retail stores rather than American SportWorks dealers; the Chuck Wagon for Rural King stores, the Trail Wagon for Tractor Supply Co. and the Bulldog for Home Depot.

LSV Road Use Laws Can Come In Bunches

A story about LSV ordinances in Southern Illinois communities reveals a common pattern of how these laws are passed. It often starts with a municipality that sets the precedent and can be the test case for other municipalities in the area. Once other communities see that the ordinance can have a positive impact for residents, it can provide a catalyst and an easier sell in other nearby cities. Initially, there was a fair amount of pushback against these ordinances because of safety concerns, particularly the mixing of higher speed traffic with low speed vehicles. In part, this stemmed from a lack of safety data related to the use of LSVs in these environments. But once the initial adopters started instituting these ordinances, other communities could make a better assessment of both the pros and cons of allowing LSVs on local streets.

This may point to how to expand the LSV market for personal transportation. If either manufacturers and/or local dealers wanted to build an LSV market, they may want to take the approach of identifying the municipality in a particular area most agreeable to passing an ordinance and use it as a test case. They could then use it as an example to lobby nearby municipalities to do the same. In many cases, the impetus also starts with local residents who want an LSV option. Bringing them into the process would help as well. While it could take some time, once momentum built in a certain area, that micro market could expand quickly.  Learn more:  Thesouthern.com