Posts Tagged ‘UTV’

Surging Mower Sales: Good News for Powersports?

June 14, 2010

Joe Delmont

Now, that’s a good question.

If a homeowner is willing to pop for a $10,000 deluxe lawn mower, does that mean he’s likely to spend a similar amount for a motorcycle or a SxS vehicle this year? Or does it mean that the purchase of one fancy motor machine is enough for now? I don’t have the answer, but I just the fact that consumers are spending 10,000 bucks for a machine with more power and features than they need— really an unnecessary purchase— seems to bode well for our industry. It could be another positive sign of sales improvement over the next few months.

The Wall Street Journal today reports that after double digit decreases for the past two years, U.S. shipments of riding mowers are expected to climb more than six percent over the next two years. At John Deere, for example, sales are “far exceeding” forecasts, according to the story.

We’re not talking basic grass cutters here; the machines that sell have iPod compartments, chrome hub caps, comfortable seats, plenty of power and agility and sell for more than $10,000. “It goes well beyond cupholders,” notes a representative of the popular Cub Cadet brand.

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BRP’s New SxS Aims at Polaris’ RZR

June 7, 2010

Can-Am Commanders Feature Power, Performance, Utility

The Can-Am Commander 1000 X tops 72 mph with its 85 hp Rotax EFI V-twin.

BRP’s Can-Am Commander, the high powered 1000cc side-by-side vehicle that has had the market buzzing for weeks, finally was rolled out at the BRP dealer meeting in Reno last night.

There will be five models: the Commander 800R and 800XT and the Commander 1000, 100XT and 1000X. The X model gets the high performance package and special graphics.

So, what’s to add after all the Internet talk and spy photos? Some facts, a bit of perspective and a forecast, perhaps. I recently spoke at length with Yves Leduc, vice president and general manager for BRP’s North America Division, and others at the company and throughout the industry about the machine and its impact on this very important industry segment. Here’s what I found out and what I think the impact of this machine will have on the segment.

Yves Leduc

First of all, the folks in Valcourt are taking dead aim at their neighbors in Minnesota, and it sounds like they have the ammunition to make life difficult for Polaris, the makers of this year’s oh, so hot RZR.

Make no mistake, when BRP executives use the term, “no compromise” in describing the new Commander SxS family, they mean it’s going to outperform Polaris in every way possible. And from what I can gather—without having ridden or even seen the Commander first hand— they may have done just that.

Yamaha’s Rhino, the machine that launched the Rec-UT category, isn’t much of a player at this time, given consumer reluctance to get too close to the lawsuit-prone vehicle. And Yamaha hasn’t made any significant changes since the 2009 model year. So, it really comes down to BRP’s Commander against the Polaris RZR lineup.

One experienced off-road rider, who is very close to Polaris, says the Commander is a better performer, is better engineered and has better fit and finish. At about the same MSRP, that’s going to make a show floor buying decision pretty easy, even for die-hard Polaris fans.

Here’s just one pre-launch quote I pulled from a Polaris forum: “If they put a 900 Rotax in (the Commander), I would be tempted (to buy it).” Well, hello. The Commander 1000 comes with a 1000cc, EFI V-Twin Rotax. There you go.

And the Commander 1000X performance package carries an MSRP of $14,699 vs Ranger RZR S at $13,999 with only a 760cc EFI V-twin, generating 55 hp and a top speed of 63 mph. It has a carrying capacity of 300 lbs. The Commander generates 83 hp, has 600 lbs carrying capacity, 1,500 towing capacity, and a top speed of 72-mph to 75 mph, a BRP official told me. The RZR does have better ground clearance at 12.5 inches vs. 11 inches for the Commander, and the Commander is heavier at 1,200 lbs vs. 1,100 pounds for the RZR.

One interesting feature is the Commander’s two level cargo bed with a 600 lb carrying capacity, 400 lbs up, and another 200 lbs below in a lockable storage bin with a removable divider.

Here’s another unique engineering twist: Both passenger and driver seats can be easily removed for free-standing use in the field. Why sit on the ground, when you can pull the padded seats from your SxS and relax in them? It’s one of those ideas, like, why didn’t I think of that?

BRP Rollout Plans

“We said at the end of 2007 that we would have a side-by-side in 2010, and here we are,” Yves Leduc, BRP’s Can-Am chief, told me last week. “Despite the worst recession in history, we stayed the course. We could have postponed this project, but, instead, we made it a priority.”

Leduc likes the way the timing worked out. “If you compare our entry here with our ATV entry in 1999, it’s two different worlds. With ATVs, we entered a mature market with six very strong competitors.”

Now, BRP has several things going for it, says Leduc:

  • Very strong recognition for the Can-Am brand.
  • A dynamic and changing market segment for performance machines.
  • Limited competition, essentially only Polaris.
  • A unique segment that provides the best features of performance and utility machines.

“Clearly, we saw an opportunity to define the segment, a no compromise segment, when we started looking at this three years ago,” says Leduc. And it appears they did just that.

The Commander lineup, says BRP, feaures “the best handling in the industry” with power and work capacity. “It’s not an extreme sport vehicle,” says Leduc, “it’s a comfortable sport package, one that allows you to get the maximum out of the vehicle.”

BRP’s target buyer? “It’s the enthusiast; that’s clearly the buyer for the Can-Am, they tend to make it part of their lifestyle. That’s the emerging buyer for the SxS, many of whom never owned an ATV. We’re also targeting hunters and fishermen and large estate owners, who want the best.”

The Can-Am lineup will be rolled out to about two-thirds of the company’s dealer network in all states right away. He wouldn’t tell me how many dealers will receive machines or how many will be available this summer.

Limited distribution will begin in July, mostly to Quebec dealers, and demo rides are planned across the U.S. this summer. Full production will begin this fall in Mexico, accompanied by a major advertising blitz.

“The idea,” says Leduc, “is for us to get feedback from this first generation of users as we start shipping and adjust as we go along.”

At the same time that North American dealers get the machine, it will be launched internationally in all countries in which BRP has direct distribution, including Germany, Austria, the UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New-Zealand, and Japan. Then it will be sent to BRP’s authorized distributors, reaching a total of more than 50 countries.

The Can-Am Commander 1000 XT will be homologated for use on European roads.

BRP doesn’t have an electric model, nor a four-seater to match Polaris, and there aren’t any coming as part of this launch. “But,” says Leduc, “you can count on BRP continuing to improve the lineup.”

So, the battle is joined. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at jdelmont@dealernews.com or 952/893-6876.

BRP Readies Launch of Hot SxS Lineup

May 31, 2010

New Models Could Be Released Within Two Weeks

You can spell the DNA of Canada’s BRP powersports manufacturer as EXCITEMENT. No conservative, working machines for this global OEM based in Valcourt, Quebec. It builds and sells the high performance Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, and Can-Am ATVs, and the category building, on-road three-wheel Spyder.

So, when we start talking about BRP launching a line-up of side-by-side machines, we’re not talking about another lawn tractor. We’re talking about something like Polaris‘s very hot RZR UTV. Expect to see the new models from BRP before mid-June.

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Polaris Gears Up Off-road Production

May 24, 2010

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal (5/24/2010) outlines the moves that Polaris Industries is making to adjust its short ORV (off-road vehicle) production capabilities to meet the growing demand for off-road vehicles, especially its hot RZR four-passenger model UTV machines. Read WSJ story here.

Bennett Morgan

The story describes Polaris efforts to hike production as dealers moan about lost sales because of inventory shortages. One group of Polaris dealers I contacted reported selling 53 more RZRs through April this year than it did in 2009, 25 of which were four-seaters. “Supply is definitely a problem,” one dealer told me.  “If we’d had another 25 of them to sell, they would have gone too.”

The shortages are a major change for Polaris, which used to be accused of overloading its dealers with inventory. This year, Polaris expects its North American inventories to be the lowest that they’ve been since 1997, reports the Journal, although it doesn’t break out those inventory levels by product line.

Even though low inventories could hurt 2010 wholesale sales, it’s the right strategy, long-term, Scott Wine, Polaris CEO, told the Journal. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.

After reading the Journal report, I checked with Bennett Morgan, Polaris president and COO, about the Polaris inventory situation and its moves to gear up production.

“We are pleased to have had success in working with our dealers over the past few years to bring dealer inventory down to lower, more effective levels,” says Morgan, “and feel pretty good where we are today.” Morgan said the company is “tight” on a few key models, but he said Polaris is “working hard to increase our supply to meet growing demand.” He noted that the sales forecast that Polaris gave to its shareholders for the second  quarter was increased to 14 percent to 17 percent, compared to Q2 2009.

Regarding adjusting its production to meet the increased demand, Morgan said the company “significantly” increased production in the second quarter by adding staff and boosting line rates.

He said production this quarter has been increased by adding back additional second shifts at the plants in Spirit Lake, Iowa,  and Roseau, Minnesota, for off-road products.  “We have added over 200 hourly production line positions in the second quarter already,” Morgan told me today, “and (we) expect to add that many or more in the next 60 days.  We are also working overtime and some Saturdays.”

During the last couple of years, the suburban Minneapolis OEM has made aggressive strides to dump its reputation as a channel stuffer that pushed excess inventory on its overloaded dealers. The company’s innovative ordering system— Maximum Velocity Program— that it launched a couple of years ago, allows dealers to purchase machines every two weeks rather than twice a year.

Something like 70 percent of Polaris dealers are expected to be on the new system this year. That’s close to all of the eligible dealers, because many of Polaris dealers are too small to participate in the program. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
jdelmont@dealernews.com or 952/893-6876.

Proposed Rules Could Severely Restrict UTV Use

March 4, 2010

We have until March 15 to comment on these
CPSC rules that could virtually ban UTVs.

Have you commented yet? If not, you should.

Here are the details.

The CPSC’s proposed mandatory standards spell out how off-road vehicles must be designed, manufactured and used by riders. Meanwhile, at the same time that the CPSC is pushing its rules, the industry has been developing its own voluntary standards.

Paul Vitrano

If you think government mandated standards will benefit our industry, then you don’t have to do anything. If, however, you think perhaps the industry can produce more effective standards, now is the time to step up and make your thoughts known.

A unit of the MIC, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA), has created new tools for riders and dealers to easily submit comments. You can do it at http://www.rohva.org/anpr.

The sample letters urge CPSC to work with ROHVA to implement voluntary standards and to promote the safety rules for ROVs, also called SXS or UTV units. The page also contains explanations of ROHVA’s position on ROV standards and links to important documents.

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SOKON USA Offers UTV Alternative

February 13, 2010

News From 2010 International Dealer Expo

Mini Truck To Sell for Less Than $15,000

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Feb. 13, 2010)—Mike Lewis and Hal Ferrell are a couple of good ol’ boys from Mississippi, who noticed that hunters wanted a 4×4 that no manufacturer was willing to build for them. They saw hunters customizing used mini trucks imported from Japan and China for backwoods transportation. The trucks had plenty of warts and problems, but they had cabs and heat and doors and roll-up windows.

Hal Ferrell, left, and Michael Lewis of Sokon USA, pose in their Sarge truck at the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, In. Photo by Branimir Kvartuc

“They had right hand steering, no warranty, no parts, no service, no single sourcing, no dealers, the clearance was too low, and the cockpit was too small for Americans,” says Ferrell, president and CEO.

“But Bubba wanted it,” said CFO Lewis, jumping into our conversation Saturday, “and Bubba bought it and fixed it up to suit his needs because that’s all that was available. But we knew that source would be gone as soon as the EPA tightened its regs. The consumer was speaking very loudly to the industry, but no one was listening. We thought we saw a niche there.”

Numbers were difficult to come by, but the pair knew that container loads of the small trucks (sometimes called keis) were being shipped in and sold by Mom and Pop operations across the country. That was about three years ago.

The pair jumped in, sourced a truck in China and launched a company called Mattrucks. They offered a prototype at the 2007 Dealer Expo and took deposits from about 50 dealers. Unfortunately, the first container load of eight prototypes was a disaster when tested; the drive train was a mess and the Ferrell-Lewis team finally dropped the Chinese factory, refunded dealer deposits and rolled up the company.

Now they’re sourcing from DFM, a subsidiary of Chongqing Yuan Group, an established auto, truck and engine manufacturer. It produces more than 100,000 engines each year, and has an annual production capacity of 300,000 motorcycles and 100,000 minivans, according to its website. You can check it out here. The 4WD truck being shown under the SARGE brand in Booth #5715 sports an 1100cc engine, has 45 hp, and a top speed of 25 mph, which classifies it as a low speed vehicle (LSV). It’s an off-road vehicle but it’s street legal, depending upon state and local regulations.

It weighs just over one ton and carries five passengers. It comes with a short bed (55 inches) or a long one (65 inches).

The SARGE will MSRP for about $14,500 and will be available this summer to take advantage of the fall hunting market. That makes it price competitive with comparably equipped UTVs, Ferrell and Lewis believe. With its safety cab, heater, doors, windows, security and on-road capability, Ferrell and Lewis think the SARGE will appeal to older hunters as well as customers in construction, golf course management, ranching, farming and government. “We see this as head-to-head competition with UTVs, depending upon use,” says Lewis. UTV sales were about 200,000 units last year.

Ferrell plans to add 50 dealers by this summer, and ultimately have an operating network of 500 U.S. dealers. It’s not a business opportunity for everyone, though. Floor planning won’t be available, so dealers will have to be well capitalized to fund the operation themselves.

For more information, visit Sokon’s website, www.sokonusa.com. JD

Contact me with news and story tips at 952/893-6876
or joe@powersportsupdate.com.

CFMOTO Offers New Z6 600cc EFI Rec UTV

February 13, 2010

News From 2010 International Dealer Expo

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Feb. 13, 2010)—CFMOTO reduced its Dealer Expo commitment this year but that doesn’t mean it’s backing off its marketing efforts. The Minneapolis company is introducing two EFI products at the Expo— a hot 600cc recreational UTV and a 250cc scooter—, it’s offering 30% show special discounts on 2009 scooters and motorcycles, and it’s planning to increase its dealer network by 75 dealers, a jump of nearly 40% this year.

The company ran a large 60 x 70 foot booth in a premium spot in Lucas Oil Stadium and augmented it with advertising and promotion efforts throughout last year’s show. It was a huge—and very successful— push by a small, relatively unknown company. But this year is different: a 30 x 40 foot booth (#2201) and limited promotions.

CFMOTO sports its UTV lineup, led by its new 600cc EFI Z6. It also shows off its new JetMax 250cc EFI scooter.

“Last year was definitely worth the expense,” says Lev Mirman, president of CFMOTO Powersports, Inc. “The show was absolutely great for us. If it weren’t for the economy… We’re just basically saving money and downsizing because this recession isn’t over.”

CFMOTO has a lower profile at Dealer Expo this year, but it new Z6 sport UTV and its Jetmax scooter are worth a look.

The Z6 bears a striking resemblance to the very hot Polaris RZR, but it sells for a lot less— MSRP is $7,999. “However, dealers will be able to give discounts off MSRP,” says Mirman. “Pricing includes significant margin so they can entice customers with a lower price or accessories. That’s up to the dealer.”

Mirman said units will be available in dealerships May 1. The initial shipment will be 200 units. “We’ll check response; the factory is ready to ship a lot of units, but they’re being very careful.” The Z6 power plant has been in development for more than three years, so the bugs have been worked out, he says.

The JetMax was showed here last year as a carbureted version but that model wasn’t brought to market. The EFI version has an MSRP of $3,999 and will be available in April.

CFMOTO has about 200 dealers, some 140 of whom are active. Mirman plans to add 75 dealers this year, mostly in areas west of Colorado, including Hawaii and Alaska. Ivan Escalante (ivan@cfmoto-us.com) is responsible for signing up western dealers.  JD

Contact me with news and story tips at 952/893-6876
or joe@powersportsupdate.com.

Rhino Suits Beg the Question: Is Product or Driver to Blame?

February 4, 2009

The father of Michael Lane McCloud, passenger on a Yamaha Rhino that flipped over, landed on top of and killed the young man in August of 2008, filed suit in Dallas County on Monday.

Michael McCloud alleges that Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.,yamaharhino Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., are negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care for the safety of plaintiffs by negligently designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the vehicle without the necessary safety features.

The lawsuit further alleges Yamaha is negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care for the safety of plaintiffs by negligently designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the vehicle without the necessary safety features.

What McCloud’s attorney, Rob Ammons of Houston-based Ammons Law Firm, failed to disclose in his Internet-posted press release was 1) how old the driver was, 2) in what manner the Rhino was being operated, and 3) whether the existing passenger restraints were being used.

One thing is for certain: Lawsuits pertaining to the Rhino side-by-side are mounting against Yamaha, and the OEM’s legal department is going to have to conduct a massive effort to defend the company from fault in a society where the call for litigation evidently trumps personal responsibility.

Kawasaki – Made in the USA

January 6, 2009

Kawasaki operates six businesses in the United States, two of which pertain to consumer products:kmm1 Kawasaki Motor Corp USA (KMC), the sales unit, and Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. USA (KMM), the production unit.

KMM, a sister company and supplier to Irvine, Calif.-based KMC, has operations in Lincoln, Neb., and Maryville, Mo. KMM builds all of Kawasaki’s ATVs, Jet Ski personal watercraft and Mule utility vehicles.

Here’s what I learned during a visit to the Lincoln site.

Kawasaki became the first foreign vehicle manufacturer to enter the U.S. The consumer products manufacturing facility in Lincoln, located on 335 acres, opened in 1974 as a 286,000 sq. ft. plant.
At the time, the company was producing motorcycle and personal watercraft stateside, cranking out about 50,000 units annually during those first few years.

pwctops21 pwchullprep3 pwcengineplacement

Today, an estimated 1,000 workers produce about 120,000 vehicles each year at the nearly 1.3 million sq. ft. facility. Production operations include fiberglass molding, fabrication, welding, rim forming, painting and assembly. The site also produces wheels sold to BRP, Honda, Polaris and Suzuki.

welding atv_engines atvframe

Bruce Spilker, a KMM production supervisor, says the three ATV assembly lines in Lincoln produce about 100 units daily while the personal watercraft assembly line kicks out about 120 boats per day. Each production line is capable of mixed model production. Production schedules come monthly from KMC. A recently completed fourth assembly line, formerly dedicated to motorcycle assembly, produces Mule utility vehicles.

atvchassis bodyplacement wheelattachment

KMM’s Maryville plant opened in 1989 for production of general-purpose engines. Employing more than 600 workers, the facility has grown to more than 700,000 sq. ft. on 113.7 acres and produces about 500,000 units annually. Workers complete die-casting, injection molding, machining, painting and assembly.

atvfinished testing2 finishedproduct1

Both the Lincoln and Maryville plants operate on a “just in time” supply method, which eliminates massive amounts of warehousing and over-ordering of parts.

Click here to learn more about powersports manufacturers’ operations in the U.S.

Motion Filed to Consolidate Yamaha Rhino Suits

January 2, 2009

A motion has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate and centralize product liability lawsuits related to the Yamaha Rhino. Although Yamaha has not confirmed how many cases have been filed by injured riders, estimates suggest that more than 200 lawsuits against the Rhino are currently pending in various state courts and federal courts throughout the country.

Several plaintiffs who have pending cases are requesting that 57 Rhino ATV lawsuits be transferred from

Yamaha markets five Rhino models for 2009. The units sell for a suggested retail price of between $8,499 and $12,399.

Yamaha markets five Rhino models for 2009. The units sell for a suggested retail price of between $8,499 and $12,399.

33 different U.S. District Courts to one court where they will be coordinated as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation. An MDL is a federal procedure that allows multiple cases with common underlying facts to be consolidated for pretrial litigation. An MDL is often granted in cases where it will help avoid duplicative discovery, eliminate inconsistent rulings, conserve the resources of the parties and the court, and serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses.

The Yamaha Rhino was first introduced in 2003. The product liability lawsuits all allege that design defects in the side-by-side ATV caused the vehicle to rollover, resulting in serious and debilitating injuries for riders. The lawsuits allege that the Rhino was negligently designed with a narrow wheelbase, high center of gravity, small turning radius and powerful engine, which combine to make the vehicle inherently unstable.

In September 2006, Yamaha sent a letter to owners acknowledging the risk of rollovers. In the letter, they outlined that riders should be careful to keep their arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover. The OEM began offering doors and additional passenger handlebars in 2007.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will consider the Motion filed by some of the plaintiffs to form a Yamaha Rhino ATV Products Liability MDL at a hearing scheduled for January 29 at the U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Fort Myers, Fla.

Baltimore-based Saiontz, Kirk & Miles, P.A.
 is among the many law firms pursuing litigation. Saiontz, Kirk & Miles, P.A has more information pertaining to the Yamaha Rhino suits at its website, AboutLawsuits.com.