Joined: 05 Dec 2007
|Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 8:45 pm Post subject: Sales of UTVs up 12% among outdoor enthusiasts
Sales of light-utility vehicles up 12% among outdoor enthusiasts
By RICK BARRETT
Posted: Oct. 17, 2008
Sales of all-terrain vehicles have lost traction in the shaky economy, but similar vehicles that can carry more passengers and cargo continue to gain ground with outdoor enthusiasts.
Also known as light-utility vehicles, they're wider than ATVs and look something like dune buggies. Sales of light-utility vehicles were up 12% in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to a recent survey of power-sports dealerships by Robert W. Baird & Co.
By comparison, sales of traditional ATVs fell 20% among the surveyed dealers, according to Baird.
"Most dealers are bracing for a recession and plan to keep inventory lean," Baird analyst Craig Kennison said in a report about the survey results.
Wisconsin has hundreds of ATV dealerships and trails where off-road vehicles are used.
Also, John Deere Co. recently said it was increasing production of its light-utility vehicle, called the Gator, at the company's plant in Horicon.
Deere said it was closing a plant in Canada and moving the Gator production to Wisconsin and Mexico.
In the Baird survey, 70% of the power-sports dealers said they considered inventories of traditional ATVs to be too high, compared with 34% who said inventories of light-utility vehicles were too high.
Dealers said they planned to order 43% fewer ATVs for the next six months, choosing to put more light-utility vehicles in their showrooms.
'New products matter'
Orders for Polaris brand models were especially strong, driven by new-product offerings.
"New products matter," Kennison said. "We remain bearish on discretionary consumer spending as the credit environment deteriorates. (But) incrementally, Polaris continues to win with new products, helping it buck the broader trend.
Sales of light-utility vehicles have jumped a lot this year, with all of the major ATV manufacturers including utility models in their lineup, said Eddie Werner, sales manager at Cedar Creek Motorsports in Cedarburg.
They were originally used for farm work, but outdoor enthusiasts have embraced the bigger, more stable machines for hunting and general recreation.
With two rows of bench seats, some of the light-utility machines can carry six passengers.
They also can be decked out with windshields, fully enclosed cabs, heaters, radios and work equipment such as snowplows.
"There's a ton of accessories for them," Werner said.
On the trail
But there aren't as many places to use light-utility vehicles in Wisconsin because most ATV trails are closed to the bigger machines.
"They're another foot wider than an ATV. And considering that there's two-way traffic on most trails in Wisconsin, it can certainly create some issues if a trail isn't wide enough," said Larry Wagner, president of Marshview Riders ATV Club in Horicon.
Five Wisconsin counties - Florence, Lincoln, Marinette, Sawyer, and Washburn - are participating in a Department of Natural Resources experiment that allows light-utility vehicles on ATV trails.
The experiment, which runs through Sept. 30, is designed to learn whether the vehicles are compatible with other trail users.
There are restrictions, and a special trail decal is required from the DNR.
Besides the economy, high gasoline prices have hurt ATV sales.
Most of Wisconsin's ATV trails are in the central and northern parts of the state, requiring users to trailer their vehicles sometimes hundreds of miles.