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A growing interest in ag accessories – September 25, 2006

September 25, 2006
Filed under Features

ATV attachments designed for agricultural use are certainly nothing new. “That market’s always been big,” said Glenn Hansen, communications manager for Suzuki. “The utility ATV market grew as fast as it did because of farm-specific accessories from all over the country.”
Despite the availability of such products, they’ve typically been the domain of the aftermarket. OEMs have traditionally had little involvement. “You’ve had guys making these in garages and then they’ll start a small implement business,” Hansen said. “From trailers and little plows to set-ups that dispense barbwire as you drive, everything has been made. If you can do it, it’s been done.”
Now, though, at least two OEMs are increasing their presence in the agricultural attachment business. While other manufacturers have limited products available, Polaris and particularly Arctic Cat are unveiling entire lines of implements.
At Arctic Cat, the new SPEEDPoint system was introduced in March in West Yellowstone, Mont., after almost two years in development. “We’ve always played with ideas,” Arctic Cat’s ATV Accessories Coordinator Jeff Wayne said. “We’ve tried other products – some work, some don’t – and worked very closely with a designer to come up with these.”
The SPEEDPoint items include racks, sprayers and spreaders, which are fairly standard to OEMs, as well as more unique products, like single and tandem discs, drag harrows and sizeable cultivators. Wayne said the increased emphasis evolved because of the changing needs of ATV owners and the growth of hobby farms and food plots. Used primarily by hunters, food plots, which vary from less than an acre to around 10 acres, are usually difficult for traditional farm equipment to access.
Like Arctic Cat, Polaris has a variety of attachments from which to choose from. “I think the agricultural side [of attachments] is growing because so many hunters are using them for cultivating,” said Donna Beadle, an external relations specialist for Polaris. “In fact, we’ve got a lot of hunters here and that’s what they do.”
Count Arctic Cat’s Wayne among hunters who use them. “I’m a big hunter, and sometimes in the spring it’s too wet and you can’t get tractors back to your plots,” he said. “I should know – I’ve tried it and gotten buried. You can get almost anywhere with an ATV.
“Food plots are getting huge. There’s more and more of them out there,” he said. “Most of us have ATVs anyway, and when a smaller tractor can cost $25,000, SPEEDPoint is a good option. I’ve got a lot of time in on these. I put in seven food plots this year and used these for all of them.”
Although agricultural attachments are receiving more focus from Polaris and Arctic Cat, other OEMs have been hesitant to follow suit. “We have a few available, but it’s a limited supply. We primarily leave those types of accessories to the aftermarket,” said Russ Brenan, media supervisor for Kawasaki. “They can react so quickly and do them at such a low cost. And depending on the crops, products change from region to region and can be really specialized. We’d rather focus on what dealers tell us they need and will sell a lot of.”
“At this time, we don’t have any plans to expand our products,” echoed Rod Lopusnak, ATV operations manager for Suzuki. “We constantly review that, but it’s [farming attachments niche] pretty well supplied by the aftermarket. The products are so diverse. It’s a big country and needs are so different. Our business is building and selling ATVs and we’ll concentrate on doing that. We see how people are using them and try to hit a broad target and give people what they want.”
Both Brenan and Lopusnak said their utility quad lines are increasing. “We’re selling more Mules than ever,” said Brenan. “We’re actually looking to increase production because they’re selling so well.”
Arctic Cat and Polaris hope the growing utility ATV sales translate into more demand for their attachments. Wayne believes that will happen as consumers learn their functionality and ease of use. “Seeing them in person is key,” he said. “We’ve got them in our catalog, on the Web site and in an accessories flier. They look great, but you can’t tell how robust it is until you see it and touch it.”
Wayne added he’s receiving positive responses – and reorders – from dealers. One such dealer is Jim White, owner of Snowstorm Sports in Winnemucca, Nev. Snowstorm Sports is located near the Oregon border, and White offered another use for the SPEEDPoint system.
“We’ve had extreme fire danger this year, and people are using these to build fire breaks around their property,” he said. “Actually, I figured it would sell well. I think some other dealers were waiting to see how it would go and used me as a guinea pig, and now they wish they had ordered more.”
White said OEM agricultural attachments have at least a couple of advantages over aftermarket products: “We can provide good dealer support,” he said. “That makes a difference over buying from a Web site. Plus we can offer discounts with an ATV purchase.”
Snowstorm Sports assembles one of every implement. “We hook them up to a quad and have them right there and handy,” White said. “People need to see how easy they are to use.”
Ultimately, “easy” is the idea behind any agricultural attachment.
“These accessories are designed to make your work life easier,” Wayne said. “We’re always going 100 mph, and these help make work as painless as possible.” psb

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