Forklift origins bring cab maker into UTV market
Chris Peters, Contributing Writer
May 21, 2012
Filed under Features
European-built DFK Cabs making headway with durable products
Manufacturing companies have had to find ways to adapt to the changing world economy. For DFK Cabs, oddly enough, an interesting request from a customer triggered the Czech Republic-based forklift manufacturer to enter a new market.
That one question led DFK to manufacture side-by-side cab kits on a regular basis and expand operations to a location in Downers Grove, Ill., in suburban Chicago.
“Three years ago, we got approached by the Polaris dealer in the Czech Republic, saying he was having a hard time getting a quality cab in Europe for a Ranger. He asked if we could do it,” said Mike Kelly, DFK America’s general manager.
“Our CEO put his engineers on it, and they found that there were a lot of similarities between what the UTV cab required and what our forklift cabs required. So he built one for the Ranger, and before he knew it, we were making it for five different brands.”
Realizing the buying power of the powersports market in the United States and Canada, DFK opened its Downers Grove location in October to better serve its customers. The cabs are manufactured in Europe and shipped to the company’s warehouse stateside. Kelly manages the sales and marketing staff, as well as the warehouse and distribution center.
According to Kelly, the move to manufacturing side-by-side cabs couldn’t have come at a better time. “We had the resources, and as a result, we’ve got an extremely durable product in the marketplace,” he said.
Now DFK makes custom cabs for a wide range of side-by-side brands and models, including Polaris, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Bennche. Up next is testing for the Honda Big Red, among others.
Despite its relatively short history in the cab business, Kelly believes the company is making its mark. Cab features include powder-coated steel.
“We’re putting together the most durable cabs in the marketplace today, and we’re doing it with high quality European parts,” he said. “Our front windshield is the thickest tempered safety glass that is allowed.”
According to Kelly, DFK is using the highest-quality polycarbonate in the market, purchased from a supplier in Finland. “It’s scratch resistant and virtually unbreakable,” he said.
Visibility is another high point of DFK’s products. “If you look at our front windshield, it is attaching to the rollover protection,” Kelly said. “From pipe-to-pipe, you’ve got all glass. Our framework is on the bottom and on the top. Our doors are totally clear, except for the three-quarter inch pipe. Our back panel is from pipe-to-pipe clear. From a usability standard, we have the best visibility in the industry, and I can say that without any reservation.”
DFK also had safety and convenience in mind with its door design. Resting on pin-style hinges, the doors can be removed in about two minutes for those riders who want them off in certain conditions. “Our doors are probably the signature of the whole product,” Kelly said. “We’re using a heavy-duty, double-click locking system latch. When you go to that second click, you’re pressing all of the seal tightly in against the rollover protection. You’re getting a complete seal on the doors.”
In addition to selling the full cabs, DFK recently started a build-a-cab system. The front windshield and back panel are entry points into the system.
“If they want to add doors or a heater or a washer-wiper at a later date, all of these things are modular and can be added real easily,” he said.
Kelly believes DFK’s European ties are particularly beneficial to dealers and the end user.
“One of the things about European design is the attention to detail,” he said. “There is no cutting corners on any of the parts, all the way down to the hinges. We have looked at all the details and addressed every point of it.”
Side-by-side dealers will likely be hearing from Kelly soon.
“I’m pretty passionate about what we do here,” he said. “We really are trying to build some strong dealer connections to get the product out.”