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Selling UTVs to commercial clients

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Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor
February 26, 2014
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Court institutional buyers to grow your UTV sales

As the capability and popularity of mainstream side-by-sides continue to expand, sellers of Rangers, Vikings, Teryxes, Commanders, Prowlers and Pioneers in some parts of the country are discovering that these vehicles attract a wider audience than expected. With higher hauling capacities, creature comforts, available accessories — as well as a swelling cool factor that appeals to gearheads of all kinds — some dealerships are doing a good business selling utility and crossover UTVs to institutional users.

The percentage of sales to institutional users versus traditional private parties is hard to estimate, but the numbers are real and largely dependent on your dealership’s location and nearby prospects.

North Dakota oil boom

Few areas demonstrate the potential better than far western North Dakota, often considered a painfully desolate area by kids in backseats and truckers crossing the Great Plains. These days, everybody knows western North Dakota is capitalizing on the booming homegrown oil boom.

As the oil business continues to grow, the area’s population has surged wildly as workers — many single young men — have flooded to town looking for a piece of the action.

For Mondak Motorsports, a Can-Am, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha dealer located in Williston, its piece of the action has been incredible with UTV and ATV sales that are going to both “bored” workers and oil companies that need them, and everybody in between.

“This past year has been pretty huge for ATVs and UTVs up in this area with everybody coming from around the country,” salesman Kyle Funge said.

The Yamaha Viking has been an excellent machine for his clientele based on its ability to work or play. The Honda Pioneer has been so successful, and so hard to get from the company, that it has been sold out for months. On the Can-Am side, the Commander has been successful with work users and private parties alike, while the Maverick has also selling very well to individuals looking to have fun after work hours.

The Kawasaki Mule remains a top performer for utility side-by-side buyers.

The Kawasaki Mule remains a top performer for utility side-by-side buyers.

Funge estimates that 25 percent of Mondak’s UTV business is to institutional users putting the vehicles to use strictly on the job site. The ability to plow, as well as the availability of cabs and heaters, has been particularly important for his customer base.

He added that reaching work-based customers with mainstream vehicles is easier, as Kubota and John Deere have minimal footprints in the rural area that’s now Boomtown, USA.

“They’re pretty incredible. You can put accessories on them and they look like trophy trucks,” he said of the latest generation of side-by-sides. “Up here is a little different than anywhere in the world in that they’re here, they’re away from their families and they’re looking to buy something that will work on work and for play.”

The harsh demands of work environments has brought more service business to the dealership, and the staff has focused on encouraging word of mouth, maintaining approximately 60 off-road vehicles on its showroom floor and educating customers on the riding areas in the region, including the Black Hills.

East Texas agriculture

In far eastern Texas, Spruill Honda-Kawasaki in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, has done significant institutional business selling UTVs to entities and projects as diverse as water treatment plants, utility companies, pipeline companies, poultry plants, cattle farms and dairy operations.

The dealership has capitalized on commercial business by focusing strongly on the service side of the business — hiring an expert mechanic, increasing the speed of repairs and maintaining a significant parts inventory frequently required by high-hour users.

The Yamaha Viking’s versatility is an asset for commercial buyers.

The Yamaha Viking’s versatility is an asset for commercial buyers.

“We have one guy here we call him the veterinarian because he works on these Mules, and we call him Dr. D because he can fix them,” said manager Tim Spruill. “He is amazing. Not everybody is going to have that available to them, but I honestly am blessed.”

Spruill has even maintained business with customers who were previously working in the area, but have since moved on to projects in other areas. He allows technicians to provide over-the-phone advice to work customers experiencing trouble in the field.

Through experience, he also decided to purchase a pair of Kawasaki Mules that can be loaned out to customers with vehicles undergoing service.

“Sometimes they didn’t even unload my machine that day, but I would make it available to them,” he said. “When these people are using these things in a daily business, they become very dependent upon it just like me and you with our truck or car to get to work.”

While Spruill said all of his UTV models have been selling well, the Mule is his top seller, followed by the Pioneer, which he said has had significant availability issues.

“In our market the Mule is my No. 1 selling UTV, and the Pioneer,” he said. “If I could get enough of them I think the numbers could compete with the [Mule].”

Due to the quicker service intervals and higher parts sales — selling a case of oil and air filters to work customers, as opposed to a few quarts for typical private parties — institutional UTV customers have proven to be even more lucrative for the business.

“It generates parts sales and it generates revenue in your service department as well,” Spruill said.

West Virginia natural resources

Southwest of Charleston, W. Va., Logan Motorcycle Sales is located in a particularly mountainous, resource-rich slice of the Appalachian Mountains that is also home to one of the country’s largest off-road riding areas, the Hatfield-McCoy trail system.

While coal mining isn’t as big here as it was decades ago, the area is still a mecca for various natural resource businesses, including gas companies that have become consistent UTV customers at the dealership.

The retailer of Honda, Yamaha and CFMOTO off-road machines estimates approximately 5 percent of its sales go to institutional users such as resource companies, local city and county governments, as well as police and rescue personnel.

Sales manager Shawnda Mercer said such customers come into the store with questions about how much utility vehicles will tow, how much they can hold in the bed, the number of people they can carry and the availability of accessories such as doors and heaters.

The Can-Am Commander has been successful with work users and private parties alike.

The Can-Am Commander has been successful with work users and private parties alike.

All customers at Logan Motorcycle Sales, a 2013 Powersports Business Power 50 dealership, are given full tours of the facility with a focus on the service business.

“When someone buys a unit from here we always give them the information they need to know when they buy as to when they have to have their service done,” Mercer said. “Most of the people who buy here fully understand that before they leave. It’s never a question because we address it before they ask it.”

With its product lineup, most utility-oriented customers are interested in the Yamaha Viking or Honda Pioneer, which both have features that appeal to unique customers. The Viking’s three front-row seats are an asset, while the Pioneer’s reputation for quality and smaller dimensions and expandable seating have been significant draws for the vehicle.

Mercer estimates that, over the lifecycle of the vehicles, institutional customers end up spending an equal amount of money as private parties, as both types of customers add a typical amount of accessories typically including tops, windshields and winches due to the mountainous terrain.

And, like other dealers who are relishing the opportunity to draw in commercial-based customers, UTV business has been strong.

 

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