Defining the UTV marketplace
Power Products Marketing data shows 10 percent UTV growth in 2013
While rip-roaring vehicles like the Polaris RZR, Arctic Cat Wildcat and Can-Am Maverick in recent years have amassed the lion’s share of headlines about the utility vehicle (UTV) market, these popular fun machines actually represent a smaller percentage of the total UTV landscape than more work-oriented models.
Lets investigate the makeup of the market and discover which vehicle types actually are responsible for the majority of sales.
UTVs often are also broadly referred to as side-by-side vehicles (SxSs or SSVs) or Recreational Utility Vehicles (RUVs). Further, OEMs use a bevy of unique terms that define these vehicles in various segments and niches. All of these encompass a very broad number of off-road vehicle types and, because the market has changed so much in recent years, there is much ambiguity about what each term specifically represents.
In its latest annual report on the landscape of the UTV industry, market research firm Power Products Marketing (PPM) attempts to stem further confusion by offering new, expanded and more definitive classifications.
PPM’s general classification acknowledges that UTVs have bench or bucket seats for one or more passengers as opposed to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) where passengers sit astride the machine like a motorcycle. They can be driven either by internal combustion (IC) engine or electric-power and can differ significantly in body style from the typical injection plastic molding bodies to heavy-plated steel bodies commonly found on vehicles in industrial plants and warehouses. They have 2-wheel-drive (4x2), 4-wheel-drive (4x4) or 6-wheel-drive (6x4) options; typically have rear dump beds, cargo beds or additional seating; and can be classified as light-duty (1,200 lbs. and under capacity), medium-duty (1,201-1,800 lbs. capacity) or heavy-duty (over 1,800 lbs. capacity).
From there, the classification of these vehicles becomes more demarcated.
Pure Utility Vehicles
Speed-governed at under 35 mph, and mostly without independent rear suspension, these models offer a large cargo area or built-in component attachments, 2WD or 4WD, 2- and 4-passenger seating with bench or bucket seats, and a variety of IC engines. Includes all diesel models. Examples include the Bobcat Toolcat, Deere TX, Kawasaki Mule 4010 and Kubota RTV series.
Utility Crossover Vehicles
Achieving speeds of 44-53 mph, these models feature a large cargo area, utility styling, independent rear suspension, 2- and 4-passenger seating, 4WD and a variety of IC engines. Examples include the Deere XUV series, Honda Pioneer, Polaris Ranger and Yamaha Viking.
Recreational Utility Vehicles
With speeds of 42-55 mph, these models offer sport styling with a smaller cargo area, independent rear suspension, fuel-injected engines, 2- and 4-passenger seating with bucket seats only, and 4WD. Examples include the Arctic Cat Prowler, CF Moto ZForce 600 and Kawasaki Teryx. The single-seat Polaris Sportsman ACE also will fall in this category.
Sport Recreational Vehicles
Offering fuel-injected engines 700cc and larger, and capable of speeds between 52-70 mph, these models offer sport styling with a smaller cargo area, independent rear suspension, 2- and 4-passenger seating with bucket seats only, and 4WD. Examples include the Can-Am Commander, Polaris RZR 800 and Hisun 800.
Super Sport Vehicles
Powered by fuel-injected engines 800cc and larger and capable of speeds exceeding 70 mph, these models feature sport styling with a limited cargo area, independent rear suspension, 2- and 4-passenger seating with bucket seats, superior handling and suspension and 4WD. Examples include the Arctic Cat Wildcat X, Can-Am Maverick X 1000R and Polaris RZR XP 1000.
Not LSV/NEV certified, these units are speed-governed at 25 mph and under and offer a large cargo area, 2- and 4-passenger seating, and can be either 2WD or 4WD. They are popular at golf courses, in industrial plants and warehouses, and with hunters. Examples include Bad Boy Buggies’ Recoil iS, the Club Car Carryall, E-Z-Go ST and Toro MDE.
Consumer applications include sales mostly to recreational riders, farmers, ranchers, hunters and large-acre estates/hobby farms, etc. Commercial applications include sales mostly to municipalities, golf courses and resorts, government agencies, contractors, warehouse use, colleges and universities, sports fields, parks and rec, nurseries, cemeteries, campgrounds, etc.
So how do those classifications combine in the market? According to PPM analysis, of the roughly 320,000 UTVs retailed in North America in 2012, models that went toward consumer use accounted for around 85 percent of sales, and models for commercial applications were responsible for roughly 15 percent of the total.
However, of the consumer uses tallied in PPM’s research, Sport Recreational Vehicles and Super Sport Vehicles accounted for only 38 percent of vehicles, with the remainder of the sub-set made up mostly of the Utility Crossover Vehicles and Recreational Utility Vehicles.
But the UTV market hasn’t always looked this way. Going back a decade, the scene appeared much different.
Between 2000 and 2002, as the North American UTV market struggled to maintain itself over 100,000 units in the aftermath of the 2000 recession, the market was split 60 percent commercial vs. 40 percent consumer — of course, that was before the introduction in 2003 of the game-changing Yamaha Rhino, a vehicle that offered recreational fun in a utility-capable package.
PPM says its preliminary estimates suggest UTV sales in North America grew approximately 10 percent during 2013.