HIGH RANGE: Side By Side Reality

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The ATV business always seems to land on its feet. Despite the deepest economic recession in 30 years, the ATV segment has an ace card in the recreational powersports industry.

Among all other powersport vehicles including motorcycles, snowmobiles, watercraft, boats and RV’s, the UTV segment of the ATV industry has come through the recession with sales momentum intact.

We, along with a ton of industry insiders are looking closely at what’s behind the SxS success story. There are some contradictions at play here – not the least of which is this reality: UTVs, without exception, carry the highest suggested list prices in the ATV industry. Simply put, they aren’t cheap.

In fact, the higher prices of these vehicles may be a big reason they continue to sell strong in a bad economy. Obviously, the demographic group still buying new side by sides has been less impacted by job losses, mortgage crunches and cutbacks. These people can afford the higher MSRPs of SxS vehicles and their buying power has not been undermined by the recession.

Another reality of the SXS biz is this: amazing practicality. Okay, we’ve spoken many times on these pages of how an ATV is the ultimate off-road-work-play vehicle.

We’re not backing off on this conviction, however, we’re going to update it with this statement: If an ATV is a practical multi-purpose purchase, then a UTV is a multi-purpose practical purchase times two.

Look at what you can do with a side by side for a few grand more than an ATV. The ability to carry three people in many models and even more in some four-place versions eliminates purchasing multiple ATVs.

The ability to carry big payloads in the box is unequalled in the off-road world right now. The flexibility to perform yard work, job site work, hunt camp chores and trail rides all in one vehicle is incomparable. Throw in the ability to plow snow with a 6-foot blade and you can actually justify getting rid of the pick-up truck.

Their versatility boggles the mind. For sure, SxS vehicles are not cheap, however, take one look at next year’s prices and it looks like the UTV market is going to do nothing but grow.

In a conversation about three years ago, Matt Homan, Vice President of Polaris’ Off-Road Division, commented he would not be surprised if one day the UTV business actually exceeded the ATV biz in unit sales volume. I like Matt, he’s smart and insightful but when he made this statement I took it with a large grain of salt, given he had just been put in charge of Polaris Ranger business.

Today, with SxS sales still climbing, new segments of the UTV market emerging and more manufacturers coming into the game, Homan is looking more like a visionary than I thought. His prediction is getting closer to reality daily.

If you haven’t experienced the fun and versatility of a UTV, we hope you decide to pursue a test ride sometime soon. Once you experience it, there’s no turning back.

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