Utility terrain vehicle, or UTV for short, is just one name used to describe multi-passenger four-wheel off-road vehicles with towing and cargo capacity. Other names include utility task vehicles (also UTV), side-by-sides (SxS), recreational utility vehicle (RUV), multi-use vehicle (MUV), off-road utility vehicles, utility side-by-sides, recreational side-by-sides, and quads/four wheelers.But no matter what people call these versatile off-road power sports machines, their growing popularity is bringing new business to specialty tire dealers.
“The bright spot of the industry right now is what we call the UTV part of the business, which is the side-by-sides or four-wheelers,” says Ron Brutt, owner of Brutt Tire & Auto Center Inc. which does business as Brutt Specialty Tires in McKees Rocks, Pa. Brutt’s UTV tires sales have increased 200% in the last two years.
At Ken Jones Inc. in Worcester, Mass., UTV tire sales have grown by 20% in the last two years, according to Steve Jones, who owns the wholesale and retail dealership with two brothers. At Community Tire Pros and Auto Repair in Phoenix, Ariz., Manager Randy Beck says UTV tire sales have increased by 50%, also over the last two years.
“Currently, the UTV market remains strong and is outpacing the ATV market,” says Michelle Schact, product marketing manager for power sports for CTP Transportation Products LLC (formerly Carlisle Transportation Products).
Gus Niewenhous, motorcycle marketing manager at American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd., says it’s “no secret” that the UTV market is on the rise. “Not just the vehicles but everything that goes with them: tires, accessories and specialty implements.
“The future is bright in this segment, but unfortunately it’s not all new growth, as we’ve seen the all-terrain vehicle utility and sport segments take big hits in the same time period. At the end of the day, though, most agree that we’re seeing sales growth.”
Really special specialty tires
Owners of UTVs can work and play with the same vehicle. UTVs often have dump beds and are used on construction sites, golf courses, farms and underground mines.
In western Pennsylvania, UTVs are used on Marcellus Shale gas well drilling sites. “UTVs are being used just about everywhere where they used to have to use a pickup truck,” says Brutt. “They are so mobile.”
Tom Van Ormer, director of purchasing for East Bay Tire Co., says UTVs are just about everywhere. “Commercially, almost every farm, ranch, orchard, packing house, factory, housing development, resort or hotel has one or more UTVs. Many municipalities, counties and state and national parks depend on their UTV for easy and economical transportation. On most farms and ranches the horse and now even many of the pickups are replaced by side-by-side UTVs. Retail stores that sell these products through stocking or a nearby wholesaler have an active market of hunters, weekend warriors, gentlemen farmers/ranchers and just guys with their toys!”
The popularity of UTVs translates into opportunities for specialty tire dealers. “Two years ago, I’m not sure we even had a tire for a side-by-side; if we did, we weren’t selling too many,” says Bob Slagle, president of S&S Tire Co. in Phoenix, Ariz.
“It used to be that people would buy an old golf cart and then they would firm up and raise the suspension and put bigger tires on it. They could use that out in the woods for hunting and things like that. So the side-by-side vehicle has taken over that market pretty much.”
A large inventory is necessary to service farmers, landowners, landscapers, construction companies and other businesses that use UTVs to do their jobs, says Jones.
“We’re trying to stock more product because the demand is there. UTV tires are something people need immediately so we try to keep them in stock. ”
When it comes to recreation, entire families can share an off-highway, trail-riding experience together in a UTV. Larger than an ATV, UTVs can have as many as six seats, seat belts and a rollover safety enclosure with side webbing.
Different in design and use
Randy Tsai, director of marketing and GBC Motorsports at Greenball Corp., says the UTV tire market is in a state of dynamic change and development. UTV tires used to be repurposed ATV tires, but “UTVs are fundamentally different in design and use than ATVs. UTVs can no longer just use ATV tires, but now require tires designed for UTVs.”
The differences between UTV and ATV tires are in the casing strength, according to Kenda’s Niewenhous. “These tires need to carry much heavier loads for utility UTVs. Likewise, they need to be able to withstand the impact of landing big jumps for the sport UTVs.”
UTVs are larger and heavier, carry more weight than ATVs, and now are traveling at higher and higher speeds than in earlier models. These require a more robust tire than the traditional ATV tire, says Tsai. “OE manufacturers have realized this and are working with tire companies like us to develop tires that match their vehicle requirements for performance, handling and load capacity.”
For 2014, Greenball has added four sizes to its Kanati Mongrel UTV line: 27x9.00R12, 27x11.00R12, 27x9.00R14 and 27x11.00R14. The company plans to introduce a new UTV tire line in late 2014 for 2015.
East Bay Tire is very active in the UTV market as a major wholesaler, commercial and retail dealer, according to Van Ormer. The company distributes the Carlisle, OTR, and Duro brands of UTV and ATV products.
Van Ormer says that while a working knowledge of East Bay’s lines is very important, the ability to stock and recommend the correct product for the application is more important. “If the vehicle runs mostly on pavement we usually recommend Carlisle All Trail or All Trail II, HD Field Trax and even the Industrial Trax products. If the vehicle is used in severe conditions we stock and sell Carlisle AT489, Badlands, Mud Wolf or Stryker tire as well as OTR’s Magnum 350 and Duro’s DIK line of products. If height is a major concern we have a tendency to sell the 12-inch and 14-inch Duro Frontier radial products. Having stock on them all with the variety in design, height, width, price range and aggressiveness is a major plus.”
Tips for success with UTV tires
UTV business has been growing over the last two years at Mighty Tire Wholesale Inc., the wholesale arm of Ziegler Tire & Supply Co. in Massillon, Ohio. John Ziegler, Mighty Tire director, says commercial centers and wholesale-based customers are asking for more fitments and applications for their utility vehicles. Ziegler Tire operates eight retail and 16 combined commercial and retail outlets.
People are asking for UTV tires in the company’s retail stores as well. Ziegler says customers are not aware of a go-to person for UTV tire needs. “Letting the retail customer know we’re their center for that kind of product I think will help round out the business in that market.”
Schact of Carlisle says customers may assume they have to return to the UTV dealer source for their tire needs. “Cross-over automotive customers need to know that their dealers can also service UTV/specialty tire needs.”
Niewenhous advises dealers to do what has been successful for them in other segments. “Many dealers have told me installing the tires and other accessories on the showroom floor gets the vehicles and extra accessories sold much faster.”
Tsai suggests dealers recognize that the UTV tire market exists and very likely it is being overlooked in their market. “Whether for commercial purpose or recreational, these vehicles have exploded in popularity and they are everywhere. Dealers should try to learn more about UTVs and how large that business might be in their area.”
To help determine product mix, he suggests dealers learn if the UTVs in their area are being used mostly for recreational or commercial applications. He also says to check into local regulations about UTV use. Find out if they are street legal.
“This would help with their product mix to carry on hand. UTV tires nowadays range from 25 inches to 30 inches with varying tread designs, and also different features like DOT-approved.” Tsai says GBC is one of the only tire companies to offer a DOT-approved UTV tire. “Understanding this market, having the right product on hand and then marketing to the community that UTV tires are serviced by their dealership are all important factors to being successful with UTV tires.” ■
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Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.