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May 27, 2014

UTV tires mean new business for dealers

by Ann Neal

UTVs, or utility terrain vehicles, are used for both work and recreation.
UTVs, or utility terrain vehicles, are used for both work and recreation.

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.

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