Side-by-Side Vehicles Are A Bright Spot In A Sagging Industry

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While other segments slump, SSVs lead the ATV charge

SURE, BUSINESS ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE. Save for scooters, most powersports vehicle segments have declined as consumers pull back on spending or fail to get the required financing to make a vehicle purchase. But there is a bright spot: side-by-side vehicles, or SSVs. Once purchased mostly for their utility capabilities, SSVs are becoming "must-haves" for many first-time buyers and off-road enthusiasts.

Retail sales of SSVs in 2007 climbed nearly 11 percent, to about 263,000 units sold, according to Minneapolis research firm Power Products Marketing (see story, in this issue). SSV sales are expected to grow again this year in the high single-digits. The "consumer" niche, which includes homeowners, farmers and ranchers, accounted for 73 percent of SSV sales in 2007, up from 47 percent back in 2002.

Chinese-made SSVs could become more widespread within five years, according to PPM researchers. Last year, about 3,500 Chinese-made SSVs were sold in North America, and that number is expected to climb to about 10,000 units sold this year.

Of the standard brands, Polaris has been enjoying steady market growth. The Minnesota-based OEM became the leading supplier of SSVs in North America in 2007, grabbing nearly 20 percent of the market. It was followed by Yamaha (18 percent), Kawasaki and John Deere.

Dealernews editors Guido Ebert and Arlo Redwine talked with manufacturers and dealers on the state of the SSV market, and expectations for the future. Those stories, along with a market forecast from PPM, begin on the following pages. — Ed.