I get pretty frustrated at the lack of good information available in this industry. I’ve looked at all the new unit sales data from a number of different resources — and in my opinion none of it is complete. Lots of organizations attempt to capture real data, but it’s a mind blowingly difficult task. No one is doing a ‘bad job’ — it’s just an impossible task to begin with. I get input and data from many different sources, and when I try to compile it all, I struggle to find any consistency. It seems to become ‘noise’. Like lots of business people, I put the data together with my gut instinct and then determine the way forward.
There is so much activity and change in our market that looking at the macro historical data isn’t of much practical use anyway. The UTV market specifically is being driven in so many different directions that the history almost becomes moot. I could write about the impact of the Internet customer’s buying process, or the effect of the global economy on consumer spending, or the trends of electronic gadgets chewing up an ever growing share of disposable incomes — it’s all important stuff that effects all of us.
But instead I’m thinking more of the things going on just in our little world of UTVs and how we’ll all be impacted. Polaris introduced the Brutus line of vehicles that they co-developed with Bobcat. It’s like a tractor had sex with a UTV and gave birth to the Brutus — it’s a far departure from the UTVs we’re used to, and it’s even a big jump from the other ‘work’ vehicles in the category like the Kubota RTV1100. They’re driving the business in a specific direction, creating a new niche like they did with the RZR, but on a different end of the spectrum. Why’d they go in this direction? How is it going to impact the market? Will it be successful?
Honda introduced the Pioneer with a very innovative dump bed that converts into seats. I could say that it’s a vehicle full of compromises (how good can it be at doing both things?), but my gut feel is that they know something about what customers are going to want in a vehicle, and its clearly very different from the vehicles that exist today.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear that doing the same things the same way they’ve always been done isn’t going to work. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Everything is changing, and it’s getting faster, not slower. There’s going to be more change coming, not less.
It’s a moving target. Adjust your aim and ammo accordingly.
Steve Shankin is founder/president/CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) of Seizmik and its parent company, Vialink. As a result of his big brain (read: luck), he got into the UTV accessory business in 2002, well before it was what all the cool kids were doing. His companies have designed whole vehicles and extensively studied how consumers use UTVs. He still calls them “UTVs” and not “side-by-sides.” He’s a father of three girls, competitive cyclist and not a very good cook but he keeps on tryin’ anyway.