ATV owners often use utility trailers
As ATV sales continue to grow, enthusiasts are beginning to define an ATV trailer market with a diverse collection of formats. But there are still plenty of riders using what’s on hand to haul their quads, leaving this the most nebulous segment of the light trailer market.
Many ATV owners continue using inexpensive utility trailers often purchased through mass merchants. Dutton-Lainson supplies a manufacturer who sells this type through a major box store. “We had a big surge in the small utility trailer,” Mark Bliss confirms. But some who sell these through dealers are doing fine, too. Pete Herrick at Chilton Trailers in Wisconsin relates
that, “the whole utility market has been pretty good. The small utility trailer — 5 by 8 foot — is selling very well.”
“The ATV market has been the best thing for us,” says Bill Boyles at Zieman. The multi-plant western manufacturer sells a line of steel-decked utility-type quad trailers. Conversely, Don Vander Mey at Floe in Minnesota says they are redesigning some of their utility-type ATV trailers to eliminate the metal deck, in their case, aluminum.
It’s part of an effort to offer additional configurations for ATV users. Vander Mey goes on to say that they are removing one of the three tie-down channels from the Floe-built Polaris models to reduce costs. “For the first time, they (Polaris dealers) will have a competitively-priced ATV trailer,” he says.
Many other manufacturers are developing hybrids for ATV owners who want to use their trailer for other jobs. “We’re trying to do a lot of dual-purpose trailers,” says Jim Wool at Worthington Trailers in Pennsylvania. Their new E-Z Loader light enclosed trailer is designed to handle both quads and sleds.
Doug Mclam at High Country Trailers in Vermont feels the same way. “We produced a new cap. We call it an all-season enclosure. We built it around some of the largest ATVs on the market,” he says. Herrick reports that Chilton is “developing a new aluminum ATV trailer. It’s a side-load, two-place combo ATV / utility with fenders, that a guy can (also) use to haul a tractor.” He goes on to comment that “We’ve had dealer requests for side-load ATV trailers, and we wanted to be a little unique.”
But an ATV-specific trailer market is also emerging. “Now we’re seeing people wanting ATV trailers,” says Rod Rance of Rance Aluminum, “because their sled trailers are so wide.”
Probably the hottest model in the ATV-specific market is Triton’s SL-8 all-aluminum side-loader. “The SL-8 is our best seller (ATV models),” says Dick Fisk, Triton distributor in New York and 5 other eastern states. Frank Tozser, president of Triton distributor Dakota Pacific, says, “we’re seeing a gradual increase (in ATV trailer sales) every year.” And the SL-8 is their best seller in their 13 prairie and mountain states.
But not everyone has success with the fold-up side-loader. Jerry Ellersick, trailer manager at Morgan Recreational Supply in New York, says they have had better response to Karavan’s conventional rear-load ATV models. And he also notes that that, “I’m getting more response to the single than the double (tandem).” This squares with what Rod Rance is seeing. “The smaller, less expensive (rear ramp) trailer sells pretty well. What we call the haystack trailer (side-loader) isn’t doing so well.”
Despite the success of the SL-8, Triton Corporation is also making sure they cover all the bases. Doreen Margelowsky says, “We decided to continue on the side load with a more general utility trailer, the UT series. It has one ramp that stores underneath. We started with a two-place, went to a three-place, and just introduced a four-place.”
Although the ATV trailer market is usually seen as open product, enclosed trailer builders are benefiting, too. “We’ve noticed an increase in ATV’s,” says Wells Cargo’s Larry Huemmer. “Guys are starting to realize that if they have an enclosed trailer, they can go that much farther out in the boondocks and stay a lot longer.”
“The ATV market is exploding, which is why Cabela’s wanted into trailers,” says Tom Holt at Avenger. “They saw a lot of people pulling into their stores with ATVs on open trailers.” The two companies have joined forces to target the sportsman who rides ATVs to assist his primary outdoors activity. The new Avenger Outfitter line combines animal and ATV transport in one enclosed unit. “There are roughly 3,000 people who run competitive field trials with retrievers. Of them, 2,700 use ATVs more than three times a week in training,” Holt explains as an example.
At the high end of the ATV trailer market are the “toy boxes” or Sport Utlility Trailers (SUTs) that are essentially campers with vehicle space in the back. Thor of California is a leader in this segment that is popular with quad riders in the southwest. “Toy boxes are up significantly,” says Marketing Manager Brandon Alexander. “We’ve seen significant growth in the southeast and the northeast as more people are using them for hunting.” The company is now seeking to provide a wider range of models to meet every need. “We launched a higher line of toy box called the Fury and the Vortex,” Alexander reports. And for those with smaller budgets and tow vehicles, there’s the new Pak Rat line. “They’ve only been out about four months,” Alexander says. “Basically provides something that’s lower cost and lighter weight, plus with the back open, it hoses out easily.”
Snowmobile trailers offer more protection
The snowmobile trailer market is all about snowfall — too much and people don’t have to travel to ride; too little and marginal participants drop out of the sport.
North American snowmobile sales have continued to slide some in recent seasons, but they are still way ahead of where they were a decade ago. This creates a robust trailer market that has diverse regional characteristics and design preferences. The key trend in this segment is the continuing movement to longer lasting and more protective trailers. This implies lower total unit sales at higher dollar sales per unit regardless of trailer format.
The east had a good snow season last winter, so snow trailer sales were solid. “We had a pretty good season,” says Doug Mclam at High Country Trailers in Vermont. “It started out very, very strong,” says Karavan distributor Jerry Ellersick at Morgan Recreational in New York. “Our year was up from the previous year.” The momentum is clearly with covered trailers. “We’ve seen a big swing to the enclosed and a decline in the open,” says Jim Wool at Worthington in Pennsylvania who does open, capped, and enclosed models. Dick Fisk, the Triton distributor for New York and other eastern states agrees. “There’s no question that it’s moving towards the enclosed,” he says. Bob Huff, marketing manager at Load Rite in Pennsylvania, reviewed annual snowfall statistics and correlated them with sales, finding up spikes following good snow years. “I’m anticipating a larger season coming up,” he says. Others echoed his optimism.
But the midwest was troubled last season. “It wasn’t pretty,” says Pete Herrick at Chilton in Wisconsin. “Our market area didn’t have any snow.” Minnesota-based Porta-Dock, a newcomer to the market last season with their PDT Trailers, has already abandoned the business.
However, Royal Trailers in Wisconsin, who builds stainless steel models, is hanging in. “We sold over 500,” says Sales Manager Gloria Kubera discussing their first year in the business. Walter Jensen, who builds enclosed trailers in Iowa says “Everybody had to travel to ride. We did about the same as the year before. I thought it might be down, but it wasn’t.”
Walter also notes that “The guys towing long distances want them shorter, for fuel economy. We did very few this year that they could stand up in.”
Larry Huemmer at Wells Cargo’s Elkhart (IN) branch observed “we had a decent year in light of the economy. We’re finding more upscale people wanting aluminum.”
But just having aluminum isn’t enough. “Selling snowmobile trailers is getting to be a real challenge,” says Don Vander Mey, marketing manager at Floe in Minnesota. Still optimistic, he tells us that the company is preparing for next season by focusing on cost in “purchasing as well as manufacturing processes.” Don goes on to say, “We’ve always had the Cadillac aluminum trailer. We’ve been able to get our pricing more competitive than we have been in the past.” And he looks ahead saying, “One of these years we’ll get lots of snow again and we’ll be selling trailers like crazy again.”
Frank Tozser of Triton distributor Dakota Pacific says the western market was “not good, because of the snow.” Bill Boyles at Zieman’s Boise branch introduced new aluminum product. “Unfortunately we came out with it in a bad year.” He went on to say “We have a lot of dealers sitting on sled inventory.” Newcomer Cascade Trailers in Washington offers heavy-duty open aluminum trailers. “We came very close to hitting our projections,” says Sales Manager Bob Ryan, acknowledging that the projections had been scaled back for the first-year builder. Enclosed trailer manufacturer Charmac was very pleased. “It was our best year ever on snowmobile trailers,” says John McKay. “Units and dollars were both up.” And Haulmark’s Matt Arnold says “Out west we had a great year.”
Many marketers are very cognizant of this visible trend to enclosed units. Rod Rance says, “We’ve had a number of our dealers saying 60 to 80 percent of their open snowmobile trailers are selling with caps.” Doreen Margelowsky at Triton says “We’re seeing the surge in the enclosed market,” and describes the progression of the snow trailer buyer. “They start out with the entry level trailer, graduate to the cap, and then to the enclosed,” she says, explaining why Triton offers all three types of snow trailers.
Another trend is the growth of the narrow enclosed trailer. “The seven-wide, which we developed, is taking a larger share of the market,” explains Rod Rance. Haulmark’s Matt Arnold agrees. “They’re getting more and more popular,” he says. “You can put four sleds in it and still see around it with your mirrors
Copyright 2003 Powersports Business