By Tom Kaiser
It was a marriage of convenience — a camouflage company moving in next door to KYMCO USA’s headquarters in Inman, S.C. The two companies quickly struck up a relationship and formed a co-branding partnership resulting in the new MXU 500 Camo, the company’s first camouflage-clad ATV.
“As an aggressive, smaller company in this market, we’re trying to find ways to make strides, to push ourselves over the top,” said Rick Pawelka, KYMCO USA’s marketing manager. “Co-branding opportunities and licensing agreements with different companies is something that we’re always on the lookout for.”
True Timber, a rapidly expanding, family owned business, created the new True Timber Concealed Green Camo digital effect pattern for the project. Pawelka said he hopes to work with the company on future co-branded products, with the appropriate displacement and market position.
He added that, with a larger displacement 4x4 ATV, creating a camouflage package was a clear choice to reach out to the sportsmen and hunting segment of the utility ATV market.
“It was obvious that [the MXU 500] needed to have a camo pattern to make it available to the market,” Pawelka said.
The MXU 500 Camo is priced at $6,499, $500 more than the standard model.
Activity on the Horizon
Change has become a constant at KYMCO USA, as it recently broke off from its parent company, STR Inc., to become a stand alone, U.S.-based manufacturer. It also moved its corporate headquarters to Spartanburg, S.C., and became the 11th ATV manufacturer to join the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA).
“It bolsters our visibility and our image in the country and somebody who’s looking to make big strides and trying to distance ourselves from the other import product that’s coming in,” Pawelka said. “I’m not naming names, but there’s obviously a lot that’s going to fall at the wayside with EPA restrictions and other things going on.”
The release of the MXU 500 was a significant step up in market position for its ATV line. The Mongoose 250 and 300 sport quads also were updated for 2008, addressing several issues raised in enthusiast publications. Changes include larger carburetors, longer swingarms, progressive rate springs up front, improved ergonomics and a new recessed engine stop button to prevent accidentally shutting the machines off while riding.
For the future, all eyes are on the EICMA powersports show in Milan, Italy, where KYMCO is expected to unveil a larger displacement scooter engine that could make its way to KYMCO USA’s ATV line.
“They develop the powerplants for the scooters and then they become the powerplants they use in the ATVs,” he said. “If they get more defined in their direction with the different platforms, they will be able to develop things specifically with ATVs in mind.”
He also said the company is seeking to fill the void between the MXU 300 and 500 with product that utilizes the company’s newly developed 4x4 technology and independent suspension, which Pawelka acknowledged is something all the other manufacturers are offering.
“There’s no area... that we probably won’t venture in,” he said. “Our biggest push right now is going to be expanding our ATV line.”
Although there’s nothing to release at the moment, KYMCO USA is also examining the UTV market. Should a project be approved, Pawelka said the company would likely field a utility-minded product in the 500cc range, rather than a purely recreational product like the Polaris RZR.
While the company’s recent past is rife with successes, there have been speed bumps along the way. After the MXU 500, Pawelka said the company is trying to shorten the time it takes new products to move from the drawing board to the showroom floor.
“We were a little bit slow on turning the crank and getting them out there,” he said.
And, while sales of the MXU 500 have so-far met company expectations, Pawelka said it was released in a difficult period for U.S. ATV sales.
“Considering that we’ve only been building quads [about] six years, as opposed to building scooters since 1963, we’ve got a long way to go and we know it, and we’re making some great strides,” Pawelka said. “Our dealer network has grown; we’re expanding our product line, and I think there’s good things on the horizon for KYMCO.”