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Kawasaki’s Mule 610 has for years been a staple for the brand, as more than 140,000 units have been produced.
But for the 2017 model year, the Mule 610 has been replaced. Its successor is the new Mule SX, which Kawasaki officials believe will perform just as well as the 610.
The Mule SX, introduced to media in early June at the Ancient Peaks Winery vineyard in Santa Margarita, Calif., serves as a base-model Mule. The SX offers a compact utility side-by-side at a value price starting at $7,299 and topping out at $9,399 for the Mule SX 4X4 XC SE.
The SX series offers three configurations each in the standard set, including the Mule SX, the Mule SX 4X4 and the Mule SX 4X4 SE, and in the XC version, including the Mule SX 4X4 XC, the Mule SX 4X4 XC Camo and the Mule SX 4X4 XC SE. The standard series is more utility focused, while the XC units have sportier features, such as 26-inch tires.
“When we go to the XC, the focus for this model is to be a little bit more sporty and appeal more to the recreational user, so it’s maybe a little less farmer and more of a chore unit, a transportation unit around a farm, when they just want that ability,” explained Kevin Mann, 4-wheel and PWC product manager for Kawasaki Motors Corp.
As Kawasaki Motors Corp. (KMC) celebrates its 50th anniversary in the U.S. and its 40th year of manufacturing in the states, the OEM is also marking its 28th year in the side-by-side market with the Mule brand.
“We’ve been in the side-by-side business 28 years. Nobody can say that. We were the first. We started the industry,” Mann said. “That’s quite a title to hold. We’ve been designing and manufacturing vehicles for 28 years. With refinement as we’re developing models and expanding our markets, we’ve gained knowledge and experience, and that’s really the core of where our durability kicks in.”
The Mule’s heritage is deep not only for Kawasaki but for the industry as a whole. Kevin Allen, manager of public relations at KMC, told a story about a man he met at the 2015 Farm Progress Show. The 80-plus-year-old man had owned a Mule for 20 years, and it was still running strong. However, his wife was won over by the newer Mules’ most recent comfort features, and he gave in and added a new Mule to his lineup.
KMC kept the Mule’s history and its loyal followers in mind when developing the SX.
“The customers that own this Mule product, it’s amazing because it’s like a family member. They give it a name, and it’s part of the family, and that’s how they feel about it,” Mann said. “So really we want to be sensitive when we come out with a product change that we don’t alienate our existing customer base. So the styling, now it’s modern. It’s still rugged; it’s still tough, but it’s just more updated in terms of its look.”
The Mule SX took its styling cues from the Mule PRO series and current pickup trucks. It also features a new tubular steel cargo screen, which replaces the screen used in the 610. In terms of features, Kawasaki focused on meeting its Mule 610 customers’ needs and wants.
“We wanted to build upon the strengths of what we have, so we focused on areas of high importance and low satisfaction with the existing model. So these are areas that the customers feel these are important on the product, but they’re not really totally satisfied with what they were getting,” Mann said.
In addition to the new cargo screen and styling, the Mule SX also offers a new rugged steel front bumper, four-point steering wheel, tilt steering with 29 degrees of adjustability, a carbon fiber dash finish, a bright LCD dash-mounted fuel gauge with integrated hour meter, an ignition key closer to the driver’s side, six accessory switch blanks and an audio system cutout, retractable seat belts, KQR bed rails, tie-down points, a 4.2-gallon fuel tank and more. The Mule SX also fits into the back of a full-size pickup truck with its 52.6-inch width and 106.7-inch length — 2 inches shorter than the 610. Suspension spring and damper rates have been changed for improved handling and ride comfort.
Kawasaki purposely built the SX as a basic unit, positioning it as a blank canvas to be accessorized as its various consumers’ needs warrant.
“The applications that we have here, one of the biggest ones is small acreage owners — that’s probably our biggest target. We have a lot of farmers, hobby farmers. We have fleet business, commercial farms, government business, so it’s a very broad customer base for this product, but it is the more price-minded customer. These are the people that don’t want to spend $15,000 on a machine, but they want something or need something for the business.”
With 66 accessories, including the top-selling roofs and windshields, as well as new pieces like a digital LED speedometer/odometer and a Bluetooth stereo system, customers should easily be able to configure the SX to their liking.
“The ability for a customer to customize their Mule SX is extremely important,” Mann said. “This Mule is being utilized in many different ways by each customer. With a wide rage of Kawasaki Genuine Accessories, customers can create the Mule SX they need for the job they need to get done.”
Accessories can be purchased individually or as part of a package. Five packages are available: the Hard Cab Package, the Hunting Package, the Hard Cab & Plow Package, the Recreation Package and the Work/Utility Package.
An accessory builder function on Kawasaki’s website, which is currently available for Mule PRO models, will soon be ready for the SX models as well. With the accessory builder, consumers will be able to build their dream SX with all of their needed accessories and bring the printout to their local dealer.
The customization appeals to dealers, Mann explained, because of the added profit that comes with accessory sales.
“Kawasaki dealers can appreciate the wide range of Kawasaki Genuine Accessories for the MULE SX, as it gives dealers the opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and increase their profit per sale,” Mann said.
Because the Mule can be used to perform a wide variety of tasks, the Mule demographic is far reaching, as far as those using it for heavy-duty work, light-duty work, or more recreational purposes.
Industry-wide, 60 percent of side-by-side buyers are new to powersports. However, 12 percent of Mule 610 buyers already own another Mule 610. Many buyers in the Mule SX demographic are of retirement age.
“About 40 percent of them are in their 60s, looking for that next phase of their life … that’s a big component for us,” Mann said.
The Mule SX offers them a vehicle that can complete the work or tasks at a value price.
“Value is a main purchase driver,” Mann reported. “We hear a lot in the research with customers or in surveys they reply back to after they’ve used it for a while, the comments like, ‘This product has everything I need for just the right price,’ or ‘It’s a great product for a great price.’ That kind of comment rings through on most of these surveys, so they’re really getting what they want and need, and they’re really getting the value — it’s all about the value in this segment.”
Kawasaki staff believes they’ve delivered on that value proposition with the Mule SX, and they expect the new model to be a top performer like its predecessor was.
“The Mule SX is an important model in Kawasaki’s broad portfolio of side-by-sides, and there is always an appeal for a compact utility vehicle,” Mann said. “We anticipate the Mule SX to perform very well due to the Kawasaki Strong three-year warranty, variety of model trims, comfort features and wide range of Kawasaki Genuine Accessories.”