I’m feeling lucky today

I’m feeling lucky today, despite being crammed in a tiny airplane seat in front of a woman wearing waaay too much perfume.

I’m in the UTV business — and it’s a good business to be in. Most of the trade pubs, consultants and dealers would probably say it’s the best segment of the powersports business to be in. I certainly think so, and I’m damn happy about it.

It’s a good business to be in mainly because of the nature of the actual UTVs and the customers who want them. UTVs are popular for a lot of different reasons, and the biggest is that they’re so good at so many things. Lots of customers can find lots of reasons to buy a UTV, and just about anybody can make a decent sales pitch to their wife for why they need one, how life will be better if they have one and everything will all be rainbows and unicorns. “I’ll do the chores, plow the driveway, work the farm, go hunting, take the youngins’ for rides, feed the hungry and save the world — all with my new UTV.”

UTVs are useful AND fun, and often both at the same time. That makes for a super wide appeal, and a pretty easy sales pitch, not just for dealers selling vehicles to customers, but also for customers selling the idea of getting a vehicle to themselves or their significant other. (Let’s face it, she wears the pants AND carries the checkbook.)

UTVs draw customers into dealerships that wouldn’t normally come. There are a number of surveys and big OEMs that talk about the huge importance of UTVs getting NEW people to come to dealerships, and not just powersports dealers, but farm and ag dealers too.

These new customers come into your store with a different set of expectations than your normal customers. To keep it simple, they come from a ‘truck’ point of view and have ‘truck’ expectations — not an ATV or bike point of view. They think a UTV is like a little truck (it is), so they expect it to be like that when they shop (it isn’t). UTVs fall short of meeting the customers’ expectation in many ways — not all in a bad way — but in ways that create even more opportunity for me and you.

Consider this scenario I’m going to use to make my point: A customer pulls into your parking lot. Is he in the bare-bones Ford F150 with vinyl bench seats, AM radio, hand crank windows, no AC and the stick shift that’s just a crappy plastic ball on a long rod sticking out of a vinyl bag that comes up out of the vinyl mat covering the floor? Hell no! He’s in truck that has leather seats, navigation system, climate control, CD player, and alloy wheels. Of these two trucks, which is more like the UTV you’re about to show him? See my point?

Still not convinced? Forget about all the luxury stuff like leather and navigation systems. UTVs don’t even have roofs, windshields, mirrors, radios or doors. New customers are expecting these things, and as a result they have incredibly high penetration rates. Roofs, windshields, and mirrors have penetration rates that are well over 80 percent, sometimes over 95 percent, depending on the vehicle.

Your UTV customers want these things, even if they don’t know it yet. Sure, sometimes they’ll leave with a bare-bones vehicle, but they’re buying the basic accessories pretty soon, either from you or from somebody else.

Do you know what your UTV customers’ expectations are? Are you meeting them? Are you taking advantage of the somewhat hidden opportunity that is walking through your door?

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.

Websites: www.seizmik.comwww.vialinkgroup.com

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