Alternative off-road machine segment continues to grow

A growing number of four-wheeled off-road machines have popped up in the powersports industry that appear to share bloodlines with the traditional go-kart family. They actually more closely resemble miniature dune buggies and are capable of easily blazing over rough terrain without difficulty.
Companies involved in the distribution of these radical off-road machines include Manco PowerSports, Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Kasea Motorsports, Seattle, Wash.; Carter Brothers Manufacturing Co., Brundidge, Ala.; AlphaSports Motors of Augusta, Ga.; and Dazon of Tempe, Ariz.
While all designed somewhat differently, the vehicles from these manufacturers each are outfitted with a roll cage; ATV tires; beefy suspension, and, more often than not, a small displacement engine geared to provide a healthy dose of torque.
“Karting has changed dramatically within the last couple of years with all of these new suspension karts coming out,” says Jeff Platzer of Manco PowerSports. “Some of them are Chinese imports with scooter engines on the back; others, like ours, use the conventional lawnmower-style engine.”
Operating out of a 200,000 sq. ft. plant in Ft. Wayne, Ind., Manco, according to Platzer, is able to manufacture 300 units – go-karts and suspension karts – per day for its retail network of 2,000 dealers.
Manco’s new off-road karts for 2003 include the Intruder GSX 607 and the XTK 710E and 713E. “We are having an outstanding year, having introduced a lot of new products, and we just think these new machines are tremendous,” Platzer said.
Manco’s products are powered by Robin-Subaru engines. The two-seat Intruder ($1,499) features a single-cylinder 211cc powerplant delivering 7hp at 4000rpm, a recoil starting system, front and rear coil-over shocks, and an engine stop switch in the steering wheel. Weighing 306 lbs., the Intruder is 88.5” long, 46” wide and 53.5” high.
The XTK-710E ($2,499) and XTK-713E ($2,999) share the same parts and dimensions, but the 710 weighs 447 lbs. compared to the 713’s 472 lbs. The 710 is outfitted with a 265cc engine delivering 10hp at 4000 rpm, and the 713 produces 13.5hp at 4000 rpm via a 404cc powerplant. Both machines come with independent front suspensions and swing-arm rears.
Carter started producing the “XTV” (Extreme Terrain Vehicle) for consumers in October 2002. Carter’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Ryan Daugherty, says demand from the firm’s 1,000 dealers has been outstanding.
“We’re selling more XTVs than we’ve ever sold go-karts,” Daugherty said. “Go-karts are seasonal, but we are trying to position the XTV as an all-year product.”
Outfitted with a 150cc air-cooled four-stroke obtained from Taiwan’s Standard Motor Co., the Carter XTV – available as a single or two-seater – includes electric start, variable ratio automatic CVT, independent dual A-arm front suspension, a double coil swingarm rear suspension, hydraulic disc brakes, dual halogen running lights, tail and brake light, and an adjustable seat. Output is gauged at 12.5hp at 7500rpm.
The single seat XTV (MSRP $2,999) weighs in at 398 lbs. and the two-seater ($3,599) tips the scales at 468 lbs. The two machines share overall dimensions, coming in at 92” long, 51” wide, and 55” tall; a wheelbase of 67”; and ground clearance from the rear axle at 8.5”.
Daugherty says sales of the two-seat XTV outpace sales of the single-seat unit, and he says the unit’s success has coaxed the company into designing similar karts operating off of a variety of engine sizes. He said two machines may be available by 2004, with a third scheduled for possible introduction by 2005.
Carter uses 26 suppliers to manufacture all of their XTVs from a facility in Brundidge, Ala., where an R&D facility and 300 acres of forest provide ample opportunity for engineers to test the vehicles.
“It’s a more technologically advanced machine that requires a more technologically advanced process,” Daugherty said, comparing the XTVs to “off-road karts” of the past.
Kasea offers three alternative off-road vehicles, including the Adventure Buggy, DK125 and Explorer.
The125cc air-cooled four-stroke Adventure Buggy ($2,199) comes with automatic CVT, electric start, a dual A-arm suspension, adjustable front shocks offering 5" of travel, a rear suspension set up with twin oil shocks offering 5" travel, front and rear racks, headlights, a tail light, a rear hydraulic disc brake and an adjustable seat. At 77” long, 39” wide and 50” high, the Adventure Buggy has a 56” wheelbase and weighs in at 275 lbs.
Measuring 82” long, 50” wide and 52” high, the DK125 ($2,499) fits two people, offers a 51" wheelbase and weighs 280 lbs. The 125cc four-stroke electric-start vehicle, made in Korea, has 7” of ground clearance and is outfitted with a hydraulic disc brake, an automatic transmission, dual A-arm front suspension and swingarm rear suspension.
Finally, Kasea’s big, electric-start 250cc Xplorer ($5,499), manufactured in Korea with a Kymco engine, comes standard with front and rear disc brakes, a water-cooled four-stroke power plant, CVT, front and rear dual A-arm suspension, two Quartz headlights and an automatic transmission with reverse.
At 86.4" long, 59.4" wide, and 57.2" high, the single-seat Xplorer has a wheelbase of 62.2", ground clearance of 9.3", and weighs 605 lbs.
The electric start, single-seat Sidewinder 150 from AlphaSports ($1,999) is outfitted with a 150cc air-cooled four-stroke that delivers12.5 hp at 7500 rpm. CVT, dual hydraulic disc front brakes, a hydraulic disc rear brake, dual A-arm single shock front suspension, a dual shock swing-arm rear suspension, headlights, and an adjustable seat and headrest also are included.
Weighing 365 lbs., the Sidewinder measures 81" long, 41" wide, 54" high, has a 57” wheelbase, and 7.5” of ground clearance.
“There seem to be a lot of requests for this type of machine,” says Ken Patisaul, director of sales and marketing. “We introduced it last fall, and sales have exceeded our expectations.”
Patisaul says AlphaSports also plans to have a double-seat version available in the near future. “It’s in development right now, and could be available by the fourth quarter,” he said.
Finally, from Dazon, a Chinese manufacturer with a 10-month history in the U.S., comes the Raider 150 Single ($2,995) and Raider 150 Double ($3,995).
Weighing 342 lbs., the Raider 150 Single measures 87.7” X 48.6” X 55.1” and is powered by a 150cc single-cylinder, air-cooled four-stroke delivering a claimed 11hp at 7,500rpm. Outfitted with CDI ignition, the electric start Raider also has Automatic CVT; reverse; adjustable front shocks, seat and headrest; headlights; and front and rear disc brakes. The Raider 150 Double has a similar set-up to the Single, but weighs 483 pounds.
“The decision for Dazon to include buggies in its first year line-up was simple,” Terry Chia, general manager, told Powersports Business from his office in Tempe, Ariz. “We wanted to introduce a safer recreational vehicle that is family-orientated and highly affordable. With the former popularity of Honda’s infamous Odyssey and Pilot vehicles, it doesn’t take a PhD to determine that these types of vehicles are what people want.”
Chia says Dazon is “on track” to sell an estimated 3,500 to 3,800 units through its fast-growing dealer network, which currently boasts 79 retailers.
“Some markets receive these buggies better than others, but combine aggressive aesthetics, high-quality, reliability, parts availability, authorized local service stations and low cost, and you have a winner.”

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