Mrket segment reports

The motorcycle trailer market is really rolling. Every manufacturer in this segment interviewed said their motorcycle trailer sales are at least holding their own, and most are on the upswing. Divergent views on which sub-segments are the hottest could be an indication that the market is broadening and deepening.
“We’re seeing moderate growth,” Rance Aluminum President Rod Rance reported. “More towards the high end trailers.”
“We’re doing very well with that market,” asserted Classic Trailers President Wade Wolf. “I think people are in the $2,500 to $3,500 market. We do a lot of the $5,000 and up market, too, but that market was down (last year).”
Magenta Trailers has successfully introduced the Mag 2, a relatively small and very aerodynamic fiberglass enclosed model for two road bikes. When asked how it’s doing, company President Gary Oldenkamp modestly responded, “not too bad, although we have a supposed resin and fiberglass shortage. At least that’s what my suppliers tell me.”
Midwest Industries introduced a new Shoreland’r open motorcycle trailer aimed squarely at the Harley rider. “Guys my age don’t want to ride hundreds of miles to an event,” explained Midwest Marketing Manager Don Rusch, “and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an enclosed trailer.” A Harley rider himself, Rusch reflected that “it seems like I’m seeing more and more open trailers than I’ve seen in the past.” He commented that “we had overwhelming response to the prototype at Sturgis.” And that positive response has turned into sales success. “We’ve oversold our first couple months production,” Rusch said. “A few guys are bringing in second orders now.”
“We’ve definitely seen an increase,” said Bill Boyles at Zieman’s Idaho plant. And Jim Wool at Worthington Trailers in Pennsylvania noted that their motorcycle trailer sales have tripled since they discontinued the rail-type trailer for fully-floored models.
“It’s the fastest growing market in recreation,” summarized Rochelle Priesgen, president of Triton Corporation. “We’re going to put more and more effort into it.”
All Terrain Vehicle
The ATV segment is still the wild west of the trailer business because quad riders will use just about anything to haul their wheelers. Magenta Trailer President Gary Oldenkamp revealed that “I sell more snowmobile trailers for ATVs than for snowmobiles.” And he’s not the only steel snow trailer builder in that situation.
“We’re seeing the ATV market progress like the snowmobile market,” reported Rod Rance of Rance Aluminum. “We still see a lot of the inexpensive models. But we do sell a few of our wide snowmobile trailers for ATVs.” Rance has now withdrawn from the controversial side-loader market that is dominated by Triton’s hot-selling SL-series.
Triton’s Rochelle Priesgen noted that quad trailers are “one market that we are trying to grow, whether it’s full-fledged ATV or utility. We’re trying to provide more multi-purpose trailers.” And she noted that their SL series seems stronger in the south.
“My dealers are kind of ticked off at some of the side-loads,” reported H & S Loadmaster’s Ron Zygarlicke. “They rattle when the pins get worn.” Wisconsin-based Loadmaster now offers four end-loader ATV models including a tandem, and also now supplies quad trailers to a limited number of Gander Mountain stores that sell name-brand four-wheelers. “The ATV market trailers have really bounced up for us,” Zygarlicke said.
Midwest Industries is also having good success in this market with steel-framed end-loaders. “In general, the utility end of our business has been very good, up 60% in the last three years,” reported Shoreland’r Marketing Manager Don Rusch. “I think a good deal of that is going to ATV. We got into the ATV specific trailer as an off-shoot of utility.”
But other companies, like Worthington (aluminum) in the east and Zieman (steel) in the west, are doing just fine with their side-loaders. “Our two and four place side-load are doing very well,” asserted Zieman’s Bill Boyles. “The ATV market is growing,” He also reported that their new Image enclosed car hauler has “done pretty well from scratch.” Big enclosed trailers like the Image are also used to haul quads (and motorcycles), but it’s impossible to determine how many are being purchased for this purpose. As Classic Trailers President Wade Wolf explained, enclosed trailer manufacturers “just can’t track it that well.”
The Sport Utility Trailer (SUT), or Toy Box, is the high end of the ATV trailer market. The lure of living quarters with vehicle space in back is irresistible to some quad riders. “The customers in this segment are becoming more sophisticated,” explained Thor Marketing Manager Brandon Alexander. “And they want more. With interest rates being so low, they can really step up, and because these are financed over a longer period of time. One of our biggest sellers is the big 36-footer.” He went on to say that their entry-level Pak Rat, introduced last year, is selling strongly, but their higher line models are doing even better. Still, this sub-segment remains a tiny fraction of the overall ATV trailer market.
“The ATV market is growing,” Rod Rance recapped. “But it’s still a tight margin product.”
Bob Bainer, proprietor of Four Winds Recreational Products, concisely summed up last season’s snow trailer market as he commented on his results. “East Coast, we were up. Midwest, we were in the hole. Canada was up, too.” The aluminum cap specialist is riding the most important trend in the snow trailer market, the move to enclosures to protect the increasingly expensive winter vehicles.
In the east, Ed Cullivan of New England-based Thule Trailers (formerly C & C) characterized last season as an “excellent year” for SnoPro trailers. Doug Mclam at P.A.S. (High Country trailers) in Vermont said “it was up considerably.” And the trend is crystal clear. “Everybody is going more enclosed,” observed Jim Wool at Worthington in Pennsylvania. “We had a real strong season on V-nose and E-Z Loader, the premium trailers.” Wool has a very clear view of this trend because Worthington offers the widest selection of snow trailer designs on the market.
Coming off another wimpy winter in 2003, the bellwether midwestern snow market remained soft, particularly in the open segment. Ray Lato, owner of Thorp Equipment in Wisconsin, reported that his Royal “stainless snowmobile trailers were down 20 percent” in their second year. But Floe’s Don Vander Mey commented, “This year seemed like it had better snow in some areas, and we got orders late (in the season). We think the pipeline is getting cleaner.” Others agreed. “It was OK,” said Loadmaster’s Ron Zygarlicke. “Our enclosed has really taken off. You can see the trend. The enclosed is where the people are going. The little ten-foot tilt-bed – they’re dying.” Joe Cox, of Cox Trailers, observed that “guys are spending more to protect what they’ve got.” The Ohio builder’s snow trailer sales were “down a little bit,” though. Rance Aluminum’s Rod Rance related that “one of my dealers told me that he sells 75 to 80 percent of his 2-placers with covers.”
Manufacturers who sell outside the midwest were less affected by the regional snow situation. “I think we had a good year,” Rance said. “The enclosed seemed to be every bit as strong, if not stronger than the open.” Wade West, president of enclosed builder Classic Trailers, reported good results, too. “We did very well. The in-lines were up more than the wide bodies.” And Triton’s Rochelle Priesgen, really drove home the point by saying “we’ve been up, and a big part of it is because we’re so (geographically and product) diverse.”
Out west, Bill Boyles at Zieman’s Idaho plant reported very positive results. “We had an excellent snowmobile season due to the fact that we had snow early and late.”
HaulRite is New Mexico’s largest trailer manufacturer. “Last year was fine,” said HaulRite owner Dan Roemer about snow trailers. “Probably a minor increase.” Roemer sells the majority of his painted steel open models in Colorado. However, two other western trailer builders we talked with did not fare as well, with engineering issues at the top of their list of reasons why.
Personal Watercraft
As we have previously noted, the majority of PWC trailers are being sold in packages with the jet boats. Trailer manufacturers continue to upgrade the capacity of their products to handle the ever-larger PWCs, and this market segment does seem to be growing again.
“It has rebounded some, but it’s not what it was five or six years ago,” said Mike Natale, marketing manager of New Jersey-based Sealion Trailers. Don Rusch at Midwest Industries (Shoreland’r) agreed, saying “I think the market has grown a little due to the four-cycle (engines in PWCs).” Rusch related “I think we’ve seen an increase, especially in our two-place,” but also said their singles have picked up a bit, too.
At Magenta Trailers in Iowa, president Gary Oldenkamp has also seen an upturn in PWC business. And he also commented on changing trailer requirements, but focused on the new smaller sport models from Kawasaki and Yamaha. “We have a new double trailer meant for two stand-ups.” He describes it as a smaller trailer that will fit through a garage door.
“The growth is very slow compared to ATV or motorcycle,” said Triton’s Rochelle Priesgen. “We have seen nice increases every year, partly due to expanding sales areas, and partly due to taking market share.” She pointed out that PWCs are experiencing the same up-market move that has been driving snow trailer sales. “As the boats get bigger and more expensive, the customers realize that they need a better trailer under them.”
Natale, who moves a significant number of Sealion’s PWC transporters through trailer-only specialists, also observed that the maturing PWC market provides a new opportunity. “Trailers that went out in the peak time are aging, and a replacement cycle could be starting.” psb

—David Wells

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