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Cub Cadet looking ahead to next 50 years

Volunteer provides a versatile side-by-side option

By Dave McMahon
Senior Editor

As Cub Cadet celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011, the Ohio-based manufacturer continues to see growth of its Volunteer side-by-side utility vehicle.

Cub Cadet’s 50th celebration included a social media outreach in which consumers were encouraged to submit future visions for the brand. Thousands of consumers participated by submitting diagrams and drawings. The top submissions can be viewed at CubCadet.com, and the winners will be announced in November.

“It gave people an opportunity — without very many parameters — to say what the next 50 years of Cub Cadet will look like,” Salamon said. “It reinforced that the brand is a leader in the categories it’s in, and it’s innovative and progressive. We were really pleased with the participation. It was really more about celebrating the next 50 years. We have more innovative ideas in R&D than we can possibly tackle.”

Since the Volunteer was brought to market in 2006, customers have regularly remarked about the vehicle’s versatility.
“It is strong, it is stout, and it is built to take quite a beating — the chassis, the frame, the axle,” Salamon said. “When you look at that, you realize it’s built to really get out there and engage in just about anything you give it. It has a 1,400-pound payload. It’s built solid. And I don’t want to underestimate the value of it being built in the United States.”

The Volunteer factory in Streetsboro, Ohio, near Akron, has rebounded from a sub-par 2010, in which demand trumped supply.

“I’m pleased to say that our production has been able to meet demand this year,” Salamon said. “When UTV sales started moving forward and led a lot of the category in powersports, we had to really ramp up our production to meet the demand.”
The Volunteer has been a consistent revenue builder for power equipment dealers, and powersports dealers are seeing its benefits also, Salamon said.

“A lot of our dealers are crossover dealers — they carry both power equipment and powersports,” said Salamon, a 20-year industry veteran who once headed sales and marketing for KTM. “The crossover dealers are telling us they see a revenue opportunity with products that people need as much as products that people want. There’s a difference between power equipment and powersports. One is more need-based and one is more want-based. It really balances out these crossover dealerships so that they can sustain throughout the year a revenue stream that addresses both need and want.”
With that in mind, the Volunteer was built to fit a need in the utility segment. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be some play involved, too.

“The line between work and play is sometimes very blurred. The idea with the Volunteer is that it’s about being able to take on any type of task and work within scope of the utility vehicle, and we’re pushing to do more of that,” Salamon said. “We don’t want to lose sight of the creature comforts, the ergonomics and just the ability of it to be an enjoyable machine. That’s a focus for the Volunteer and it is dedicated to that. It fits into the whole scope of the Cub brand.”

In the new economy, powersports dealers are becoming more intrigued by the Volunteer and its ability to drive sales.

“With what we’ve been experiencing with the economic shift, consumers and dealers are smarter in their decisions in what they want to buy and what they want to invest in,” Salamon said. “They’re willing to pay for something that delivers, and the Volunteer is all about versatility. We have ideas and concepts on the drawing board that really continue to push the versatility of a utility vehicle that is meant to solve a lot of opportunities and challenges.”

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Salamon added that powersports dealers are continually turning to Cub Cadet to as a way to reach the side-by-side customer who might otherwise forego the purchase.

“A lot of product in that [side-by-side] category is considered luxury product,” he said. “There’s a high desire and high want for it, but not necessarily a high need. Those are oftentimes the products that are discretionary in purchase, and when the economic shift like we are experiencing occurs, those are some of the purchase decisions that are put off temporarily or indefinitely. Dealers are recognizing this economic pattern shift that has emerged. They see that they can augment their revenue with product that people need to take care of their area.”

Cub Cadet continues to use innovation to help drive dealership sales. The concept Volunteer VTX was unveiled at the SEMA Show in 2010, and phase 2 of the vehicle is underway, including some patent-pending developments of the concept vehicle will make it “very functional.”

The Volunteer’s demographic reaches multi-acre property owners, including those who own ranches and farms. Grounds care professionals at colleges and universities also fit the target audience, as do security patrols.

“It’s also used for transporting people in higher education and municipality settings,” Salamon said. “It’s used for down and dirty hard work, too, and some people will put a cab on it, add doors and a windshield for personnel transport.”

Cub Cadet continues to manufacture accessories and attachments for the Volunteer. Some of the most popular are integrated light bars, cabs and doors, along with alloy wheels, bedliners and an electric bedlift.

The Volunteer has dealers located in all 50 states, with dealer expansion a current priority, mostly in the eastern and western U.S.

“We’re looking for the right kind of dealer,” Salamon said. “We’re looking for that business-savvy dealer who also understands the importance of passion with the product and its use, and we’re getting a lot of interest from crossover dealerships — power equipment, powersports. There’s a fit there.”

“It’s about developing the space in the utility vehicle that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily pay attention to,” Salamon said.

“Everybody wants to be faster. They want to move toward the sport side, but that’s only recognizing about 25 percent of the capacity of the UTV.”

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