Tire dealers stand to gain additional profits from stocking, selling and servicing ATV tires. With a small number of SKUs, a general knowledge of the different ATV segments, and the equipment needed to service small tires, tire dealers are more than capable to address this tire segment and take business away from ATV dealers.
In fact, ATV customers are already frequenting your tire dealership. According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), most ATV households also own pickup trucks or SUVs, as these are the transport vehicles of choice for ATV owners. If you have a large SUV/light truck tire business, chances are you’re already servicing an ATV owner.
Seasonality also doesn’t affect the segment as ATV tires and accessories are needed all year round. Historically, when introduced to the U.S., the ATV’s main appeal to motorcycle dealerships was the ability to boost sales during winter months when riders abandon their two-wheeled vehicles.
But owners also hunt or need them for yard and field work, and certainly there are plenty of other recreational activities, making ATVs a true year-round personal vehicle.
Defining the Market
The ATV market is divided up into three distinct segments with vehicle models specific to each. Those three segments are sport, multipurpose and utility vehicles or UTVs.
ATV tires are generally divided up within those segments but on a broader approach. According to Kenda USA, tires are designed based on application, with tread patterns differentiating products.
“The different demographics of ATVs are based on usage,” says Gus Niewenhous, motorcycle marketing manager for Kenda. “For that reason, ATV tires and their patterns are designed specifically based on usage. The tire patterns are the main variable in selling to these demographics.”
Sport ATVs are geared toward enthusiasts, experienced drivers/racers and recreational riders. Riders in this segment use their vehicles almost exclusively for play, which includes trail, desert and mud driving. Specific terrain tires are important to this segment as riders are more likely to demand a high level of performance from a tire.
In order to match a tire to the performance that a driver demands, ATV tread patterns are divided up into soft- and all-terrain patterns. Soft patterns are better equipped to handle soft condition such as snow and mud, and typically feature “paddles” as part of the tread design. These paddles allow the vehicle to gain traction in often mucky terrain. In extreme cases, such as riding in heavy sand, tread patterns feature giant paddles that are able to dig deep into the slippery terrain.
All-terrain tires are more balanced and, like all-weather tires, sacrifice certain performance characteristics such as snow or mud traction. These tires are ideal for recreational purposes such as trail riding, and are suitable for the next two segments.
The multipurpose segment is the largest among ATVs, according to SEMA. These vehicles are built for drivers that use their vehicle for both work and play, and generally all year round. Riders expect versatility from these vehicles and their tires as they use the vehicle itself for hunting, chores, trail driving, clearing driveways inb the winter and maintaining property from spring through the fall.
Utility models – UTVs – are the third segment of the market and are increasing in popularity, according to SEMA. This segment started out with work-based vehicles like John Deere Gators and evolved into two- and four-seat ATVs that can travel on all terrains, such as the Polaris Ranger RZR – commonly called the Razor – Kawasaki Teryx and the Can-Am Maverick. Owners of these vehicles expect their vehicle to work for them week in and week out. This segment is quickly growing, seeing a peak in interest from agricultural businesses.
When it comes to ply ratings, ATV tires come in a wide range of them. Keep in mind that the higher the ply rating, the more durable but heavier the tire. For example, tires build to withstand rocky terrains will typically have a higher ply rating. For load-bearing applications, a higher ply rating is also important to the customer. That’s why it’s important to talk with your customer to find out how they typically use their vehicle.
For a tire dealer, carrying an entire range of ATV tires would be impossible so it is key to really understand the segment, do some homework on your local market, and work with a distributor to serve customers’ needs.
Opportunities and Challenges
For those dealers that have identified an opportunity for ATV tire sales, consider the segment’s growth over time. According to SEMA, approximately 670,000 ATVs were sold from 2010 to 2012 in the U.S. That growth continued into 2013 with 353,500 UTV units sold in North America, a growth of more than 9% year-over-year, according to one industry journal.
Within the U.S., ATV sales are common in rural and agricultural states. According to a report from SEMA, Texas, California and Ohio recorded the highest ATV sales in 2012, with Texas having twice the volume of California’s sales.
The challenge, according to Kenda’s Niewenhous, is in getting the word out that your tire dealership sells and services ATV tires. “Put out displays in your shop and include information in your advertising about your powersports offerings,” says Niewenhous. “You already have customers that come into your shop, you just need to make sure that they know you carry products for their ATV.”
SEMA’s 2012 research confirms this challenge, reporting that 66% of U.S. consumers purchase ATV accessories from powersports dealers or ATV supply shops. That’s a big number, but nothing a sharp tire dealer cannot overcome with the right effort. Marketing efforts should be focused on awareness of your dealership’s ATV tire products and services, especially targeting those customer most likely to own ATVs.
Additionally, Kenda notes that dealers should invest in proper equipment to mount smaller wheel diameter sizes. While there aren’t many specialize mount/demount tools necessary, make sure you make the proper investment to protect your customers investment.
Once the word is out, suppliers established and equipment in place, there are plenty of opportunities for ATV tire sales and service throughout the entire year.