For some consumers, all-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles represent a fun weekend riding on the trails. For others, ATVs and UTVs represent a hard-working machine that gets the job done. For tire dealers, the ATV/UTV market represents an opportunity to service another tire customer.
“The market has rebounded well since the economy worries in the late 2000s,” says Rhett Turpin, director of sales at The Carlstar Group, which makes Carlisle and ITP branded tires. “There are several million ATVs and UTVs in use globally today. Industry, municipalities, jobsite, agricultural, and ranch use has grown significantly.”
Steve Strauss, general manager at Titan Tire Corp., agrees that the ATV/UTV market is on the rise.
“The ATV and UTV tire market has been strong the last couple of years with a move away from ATVs and more toward side-by-side machines,” he says.
The future of the ATV/UTV tire market looks positive, the tiremakers share.
“I would say that future performance looks bright,” Turpin says. “Similar factors to that of economic growth such as employment levels, interest rates, consumer confidence, and disposable income influence this market.”
The continued use and adoption of side-by-side (SXS) vehicles could also impact the ATV/UTV tire market. SXS machines are more powerful and may require larger and higher performance tires to meet demands, Strauss says.
“It appears that this market will continue to develop and create a demand for additional tire sizes and tread patterns,” he says.
Something else that could impact the industry is change in laws that may allow the use of ATV/UTV vehicles on roads in more locations. Today these vehicles don’t qualify as motor vehicles, and therefore are not regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Laws vary state to state. For rules about ATV/UTV usage, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website (www.cpsc.gov).
“Relaxing some of these laws will allow for even more day-to-day use and a need for a wider variety of ATV and UTV tires,” Strauss notes.
Understanding the Customer
The good news for tire dealers is that all-terrain vehicle and utility-terrain vehicle users are probably already represented in their customer base. Since ATVs and UTVs tend to be used as secondary vehicles, their owners may already have primary vehicles being serviced by your shop, with SUVs and light trucks being the preferred transport vehicle of this segment.
The ATV/UTV user is diverse. Some riders are using their vehicles recreationally, while others need their vehicle to get the job done.
“Some casual customers may be looking for the least expensive tire they can find because they do not use their machines that often, whereas some individuals are looking for the latest, most aggressive mud tread pattern because they are looking to have some fun in a swampy marsh or waterway,” shares Strauss.
In the recreational segment, riders could be using their vehicles for trail, desert or mud driving. Specific terrain tires are important for this type of enthusiast driver so they can get the most from their vehicles.
When it comes to an ATV or UTV tire’s build, radial construction and some bias is still used. Various other construction methods and rubber compounds are often used to enhance ride, durability, handling, grip and overall performance in specific application environments, shares Carlstar’s Turpin.
In order to match a tire to the performance that a driver demands, ATV and UTV offer diverse pattern and tread options. Tread patterns are divided up into soft- and all-terrain patterns.
Soft patterns are better equipped to handle soft conditions, such as snow and mud, and typically feature “paddles” as part of the tread design. These paddles help the tires dig into the slippery terrain.
All-terrain tread patterns feature lugs and tend to be better suited for trail riding or for work vehicles.
“Work-related use has grown significantly over the past several years. These units are used on a daily, if not around-the-clock basis. They are often used on hard surfaces and subject to abuse. The consumers are looking for, but not limited to, traction, puncture resistance, and overall performance and durability. Tread life, stability, load carrying capacity and durability are major factors for the other applications,” Turpin says.
There are slight differences between ATV and UTV tires that dealers need to be aware about. UTVs typically require a larger tire with more plies to help carry heavier loads, while ATV tires are typically smaller in size and carry less weight.
There are exceptions, however.
“Some ATV tires can be used as UTV tires but they require higher inflation pressures to carry the load — and at higher speeds, the tire’s weight load capacity decreases. That’s why it’s important to check with your tire manufacturer for specific details,” Strauss shares.
There is little seasonality in the ATV/ UTV vehicle segment. Machines can be found almost anywhere in the country, with tire needs varying based on terrain.
“Customers in the West and Southwest may look for a paddle tire for sandy terrain instead of a lug type tire just because of the surface that they drive on. Every customer is unique,” Strauss notes.
What Dealers Need to Know
Dealers looking to break into the ATV/UTV segment need to research their local market and work with the manufacturers to understand the various product options before jumping in.
“Know the product and the intended use,” Turpin advises. Be prepared to discuss the features and benefits. Be able to steer their clients toward the proper selection for their intended use.
“Visibility is key to driving sales. You cannot sell them if the consumer doesn’t know you offer them. Know the product, understand the application, and be confident in selling based on overall value – quality, service, warranty, and reputation,” he continues.
If space allows, dealers should carry a variety of inventory to meet the local market’s needs, the tiremakers suggest.
The most common size for the segment are 25×10-12 for the rear and a 25×8-12 for the front. The demand for 28-inch sizes is growing fast, too.
Both Titan and Carlstar have released new tires into the market for ATV and UTV tires.
Titan recently released the new Mud Monster tread design that comes in five different sizes. The tiremaker is also launching the new Titan T-hawk, with a “hard pack-off road” tread. The T-hawk will be available in 26×10-12 and 26×10-14 sizing.
Under its Carlisle brand, Carlstar introduced the Trail Pro BIAS UTV tire to the market this past year. The tire is fitted as OE on two Arctic Cat machines. In addition, the Carlisle brand has rolled out the Versa Trail ATR. The 6-ply radial tire is designed for extended wear, cut, chip and impact resistance.
Under the ITP brand name, the tiremaker has introduced the Cryptid UTV mud tire. The company also expanded the size offerings in its Blackwater Evolution and Ultra Cross R Spec lines.