Off-roading in a utility vehicle often feels more like fun than work, which is probably why UTVs are often considered more of a recreational machine than a construction-focused mini truck. As a consequence, the industry took a heavy hit in markets like construction and landscaping during the recession, where it often felt like a luxury.

But that market’s changing, according to International Market Solutions (a global consulting firm), which just announced a report on the market for small, task-oriented vehicles (STOVs).

Included in the report are golf cars, low-speed electric vehicles (LSVs and inclusive of neighborhood electric vehicles), and light and heavy duty utility vehicle (UTVs). The study is the fifth in a series of studies, which have tracked the industry since 2000, and marks a significant extension of coverage to the market for off-road utility vehicles.

Small, task-oriented vehicles, all the diverse types combined, realized an end market value in vehicle sales of between $4.2 to $4.6 billion in 2009, despite the recession. 

The outlook should see this overall market size grow to $6.5 billion. It should be noted that these dollar revenues do not include either parts and accessories or servicing. While not a focus of the report, these additional products and services could double industry size.

The report, entitled The Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle Market in the United States – Golf Car-Type Vehicles, LSVs & Heavy Duty Utility & Off-Road Vehicles – Trends 2003-2009; Forecasts to 2014, is available in both electronic and hard copy form.

“We have to apologize for the length of the title, but it is such because there is still a prevailing unfamiliarity with the generic concept of these small, electric, gas and diesel-powered vehicles, specifically designed as solutions to relatively narrowly-defined tasks — whether for types of transport and work and addressing both commercial and consumer markets,” stated co-author, Stephen Metzger, and IMS Director,

“What we will see, and our research bears it out,” Metzger continues, “is that because of economy and relatively green operation, STOVs will progressively take over specific areas of mobile operations, replacing larger, more costly and more polluting general purpose vehicles, which characterize the on-road automobiles and light trucks.”

Detailed data on three major market segments. The study covers three major product areas:  golf car fleets, privately-owned vehicles and utility vehicles. Detailed trend data from 2003 is compiled for the three segments and broken out by gas and electric power and new vs. used sales. Forecasts for all segments are presented to 2014 and broken out in similar fashion. Major findings in the study are:

1. Not surprisingly the market took a major hit beginning late 2008 and extending through 2009, but the outlook -- forecasts to 2014 -- are generally positive with significant recovery in all major market segments;

2. Golf cars remain a staple product in both new and used vehicle markets but are the exception to overall growth in that the golf fleet market is negatively affected by the lack of growth in golf  course construction;
3. Federal LSV certification, which is linked to tax credits and regulations relative to on-road use, resulted in heavy sales activity in the second half of 2009, but over and above the price breaks, lends important credibility to the product class and will have a significant positive effect on future sales;

4. STOVs continue to be upgraded, adopting automotive features and standards, such that this trend of on-going product improvement, including better enclosures and other comfort factors will be a major growth promoter in the consumer and utility vehicle markets;

5. The off-road market should recover from the 2009 setback, and, in addition, see considerably more competition from a number of established participants who are traditionally associated with other market segments;

6. Electric power should continue to increase share in all segments and see more participation even in the off-road market;

7. The study’s exclusive dealer survey found that a high percentage of customers and potential purchasers had used the internet before coming to the dealership -- indicating that the internet will become a progressively more important marketing tool in the future.

In regard to the last finding, co-author Marc Cesare, who directed the dealer survey, stated, “If anything the internet, as a marketing and sales tool, is underutilized.  More effective use of the internet could well broaden the sales base of the STOV industry.”