Editor's Note: Here's an excerpt from a feature story in Rural Lifestyle Dealer's spring issue. Click here to read the complete feature.

Industry expert Steve Shankin, president of Seizmik, a manufacturer of UTV accessories, breaks down how dealers can create excitement around UTV sales. Increasing UTV sales and profits hinges on showing customers a complete package — a vehicle with multiple accessory options and upgrades, something more dealers should take advantage of, according to Shankin.

“Get a customer’s imagination going. Let them imagine themselves in this really cool, nice-looking UTV. Sell them something that fits with who they think they are as a person and how they want to be perceived. Get them in ‘want mode,’ not ‘need mode,’” says Shankin. He has been studying UTV customers for 18 years and is president of Seizmik, a manufacturer of UTV accessories. Shankin shares details about the size of the market, debunks excuses he hears from dealers and offers ways you can become the local expert on UTVs.

Tallying the Potential

Let’s start with some numbers regarding UTV accessories to give you an idea of what you could be earning. First, recent data from CDK Lightspeed, an analysis of 172,000 new unit invoices, shows that the average spent on UTV accessories at the time of the vehicle’s purchase is up to $1,716 from $1,098 just 2 years ago. That’s a 56% increase in dollars spent on accessories.

However, the data also showed that 53% of UTVs sold leave without any accessories. What’s worse is that percentage is up from 50% 2 years ago.

Another data set looks only at the dealers who are selling accessories to get a different view of the potential. “Customers of dealers who are selling vehicles with accessories on them are spending an average of $3,651 in accessories. That’s up from $2,196 two years ago. That is a whopping 66% increase.

“And the gap is getting bigger between the good and bad dealers. And the good dealers are crushing the bad dealers from a financial performance point of view, because they're understanding these dynamics about the customer, and they're selling $3,651 worth of accessories on an average utility vehicle, while the bad dealers are selling zero. And the dealers who are selling zero, those customers simply go and buy those things on the internet,” Shankin says.

Growing Market

About 465,000 UTVs were sold through all channels in 2017. Shankin says there’s a misconception that high performance models make up most of those sales. In fact, data shows that nearly half of the UTVs sold are in the utility crossover vehicle segment, while the super sport segment is only 18%. On the other end of the spectrum, pure utility vehicle sales account for about 20% of sales. (See the chart, “UTV Sales by Segment” below.)

Nearly half of all UTV sales are in the utility crossover vehicle segment.

“All of the vehicles have a big bed, they can do a lot of work and they’re also shockingly capable off road. There’s a lot of opportunity for the rural lifestyle dealer because the growth that’s happening is not really happening in your channel, so this is where there’s a massive opportunity for you,” Shankin says.

Shankin compares UTV sales potential to the sales of under 40 horsepower tractors, a good revenue driver for rural dealers right now. Last year, sales across North America totaled 169,301, according to the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers. “In the under 40 horsepower tractor market, while it’s growing, it doesn't have anywhere near the financial performance or the unit performance of the utility vehicle business.”

Creating Excitement

Just because the crossover vehicles are good at work doesn’t mean dealers should have the same approach as they do when selling tractors. That’s the first mistake dealers make. The second — and most critical — is displaying only “bare bones” models. And, the third is that dealers often don’t spend the time to become an expert on how customers use vehicles in their area.

“When you show them a naked utility vehicle — basically just a roll cage, seats and steering wheel — you’re showing them a $12,000 wheelbarrow and that’s not a great value proposition for anybody. What they want to see is all the things the vehicle can do for them.

“When you show them a broad range of options, vehicles ranging from $14,000-$37,000, that’s when they get excited. You give them the opportunity to buy what they need and what they want. You actually give the customer the opportunity to spend more money and be happier,” Shankin says. For a similar buying experience, compare what customers are willing to spend when it comes to pickup trucks for options and enhanced packages.

And, Shankin doesn’t believe the excuse that UTV customers are only concerned about price. “The average price of a utility vehicle in 2017 was $12,275, up from $12,064 in 2016, and it's gone up every year since this data has been tracked, going back to the mid '90s. In fact, vehicles costing more than $20,000 outsell vehicles costing less than $8,000. Customers are willing to pay more to get performance and value out of these vehicles. It is not a super price-sensitive business,” he says.


View Steve Shankin's presentation in the Dealer Success Academy, "UTVs & the Massive Missed Opportunities.”