We sat down with Jeff Bannister, president and general manager of American Landmaster, Columbia City, Ind. American Landmaster sells UTVs at nearly 200 dealers across the U.S.
We got Bannister’s thoughts on what types of dealers do best with selling UTVs, recent business challenges, how American Landmaster has evolved over the past 5 years, and more.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer: What types of dealers do best with selling UTVs?
Bannister: One of the strong suits of our products is that we match up nicely with the ag side. We’ve got a whole series of dealers who are rural, ag people. We have dealers who specialize in golf carts that do quite well. They are taking the units and adding lift kits, redoing units and selling them. There’s a big market out there for that. If a consumer wants to go off road, then our UTV is a nice compliment. We have a similar technology to a golf cart, but with a UTV platform, not on a golf cart chassis.
We also have automotive, power sport and even Harley Davidson dealers that we work with. What we look for is somebody who’s interested in an American brand, our story, and then wants to get involved in UTVs.
RLD: What has been a recent business challenge?
Bannister: We’re trying to break through and present ourselves to the power sport industry as an entry point. We are positioning ourselves as a Chinese alternative since we’re made in America. What’s holding us back from further growth at this point is logistics and purchasing. As most UTV manufacturers do, we have a global supply chain and we struggle with suppliers, air freight and ocean freight. It’s hurting us all right now.
RLD: What has changed in the business over the past 5 years?
Bannister: We want to go to 400-500 dealers in the next 2 years. The current owner, Darryl Doden, bought the business in 2013 looking to save jobs in northeastern Indiana. We’ve been making UTVs here since late 2017. I was hired 2 years ago to reinvigorate the brand, product and dealer base. Our business was sputtering because they were trying to compete with the Chinese. There’s no way we can beat the Chinese at their game. Back then, we didn’t have much of a dealer focus. When I started, I decided we were done with internet selling. We were going to go through a dealer network. Since then, we’ve taken our dealer base from 60 to almost 200 dealers. The business has tripled in the last 2 years, and we’re looking to increase another 50% next year.
RLD: How are you managing the tough labor market?
Bannister: When we came out of Covid, we were using temp agencies to attract direct labor. We changed our entire strategy, deciding to be aggressive with our labor force. We got rid of the temp agencies, increased wages and benefits, and came out with retention and sign-on bonuses. We want to be an employer of choice in northeastern Indiana. We went from 30% of our workforce being hired through a temp agency to directly hiring 100% of our employees. It’s worked out well for us. Our employee base has doubled in 2 years from 50 to 100.
RLD: What is the outlook for the UTV market?
Bannister: The market is quite large and has grown continuously for 20 straight years. There doesn’t seem to be any slowdown. New people are coming into the market to acquire UTVs. We’re never going to be a Polaris or Can-Am. We’ve got to be ourselves. We have to perfect our game. We’re not going to be the lowest cost; we’re going to be a value purchase, American made. We have to have a little more availability, customization and things we can do as a smaller company that the big guys just can’t do.
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