Functional and fun, the ATV seems to have found its place in agriculture. The list of its uses is a country mile long.
Story by By John Dutcher, National Future Farmer, #32, August-September 1984, Page 16/26
Farmers and ranchers are discovering that doing the same old chores each morning doesn't have to take quite as long as it used to - they're loading up their saddlebags and , if you will, "lettin' the good times roll." The machines saving their feet from the onset of corns and their backs from toting and fetching are called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). ATVs, developed in the late 1960s, look like a cross between a motorcycle and a lawn and garden tractor. Once thought to be the "ugly duckling" of motorcycles, the ATV has come into its own as ·the workhorse and breadwinner of the industry.
Don Hanson and his homemade sprayer unit
"The agriculture community continues to be one of our major markets," says Honda spokesman, Wayne Toyota. "The ATV is extremely useful around the farm. Farmers never seem to run out of ideas on uses for it." Farmers and ranchers are using ATVs to check herds, mend fences, run errands and tow light loads, industry spokesmen say.
ATVs arc now built in three- and four-wheel models, with many accessories available. by most motorcycle manufacturers. In some cases, it's the accessories that make ATVs particularly appealing for around-the-farm use. Kawasaki offers a sprayer attachment which can be used for either rowcrops or orchards; two types of utility trailers: racks and whip antennas (long antennas with orange flags for on-road use). Others offer toolboxes. baskets and saddle bags.
But agriculture has always been the realm of the do-it-yourselfer. Don Hanson, a Kingdom City. Missouri, farmer is a prime example. From a few odds and ends, he built a 54-foot sprayer to pull behind his ATV and "run across the mud. not through it." Hanson says he likes his ATV because, "it's a handy overall vehicle." He uses it for most of his spraying and to plant clover seed.
It's not all work for the A TV, according to one manufacturer. Although farmers may say they buy ATVs to "do small chores around the farm." many end up using the vehicle for farm-type work only a bout 40 percent of the time. The other 60 percent, they assume, is used for some fun laps in the south forty. Kawasaki is happy with their newfound "friends" in agriculture. From 1981 to early 1983, 45 to 55 percent of their ATVs were sold to farmers or ranchers. This accounted for what Kawasaki considered the "lion's share" of the agricultural market at that time.
"The recession really hurt the motorcycle industry. People wanted to buy shoes and food - not motorcycles. But, at the same time motorcycle sales were dropping, sales of ATVs really took off," says Mel Moore, a Kawasaki spokesman. "They were really popular with farmers. For roughly $1,500, a guy could get a small utility vehicle. They also had accessories farmers liked," Mr. Moore says. "Now we can't build them fast enough."
Are ATVs the farm implements of the '80s? Yes and no say industry leaders. Although they recognize the growth and importance of agricultural sales, they stress that certain models are more adaptable to agricultural use than others. Several manufacturers are starting to sell ATVs designed specifically for use in agriculture. In 1983, Honda sold 67,755 of its Big Red, a model designed for agricultural utility, according to Mr. Toyota. Big Red is one of II ATVs offered by Honda. In a recent survey of Honda ATV purchasers, 20 percent of those who bought the vehicles said they did so for their businesses. Of those 20 percent, over 75 percent said their business was in agriculture.
For 1983, industry sources report that ATV sales doubled in annual growth rate from 30 to 60 percent. ATV sales will account for an estimated 30 percent of overall motorcycle industry sales this year.
ATV sales will account for an estimated 30 percent of overall motorcycle industry sales this year.
Andy Buell, a Quincy, Michigan, FFA member uses his ATV for chores and small loads
Industry spokesmen stress that consumers must realize the ATV was first designed as a recreational vehicle. They caution farmers and ranchers against towing weights that exceed the safe limit of the vehicle and neglecting to wear safety headgear.
Mr. Moore encourages riders to use lower speeds if they aren't wearing headgear and to consult the owner's manual for the vehicle's towing capacity. "Overall, they're pretty safe to ride," says Mr. Moore. The high gas mileage and relatively low maintenance is also attractive to consumers, according to Mr. Moore. He says that given its regularly scheduled maintenance, an ATV should last six to eight years easily. "Like any piece of machinery, it will last as long as you want it to," he says.
ATVs also have another big advantage: it can be recognized as a piece of "farm machinery" in the eyes of the federal government. This means farmers and ranchers can depreciate the cost of the vehicle just as they would any other farm implement and take that depreciation off of their federal income taxes.
All factors - good gas mileage, tax advantages, versatility and a price tag that's relatively low compared to other farm implements, seem to account for the rags to riches story of the ATV. It's basically a story of farmers seeing something they thought they could use and then adapting it to their operation - not all that uncommon an event in American agriculture.
If you would like more information on ATVs, Honda offers a brochure and film for their use and safe operation.
The brochure, 3 Wheelin' For The Fun Of It may be obtained by writing: Mary Barta, American Honda Motor Co.,
Inc., 100 West Alondra Blvd., Gardena, California 90247. To view the film, you can visit your local Honda dealer. Or,
you can obtain a VHS or 16mm film by writing or calling: Modern Talking Picture Service, 5000 Park Street North, St.
Petersburg, Florida 33709 phone (813) 541-5763.