HONDA is set to move the manufacturing of its side-by-side vehicles from a plant in Mexico to its mainstream facilities in South Carolina in the United States in response to growing demand in the utility vehicle sector of the market.
The company’s product planning assistant manager for motorcycles and ATVs in Australia, Travis Maher, Melbourne, said production of its signature side-by-side, the MUV700 Big Red 4X4, would move to the South Carolina plant at the end of the year.
Mr Maher said while Honda was already established as market leader in the Australian ATV market where it sold 15 different agricultural ATVs into the rural sector, the MUV700 was the company’s first side-by-side vehicle introduced in 2009 to meet growing demand.
“There is a switch to side-by-sides because of their perceived safety, tilt tray and more carrying capacity, and capacity to carry an extra passenger,” he said.
“We have 10 per cent of the Australian side-by-side market over the rolling 12 months.
“In just the first three months of this year we have 21.6pc and it has gone to the number one side-by-side vehicle.
“These are FCAI figures – Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries – where the manufacturers send their data to a third party which compiles the information.
“We have repriced it, our dealers are really supporting the product and we are definitely making inroads.”
Mr Maher said the MUV700 was purpose-built for the agricultural market.
“It is a working unit, it doesn’t lean towards the recreational side like some of the other products,” he said.
“It has a liquid-cooled four-stroke Honda 680cc motor and CVT transmission, so no belts. It is particularly with things like engine braking that you see the benefits of that, particularly for ag purposes.”
The unit has a range of transmission options: rear wheels only, four wheels or differential lock.
It has a tilt tray along with seat belts and certified ROPS protection.