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By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs@atvsource.com

April 2007 - Off The Pegs

Beyond the Corporate Juggernauts

Hyosung TE450
Hyosung TE450

Last month I talked about the release of Kawasaki’s KFX-450R and what implications its arrival would inflict upon the industry. Unlike the world of performance street bikes, competition ATVs have pretty much arrived to us from a single location on the globe. It should come as no surprise that up until now, Japan has dominated the ATV market to levels where race enthusiasts literally have nowhere else to turn. In 2005 Honda held a majority of the global market share of the ATV market at 29%, in second place were both Yamaha and Polaris at 21%, Suzuki held third with 11%, Kawasaki fourth with 8%, Arctic Cat fifth with 6%, BRP sixth with 3%, and John Deere came in last with 1%. Before finding false security in Polaris and Arctic Cat’s decent rankings in the survey, consider this: Suzuki has owned well over 30% of Arctic Cat in recent years (although they are ridding themselves of stock shares of late) which explains the company’s willingness to co-brand many of their ATV models with the American firm. Polaris, on the other hand, may be a bit more rooted here on American soil, but their performance engine development has traditionally been outsourced. Their 500cc sport entry, the Polaris Predator, comes equipped with a Fuji power-plant directly from Japan; and while their recent merger with Austrian performance juggernaut, KTM, went to the wayside by 2006 (less than a year after it had started), the company still produces ATV models powered by KTM mills.

Not included in the 2005 survey, but equally noteworthy were Kymco USA and Can-Am (formerly Bombardier). Kymco’s roots in the motor-sport industry can be traced back to its founding in 1963 with its headquarters in Taiwan. Even today it is through a US partnership located physically in Inman, South Carolina that the brand is imported then marketed and distributed domestically. Can-Am, which has been developing and testing its ATVs in Quebec, Canada has announced that it too will be transferring assembly to Taiwan and Mexico by the end of 2008.

Enter Hyosung Motors, a company established in Korea back in 1978. Hyosung Motors began to export their own motorcycles to Japan within the first decade of their existence. By 1988, the company had passed the 500,000 unit mark of production motorcycles, 1 million in 1996, and 2 million in 2001. For 2007 the relatively small (under 500 employees) firm plans to break into the ATV industry by releasing a three-model line of quads, most prominent being a performance-specific 450cc model known only as the TE450.

While specifics are slow to trickle from the company itself, press releases have already begun to circulate claiming that the machine will come equipped with a five-speed manual transmission with reverse, electric start, a four-valve, liquid cooled, dual overhead cam, four-stroke, putting out a claimed 51 horsepower, and an overall dry weight of 378 pounds. Comparatively, Suzuki and Kawasaki’s dedicated race quads both weigh in at a claimed 368 pounds.

Even more interesting is that the new TE450 will be co-released with a United Motors badged counterpart labeled the Moontrax-450R. United Motors (or UM) is based in Miami, Florida with roots that can be traced as far back as 1951. In 2005, UM signed an agreement with Hyosung in which the Korean OEM would offer models and technology to United Motors to be distributed in unique color schemes/separate logos and in doing so completed their product line with engines as large as 650cc. The result was United Motors becoming the first full-line manufacturer in the powersports industry in nearly 30 years. The relationship was mutually beneficial as United Motors was able to expand their line without investing in costly R&D or manufacturing facilities while Hyosung was able to make use of UM’s more expansive and already established US dealership networks. The Moontrax-450R, which is actually a re-badged Hyosung TE450, is set to be released stateside later this year as a 2007 model with a retail price of $5,999.

From an enthusiast standpoint, word of this new model’s stateside distribution is certainly encouraging news. Competition coming in the form of Korean imports will only prompt the Japanese manufacturers to continue to raise the bar with their proprietary R&D while searching for means to keep prices competitive. The recent OEM rejuvenation in terms of the stock performance ATV segment is only strengthened each time a manufacturer decides to take the plunge and become a part of it. As one of the fundamental principals instilled to us lowly business students; competition is good. It is good for the market, good for the economy, and most of all good for the consumer. As an ATV consumer in the strictest sense of the word with abundant eagerness to shred my test track with an MTX-450R the moment it becomes available, I would have to agree. Perhaps my professors knew what they were talking about all along.

For more information on Hyosung, visit: www.hyosungmotorsusa.com
For more information on United Motors, head to: www.umamerica.com


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