Kubota Sidekick Experience Media Event – UTV Heaven
Media events and trade shows are nothing new to us, but it’s not every day that we get to test drive utility vehicles. We find ourselves this week on the shores of Lake Lanier, just above Atlanta, GA, for the Kubota Sidekick Experience Event. Kub0ta is known for their diesel-powered tractors and utility vehicles, but not this week. It’s all about the new Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850 which is a 48 hp, 40 mph utility vehicle, powered by pure gasoline.
There is no hiding that Kubota has it’s roots and global headquarters in Japan; however, roots are growing pretty deep here in the USA as well. Kubota Manufacturing of America (KMA) was founded in 1988, in Gainesville, GA. Initially, the deep south KMA headquarters were producing backhoes and front-end loaders. In 2004, product lines grew to incorporate the entry of the company’s first RTV (Rough Terrain Vehicle). Until now, Kubota’s focus on Utility Vehicles was solely on the “Work” segment. This new Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850 is a crossover, meeting the needs and wants of a growing buyer segment.
First Look Article: Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850
KMA in Georgia is not the only USA location for Kubota. Office headquarters for the brand is in Grapevine, TX, just outside of Dallas. In fact, we covered a story a few weeks ago about the purchase of the Kubota Ranch just a few miles down the road from Grapevine. The new 330 acres of the ranch finally give Kubota a single place for testing all sorts of equipment. Maybe next year well have the Kubota Sidekick Experience #2 out at Kubota Ranch.
Day 1 at the Kubota Sidekick Experience
Our first day consisted mostly of traveling to the beautiful venue at Lake Lanier Islands Resort. After checking in and settling down a bit, it was time for dinner with the Kubota staff. Raj J. kicked things off for the Kubota Sidekick Experience. Raj explained the different markets for utility vehicles. You have the pure work-related UTV, Recreational, Sport, and the Multipurpose. This Multipurpose category bridges the gap between the Work and Recreational segments.
Next, we discussed the market opportunity for the new Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850. The Multipurpose or Crossover is the fastest growing market in UTVs. The past year shows an average growth of 12% for the crossover, yet all other segments shrunk. Not only did the crossover category grow, but it did so with new buyers, not just your typical ATV buyers. Many of these buyers are looking for a family experience with less risk than typical motorcycles and ATV’s. In addition, buyers are also looking to step away from Pickup purchases to UTVs, hence lower cost, fuel economy, parking space, and insurance.
At the heart of this Kubota RTV-XG850 is a gas-powered Subaru twin cylinder 48-horsepower engine. When you need to get there quick, the Sidekick can run up to 40 mph. In addition to the 48hp, you also get a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), 4WD, and electronic power steering.
“On the farm, around the pasture and in the woods, the Kubota Sidekick is the best multi-use machine on the market and is Kubota’s fastest, strongest, and most agile utility vehicle yet,” said Roger Gifford, Kubota product manager, utility vehicles. “Customers can confidently take on any task or terrain with comfortable, convenient and capable features, and with the speed to get there fast, up to 40 mph fast.”
Day 2 – Driving the Sidekick RTV-XG850
Day 2 lived up to the hype that the Kubota Sidekick Experience was all about. We drove the Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850 UTVs through an old golf course, and we were encouraged to reach top speed…in a safe area, of course. There were uphill and downhill areas along with bumps, ruts, and many undulations.
In case you’re wondering me and Clint (from Pro Tool Reviews) eclipsed the 40 mph goal, with a few more to boot. Of course, the following hills and bumps made for good suspension testing as well. We didn’t utilize the 4WD or the locking differential, but the Kubota Sidekick Experience – driving experience – included plenty of fun.
CVT Transmission and Centrifugal Clutch
Roger Gifford gave us a tutorial on the engineering and quality behind the Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850. While Subaru does manufacture the engine in the UTV, Kubota owns all the tooling for the engines. Basically, Subaru can’t use the motor in something else unless they have Kubota’s blessing. They call their CVT transmission a CVT-Plus. This CVT-Plus includes a Centrifugal Clutch that allows the CVT belt to remain in tension at all times, hence allowing engine-braking at all speeds. Kubota’s UTV competition has yet to include this technology in their offerings.
ROPS that Breathes
The Rollover Protection Structure on the Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850 plays a dual role. Not only does it provide the needed roll cage during a rollover, but it also operates as a breathing tube for the CVT-Plus transmission and clutch. The intake breather for the engine is located under the hood, but Kubota includes a separate air intake for cooling the clutch. From the side of the clutch cover, it’s easy to follow the tapered industrial-grade hose to the lower ROPS tubing. This intake utilizes the hollow ROPS tubing with a vented section just beneath the dash, in the cab. This allows the clutch to receive clean and cool air to feed the clutch.
Not Just Kubota Orange
In the past, Kubota UTVs came in two colors: Kubota Orange and Camo. Things have changed with the Sidekick. You can choose from four different colors with the Kubota RTV-XG850: Kubota Orange, Army Green, Black, and Realtree Camo. And, the options don’t stop here. Accessories and options for the Sidekick number in the scores. You can get a premium roof with an integrated radio and speakers, real glass windshield (or plexiglass), 4,000 lb winch, aluminum wheels, additional LED lights, and much more.
Setting Sun on Day 2
Finishing the day, we found ourselves onboard a large boat on the lake, enjoying some food, fellowship, and the sunset.
Kubota Sidekick Experience – Day 3 (Final Day)
The day started early, with breakfast served at 6:00 am. Onboard a bus at 7 am and we traveled North of the Lake to Gainesville, GA, home of Kubota Manufacturing of America (KMA). KMA was born in Georgia 30 years ago, with just 44 employees. Today, the KMA facilities employ more than 2,600 employees. This includes two campuses, with expansion currently underway.
We were greeted by Hiro, President of KMA, and Brian Arnold, VP of Operations was our tour guide for the morning. All of the UTVs manufactured by Kubota are made in this Georgia plant. Every 200 seconds a complete UTV rolls off the assembly line, albeit this is currently operating with only 1 shift each day. With the current staff, the KMA facility can produce about 170 vehicles per day.
Most of the UTVs manufactured at the KMA plant are shipped straight to dealers, with only a few going to distributors. Currently, the lead time for Kubota UTV orders are about 90-days, however, no need to fret, this is for the dealers. Your local dealer should already have one in the showroom for you. If you need to order something really special, you may have to wait the 90 days. Kubota is experiencing issues with the shortage of truck drivers to deliver goods, as is everyone else that ships in the USA.
We finish our Kubota Tractor Corporation Sidekick Experience event in Georgia with a visit to Kubota Manufacturing of America. 100% of the Kubota UTVs are made here. 90% are shipped to US and Canada. Check out the full article!https://bit.ly/2MLeDHU#atv #kubota #sidekickXperience
Posted by OPE Reviews on Friday, August 24, 2018
USA Fabrication and Assembly
Up to 80 automated vehicles are utilized in daily operations at Kubota Manufacturing. Kubota continues to ramp-up production, as sales increase. At full-yield, they can produce more than 75,000 units per year.KMA has their own training facility and program for new employees, including part-time high school students. With a local unemployment rate of 2.3%, KMA pulls from 11 different local counties, yet still has trouble filling their needed positions. They offer very impressive wages and benefits, so if you’re in the area, and want a job, check them out.
Some of the products are sourced from Global materials, but much of the frame and chassis are fabricated from 100% domestic steel, right there in the Georgia plant. They are an ISO 14000 certified facility, so conservation and efficiency are of utmost importance for Kubota.
Wrapping Up the Kubota Sidekick Experience
KMA, KTC (Kubota Tractor Corporation), and their marketing team really put their best foot forward for this Kubota Sidekick Experience. They provided in-depth information about the Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850, and they opened the door to communication and discussion. Furthermore, they handed over the keys to several Sidekicks and encouraged us to push them to the limits. In the end, the Sidekick appears to live up to Kubota durability and delivers gasoline performance with a true 40-mph UTV. We only had a few laps in the Sidekick, so we hope to get one in soon for a full in-depth review.
For more information on the Kubota Sidekick RTV-XG850, click here.