Off-road vehicles are long established in the recreational vehicle industry; this benefits manufacturers because of steady demand, but it is vital that they provide innovative variety in their products to differentiate their products from those of other manufacturers. The global demand for off-road equipment is forecast to rise 6.0% to $575 billion in 2023, with Chinese market growth accounting for a large amount of the expected growth. Replacement purchases, investment in new technology, and increased mechanization will drive growth. However, basic efficiency, safety, and style are not enough to stand out in the off-road vehicle industry. In order to entice customers, manufacturers must enhance the comfort, convenience, and technology of their products while decreasing production and labor costs.
Smart Off-Road Technology
Smart technology and software are now applied to a huge variety of products in homes and workplaces, and off-road equipment and vehicles are no exception. Smart equipment in this instance refers to autonomous vehicles and equipment with varying levels of intelligent functionality, including fully automated machines, advanced equipment with automated features, drones, and robots. Examples include:
- See and Spray - John Deere first made its See and Spray technology available to consumers in its See and Spray Select line in spring of 2021. The system uses a camera to identify color differences and spray herbicide directly on weeds, saving farmers money by preserving expensive herbicide and applying it to fields only where it is needed.
- Smart Excavator – SRI developed an excavator that can be controlled by an operator in the cab or by a remote controller. The technology uses virtual reality visuals and motion sensing controllers to allow someone to operate the vehicle from a distance. The main goal of this technology is to combat global labor shortages, but also allows the remote user to have better accuracy with better visual angles and more precise controls.
- MK-V – Monarch has developed an all-electric, driver optional tractor. “Pairing the latest in electrification, autonomy, and smart technology, the MK-V delivers the next generation of profitable, sustainable ag equipment to your farm.” With this technology, users can operate a single tractor or a fleet. They use cameras, GPS, and sensors to differentiate objects and humans in their path from the crops and ground they work in.
Off-Road Hardware and Engines
Another area for manufacturers to innovate and create variety is in engines and other hardware such as cabs, displays, and HVAC systems. Outfitting off-road equipment with hybrid and electric engines appeals to consumers because of their efficiency and environmental impact. Improving the comfort and convenience of cabs and their controls at reasonable prices also draws the attention of many consumers, especially those who are looking to find replacements for old, less comfortable equipment. Examples of engine and hardware improvements include:
- EC380E Hybrid – Volvo construction equipment introduced the EC380E Hybrid excavator in 2022. According to Volvo, “the excavator utilizes the boom down motion to charge the accumulator, with the stored energy used to drive the assist motor which powers the engine system.” The company claims that this technology increases fuel efficiency by 12%.
- Cat 926, 930 and 938 Wheel Loaders – The Cat 926, 930 and 938 Wheel Loaders have modified cabs to improve comfort and safety, featuring small cab pillars increasing window surface area, heated and electrical mirrors to prevent fogging and provide convenient adjustment, and automatic lighting that changes according to the amount of daylight in the environment. These vehicles include many more appealing features to increase both efficiency and comfort.
Smart technology, engine efficiency and operator comfort will be significant influences of consumer choices as the mature off-road technology industry continues to grow and evolve. While the electronic bells and whistles do not seem as significant, tried and true brand designs and standardized product requirements force variety and innovation in other areas. To learn more about off-road technology around the world, enjoy Freedonia Group’s recent report, “Global Off-Road Equipment Market & Technology Outlook 2023