Evolved from a simple napkin sketch to a purpose built two-seat utility vehicle, Kawasaki revolutionized the side-x-side (SxS) utility vehicle segment with the introduction of the MULE 1000, 30 years ago. Kawasaki saw a need in the market that was being underserved by the ATV segment, which generated the idea for a two-seat, four wheel utility vehicle.
It took nearly seven years of development by Kawasaki’s Research and Development team to bring the first MULE 1000 SxS to production in 1988. The design team worked through a variety of engines and designs, to meet the needs of the ranchers and farmers eventually incorporating a 454cc liquid-cooled parallel twin, which was taken from its cruiser lineup. The engine was large enough to support the 500lb carrying capacity and two riders, and quiet enough not to scare animals out on the farm, according to the company.
Codenamed “Pony” by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, LTD in Japan, a production name was needed for the new utility vehicle. The advertising agency for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. at the time, Bozell Advertising, pitched using the acronym Multi-Use Light Equipment or MULE for the new SxS line – thus the MULE was born.
Today, the MULE has evolved with the inclusion of four-wheel drive, locking differentials and other advanced features. But at the heart of every MULE (which are assembled in Lincoln, Neb.) is the company’s original 30-year old SxS in a growing powersports category.