On November 4, 2014, Polaris Industries received notification from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles that, despite previous approval, the Slingshot three wheeler would not be allowed to be registered as a motorcycle. This change in classification means that the Slingshot would not be licensable for use on Texas roads because it lacks many features required for classification as an automobile. At issue, according to Polaris, is the definition of a saddle:
“The Texas motorcycle definition refers to a ‘saddle’ which has been interpreted as requiring the seat to be between your legs, which is not the case with Slingshot.” Other than the expected statements of looking ”forward to working with DMV, DPS, the legislature and the Governor’s office to develop an appropriate vehicle classification for Slingshot and operator licensing classification for its drivers,” Polaris has been silent.
Privately, Polaris notified its Slingshot dealers in a confidential internal memo that was leaked to the internet about 10 seconds after it was sent out. This memo gives a tad more information pertinent to the dealers. First, customers who plan to get around Polaris’ withholding of Slingshots from Texas dealers by purchasing one out-of-state will find themselves thwarted when they attempt to register the three-wheeler in Texas. The second takeaway from the memo is that Polaris really has no idea how long this fixing of the vehicle code to make it more Slingshot-friendly will take: “There is no set timeline, though we are exploring multiple avenues to resolve this as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
The manufacturer’s advice for what dealers should say to potential customers was straightforward: If you’ve already made a deposit, hope for the best, and write your state representative. (Or you are entitled to ask for your deposit back, but hang tight, we really are trying to remedy this.) For folks who are anxious to put their money down, the advice is the same as above.
The section of the motor vehicle code causing the Slingshot’s trouble can be found in the definition of a motorcycle: “’Motorcycle’ means a motor vehicle designed to propel itself with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and having a saddle for the use of the rider.” Yes, the Slingshot’s operator support is really more of a seat a driver sits in than a saddle that the rider sits astride. However, if the issue really is over the definition of the word saddle, Texas’ stance on the Slingshot is confusing since, according to posts by Texans on Slingshot forums, both Morgan and Campagna T-Rex three-wheelers are eligible as motorcycles while still utilizing side-by-side seating.
This seems to mesh with the law governing passengers riding on a motorcycle as outlined on the FindLaw website: “(c) If the motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person, a passenger may ride only on the permanent and regular seat, if designed for two persons, or on another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle behind or to the side of the operator.” Neither of these two vehicles offer saddles in the traditional sense, either.
To verify that both the Morgan and the T-Rex were legal in Texas, we contacted representatives from both companies to get their statements. The Los Angeles rep for Morgan said that the Morgan is 50-state legal and she would hear through her personal customers if they had difficulty licensing a Morgan in Texas. A T-Rex sales representative said the company was in the final stages of penning a contract for their first official dealership in Texas. So, apparently, it’s full speed ahead for T-Rex and its more roadsterish sibling, the V13R, too.