Slingshot Sales/Licensing Banned in Texas

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles changes its mind

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.

Duke’s Den – That’s Not A Motorcycle!

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.”

At issue: Are these seats or saddles?

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.

2015 Polaris Slingshot Review – First Ride/Drive

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.

Any difference in rider/driver accommodations?

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.

We have to wonder why the Slingshot is being treated differently from the T-Rex and other three-wheelers.
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

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2 of 25 comments
  • JDubya Adams JDubya Adams on Nov 29, 2014

    Polaris obviously has not greased the right Lone Star hand yet!

  • QuestionMark QuestionMark on Dec 01, 2014

    This, the various trikes, the Can-Am Spyder and the T-Rex are not MOTORCYCLES. MotorTricycle, AutoCycle, or abomination, no matter what you call them just don't say motorcycle.

    I think these manufacturers trying to scam the system and make an "almost car" are going to draw regulatory interest in motorcycles and the modifications their owners make to them. Not a good thing!