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Quadski? Think James Bond

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By Detroit Free Press
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Autonomous cars are all the talk these days. But what about cars and trucks that float on water and can race at high speeds on land and sea?

Gibbs Sports Amphibians in Auburn Hills, Mich., may be the master of the land-water vehicle. The company's unique product line got some international attention this week when it was featured Monday on “Top Gear,” a British TV show with 340 million viewers.

In the episode that aired on BBC America, the Quadski, a quad bike that reaches speeds of 45 mph on land and water, races a sporty Alfa Romeo 4C along Lake Como in Italy. “It should get the name out there in a big way,” said Graham Jenkins, sales and marketing manager for Gibbs Sports Amphibians.

Amphibious vehicles that can travel on land or sea date back to carriages in the 1700s, and history is dotted with creations such as alligator tugs logging companies used to cross rivers in the 1870s and assorted military vehicles over the years. Hovercrafts are one form of amphibious vehicles that travel on an air cushion. More conventional amphibious vehicles often use tracks instead of wheels.

And there are boats that can drive at ramp speeds to launch themselves, but Gibbs sets itself apart by achieving real speed no matter what the surface and can switch from one mode to the other in less than three seconds. “We're the world's only real manufacturer of amphibious vehicles that reach higher speeds than 5 mph,” Jenkins said.

It is James Bond kind of stuff. In fact, Gibbs was approached about appearing in a film with 007 but the company turned down the offer. “We would have had to pay a huge amount, and we were not interested,” Jenkins said.

Gibbs Amphibians is growing its leadership with a series of moves designed to corner the assorted markets for these unique vehicles. Subsidiary Gibbs Sports Amphibians ramped up its sales projections and capacity in Auburn Hills for the Quadski.

The goal is to sell 1,500 Quadskis this year and double the number of retail outlets that carry the $42,000 quad bike.

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