First Mule 1000 introduced for 1988 model year
Evolved from a simple napkin sketch to a purpose built two-seat utility vehicle, Kawasaki revolutionized the side x side 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 side x side 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 a proven platform in Kawasaki’s 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.
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 side x side line—and so the MULE was born.
Over the last 30 years the MULE has evolved with the inclusion of four-wheel drive, locking differentials and the TransCab seating system, but at the heart of every MULE side x side, which are assembled with foreign and domestic parts in Lincoln, Nebraska, is the strength of the 30-year old MULE 1000 side x side utility vehicles, which are still in use today.