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For $40,000, a motorbike that transforms into a jetski

Posting in Design

A radical new take on the classic ATV motorbike is set to redefine the concept of off-roading.

In a matter of months, The Quadski, designed by Gibbs Sports Amphibians Inc, will make its debut as the first commercially-available vehicle to not only offer the rugged traction control of the classic 4x4, but also have the capability to transform into a beach-ready jetski. The company announced that the earliest models are scheduled to roll out into the market before the end of the year at an entry price of $40,000.

Michigan-based Gibbs is one of the biggest players in the very niche market dedicated to manufacturing and selling amphibious vehicles. In 2003, the company unveiled an amphibious sports car called the Aquada, which boasted top speeds of 100 mph on land and 30 mph on water. And earlier this year, they showed off the Phibian, a boat-truck hybrid powered by a 500-horsepower jet propulsion diesel engine that generated highway and seafaring speeds of 30 mph. Comprised of lightweight carbon fiber, the 30-foot long vehicle can carry up to 15 passengers.

Neither, however, have made it to market. Despite celebrity entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson's endorsement, only 50 Aquadas were produced and the company cited safety regulatory hurdles, along with an inability to provide sufficient customer support, as reasons for keeping the vehicles off the shelf, according to a report in the New York Times. For instance, the aquatic car would need to be equipped with airbags that can function in water accidents as well as it does on land. As for the Phibian, it's only intended for the coast guard or military for uses such as patrolling the seas or emergency-response missions.

ATVs provide an ideal entry point into the commercial market because, as off-road vehicles, they aren't required to meet the same stringent safety standards as cars or trucks. Comprised of lightweight fiberglass and equipped with classic all-terrain tires and a four-cylinder, BMW engine, the Quadski can run roughshod at speeds of 45 mph through both dirt and water. Buyers will have the choice of models that come in five colors.

As impressive as all this looks on paper and in demonstration videos, sporting retailers are skeptical that the sales of the Quadski would ever be profitable.

"These are toys people don't have a lot of extra money for right now," Ryan Brown, a salesman at Carter Powersports in Las Vegas, told the Associated Press. "People are having a hard enough time getting financed on a $5,000 motorcycle."

But no matter how daunting their prospects seem, the company believes a viable market exists and is planning to build eight more personal sports models based on the Quadski, including ones that will offer more seating and roomier dimensions.

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— By on October 16, 2012, 9:40 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure