I attended the 2016 PGA Show to discover the latest developments in the industry related to golf cars, LSVs and utility vehicles and ancillary products or services.
There were more model introductions from new and up and coming brands then the big three golf car manufacturers, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha. Club Car and Yamaha were both pushing their fleet management and on-vehicle media systems. These management systems allow courses to track vehicles and pace of play, monitor batteries, and constrict golf car speed and access to areas of a course. The on vehicle screens provide golfers with hole and distance information, food and beverage menus as well as ads and promotions. Club Car is the clear leader in the market at this time with their Visage Golf Information System product, while Yamaha is just starting to roll out their Yamatrack system, which does not yet have the on vehicle video screen component.
E-Z-GO was the only one of the big three introducing new vehicles. They have added a new refresher vehicle for golf courses for the third year in a row. This one, the Cushman Refresher Oasis, emphasizes a large capacity for food and beverage and extensive wrap-around counter space. E-Z-GO also made some style and comfort changes to their RXV model.
The new Cushman Refresher Oasis
I did hear from various sources that Yamaha and E-Z-GO would be launching new vehicles later this year. Yamaha is working on an extra quiet version of their golf car and E-Z-GO is rumored to be developing a side-by-side and an electric ATV as they take a foray into powersports. There is a possibility that Arctic Cat is involved as their management reported in their last earnings call that they are “…excited about a couple of different OEM partnerships and we're working on it hard.” I think that selling powersports vehicles through E-Z-GO’s current distribution network would be challenge, especially in such a competitive industry.
Other manufacturers that showcased new vehicles at the event include Garia, Torq Off-Road Electric Vehicles, Evolution Electric Vehicles and Sunright International. Garia is just beginning a marketing push in the US with their utility vehicles that have reportedly have been a success in Europe. The Garia utility vehicle has some nice features and, compared to their golf cars, is priced more inline with typical market offerings. Garia will also be rolling out a people mover in the Spring with a design based on a large custom order for a hotel/resort in the Middle East. Garia is also offering a redesigned basic but still luxury golf car. Management has had some success marketing the vehicle to higher end resorts as an add-on to existing fleets for customers willing to pay extra for a more luxurious golf car experience.
Garia expects success of their utility vehicle in Europe will carryover in the US market
From the luxury of Garia we move to the Spartan and performance-oriented Torq Suppressor VLE, an aggressive looking electric powered hunting and off-road recreational vehicle. The company has recently started to build out their dealer network for the Suppressor that comes in one-seat and two-seat versions. They are powered by a 48V AC motor paired with a 450 amp Curtis controller. The company believes the mixed use as a hunting vehicle or recreational vehicle will provide broader appeal for the models then current hunting only electric vehicles on the market.
The electric powered Torq Suppressor VLE for hunting and recreational use
Evolution Electric Vehicles launched their Revolution vehicle, a 4-seater LSV powered by a 72V AC system. The 4.0kw AC motor is paired with a 300 amp Curtis programmable controller and features regenerative braking. Later in the year the company will be launching several variations including a 2-seater with a long pick-up bed, a 2-seater with a short pick-up bed and 2-seater with an enclosed cargo box. The company produces several other product lines of people movers, utility vehicles and golf cars.
The new Revolution 4-seater LSV from Evolution Electric Vehicles
Other new imports displayed at the PGA Show included two new utility vehicles from Sunright International, the HJS Big Horn 200VX featuring a dump bed and the HJS Big Horn 200GVX with a rear-facing bench seat instead of a dump bed. Sunright International operates as an importer, distributor and developer of motor vehicles and motorsports products from China and is the authorized importer of Jiangsu Linhai ATVs, UTVs and scooters in North and South America.
In the area of ancillary products, battery monitoring technology was an important theme at the PGA Show. Battery Watering Technologies put their i-Lite Sensor on display in conjunction with US Battery, currently the exclusive user of the technology. The i-Lite Sensor uses a LED light and sensor to indicate when batteries need to be watered. Versions compatible with other batteries are on the way. Meanwhile Flow-Rite featured their Battery Steward product, which combines a mobile app with scannable labels to help operators manage battery maintenance. While Flow-Rite has been using the technology in the industrial space where the batteries for forklifts are very expensive and so can be the maintenance mistakes, they are just starting to introduce the technology to the golf car market.
Other products of note included golf car enclosures, including a relative new comer Superior Enclosures which employs a different design with the aim towards being more user friendly. Also in the aftermarket parts area, leading golf car parts supplier Nivel revealed plans to emphasize and leverage branded product lines. After a string of acquisitions over the last several years, Nivel’s management believes they had built a stable of well-known branded products, but had not fully realized the value of those brands. To that end the company is making an effort under their “House of Brands” initiative to build brand awareness and take advantage of the brand equity in some key product lines now under the Nivel umbrella such as Jake’s, MadJax, Red Dot Enclosures, GTW and MJFX Innovative.