My colleague, Stephen Metzger, attended the 2020 PGA Show in Florida. His observations of the latest products on display “…suggests a new generation of diverse vehicles going well beyond the golf market. In general terms the emerging market that trends will play into is that of urban/suburban mobility. “ He lays out his observations and what they say about the strategies of the three major manufacturers in a new article.
PGA Show: Big Three Strategies
Club Car is looking towards connectivity and telematics technologies for new market opportunities. The company is monitoring developments in the urban/suburban mobility market. According to management, Club Car’s lithium battery powertrain and Onward PTV platform positions the company well to take advantage of new opportunities .
E-Z-GO is leaning on their latest technology advancements like their first to market (of the big three) lithium powertrain for fleet and PTVs, their IntelliBrake technology, AC drive, 72-volt powertrain and new quieter and more efficient EX1 gas engine. In addition, they continue to monitor the urban and suburban mobility markets.
Yamaha emphasized their new, fully independent suspension which is likely a precursor to a lithium powered vehicle. The absence of much heavier lead acid batteries has significant implications for the suspension setup and vehicle ride quality.
Other PGA Show Insights
Automotive features such as touchscreen LED displays and rearview cameras are continuing evidence that more automotive features are becoming standard in PTVs. The trend fits nicely with the ongoing development of the urban/suburban mobility market. A slice of this market includes low-speed vehicles and PTV like vehicles. Manufacturers also displayed scotters and golf specific, electric powered vehicles. The technology of the latter category could likely be adapted to the urban/suburban mobility markets.
New urban and micro mobility technology creates a potential challenge to the existing players in the PTV market. This technology is wide ranging from electric skateboards and electric bikes to three-wheeled and larger autonomous vehicles. While the technology is typically discussed in the context of the urban environment, it can also be well suited to the gated and vacation community markets. These alternative mobility technologies do not provide a head-on, direct competition to PTVs, but neither are they merely tangential. They can challenge the existing PTV players by taking multiple, smaller slices of the market pie. In addition, they are attracting a host of new players and new investment.
Electric Bikes & Scooters
The gated and vacation community skews older so skateboards are probably out, and at first glance electric bikes and electric scooters (Vespa like) may not seem to make sense. However, electric bikes and scooters can offer a slice of the market an alternative transportation experience. An electric pedal assist bike can provide exercise without as much exertion as a traditional bike. In addition, if you already bike, it extends your existing trip range and experiences. Scooters offer an alternative to PTVs for quick single or two-person trips. This technology can also be applied in the form of a bike or scooter share program, providing access to the whole community. A share program would seem well suited to a planned community that has a large enough population and well planned out destination points.
They are fun to ride and, in the case of bikes, can provide additional exercise opportunities. They are a less expensive alternative, especially if you need an occasional second mode of transportation and have a small footprint. Furthermore, their speed range fits well in the low speed planned community environment. They can also be used to venture outside the community with likely less restrictions than PTVs.
On the other hand these modes of transportation have some drawbacks that limits their appeal. First, they can only accommodate one or maybe two people in the case of scooters. They have limited carrying capacity for running errands. They also do not provide any protection from the elements or as much collision protection from other vehicles as a PTV does. In addition, older folks may not feel as physically capable of operating these vehicles. Although, the low speed and well planned roadways can ameliorate this issue to some degree.
Three-wheelers & Autonomous Vehicles
On the other end of the spectrum you have larger multi-passenger vehicles that provide a more direct competition to existing PTVs. Vehicles like the FUV can carry two passengers or one with cargo. As a three-wheeler, the FUV can operate at higher speeds and has no restrictions for venturing outside of communities on public roads. At the same time, this vehicle can be speed limited for golf course and planned community use. With autonomous vehicles planned community residents could displace at least some of their PTV usage, and possibly all of it if the the service is robust enough.
With the ability to travel from golf course to community roads to public roads, the three-wheeled vehicle offers greater versatility than PTVs. Capable of higher speeds, it also has greater functionality than PTVs for certain use scenarios. For autonomous vehicles, the low-speed, well-defined and relatively limited planned community road networks offer an ideal environment. For residents less inclined or capable of driving a PTV, they provide a method to maintain mobility.
The FUV is currently much more expensive than PTVs and even LSVs. Therefore, customers may not find the increased versatility and functionality worth the price. They also are limited to two passengers, and as a result are less useful for family outings. For autonomous vehicles the technology is still in the development phase. In addition, some customers may prefer the convenience, customization and the statement made by owning a PTV. Furthermore, the cost of this type of service is not currently known.
New Players, Investment & Disruptive Innovation
An additional aspect of urban and micro mobility that PTV manufacturers must contend with is the increased number of market players, capital investment and disruptive product innovations that the technology brings. For example, Harley Davidson and Jeep have revealed at least prototype electric bikes. Completely new companies like Arcimoto have entered the market. Tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and traditional auto manufacturers are developing highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle technology. In addition, you have ride share companies.
PTV manufacturers are potentially at a disadvantage because they have neither the focus of disruptive startups or the financial resources of much larger companies. On the other hand, they do possess strong knowledge of the market and a distribution network to serve the market. They also have experience in developing and manufacturing electric vehicles in a highly competitive environment.
One strategy for PTV manufacturers to take is to start developing new mobility platforms themselves. The question is whether they have enough resources and commitment. They would have to balance maintaining their current product lines while trying to introduce entirely new a category of products. Another strategy would be to leverage their distribution and marketing expertise by acquiring or partnering with new market entrants to launch to product categories. They could also decide to keep improving their existing products and manufacturing efficiency. As a result, they could maintain or lower prices while increasing the value of their products. Therefore, new entrants could find market entry to difficult or limited to niche markets. However, compared to the other two strategies, this strategy offers less upside. In addition, it still leaves them vulnerable to a disruptive technology. The first two strategies provides the opportunity to potentially expand into urban markets.
Oregon-based Arcimoto recently started production of their Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) to meet pre-order demand for 4,100 vehicles. Technically a motorcycle, the FUV is an electric powered three-wheeled vehicle that seats two. Many states have a special classification for three wheeled vehicles and only require a regular driver’s license to operate the vehicle. The current FUV Evergreen edition costs $19,900 but the company hopes in the future that volume production will reduce base model pricing to $12,000 and possibly below $10,000.
Arcimoto FUV Specs
The Arcimoto FUV is essentially a trike with two wheels up front and one in the rear. Each wheel up front has an electric motor. The vehicle has a 19.2 kWh lithium ion battery pack for a range of just over 100 miles and a top speed of 75 mph. The FUV has handlebar steering with a twist throttle and finger activated regenerative braking. Foot operated hydraulic brakes on all three wheels augments the regenerative braking. Other specs include:
Two USB ports
Lockable rear storage
The company is also developing a one person delivery vehicle and an emergency responder vehicle based on the same platform.
The Arcimoto FUV satisfies a need for a small, energy efficient vehicle that can be driven locally. Even though the FUV can operate at highway speeds I believe the sweet spot for the vehicle will be on roads up with speed limits up to 50 mph. Gated communities and vacation destinations that already allow low speed vehicles (LSVs) and golf cars will be a key market.
The problem with this market currently is that LSVs and golf cars can only go 20 to 25 mph and are often restricted to certain public roads based on speed limits and local ordinances. Classified as a motorcycle and with the power to operate at higher speeds, the FUV avoids this issue. This combination greatly increases the functionality of the FUV. The FUV with a speed limited setting can go from golf course to gated community to higher speed public roads. Therefore, the FUV is appropriate for a wider range of activities.
I currently see three main challenges that may limit the FUVs appeal. The first is consumer acceptance of driving a three-wheeled vehicle with handlebar steering. This is different than many consumer’s traditional driving experience. The second is price. The company should target the $10,000 to $13,000 price range to be competitive with LSVs, PTVs and golf cars. Although, the increased functionality of the vehicle is a mitigating factor that could allow for a pricing premium. The third is that the vehicle is only two passenger, so it may have limited appeal for families or larger groups.
The FUV is a direct challenge to the LSVs and more importantly the personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) that have become a key growth market for the traditional golf car companies. The decline and stagnation in fleet golf car market has forced these companies to target the utility vehicle and PTV markets for growth. (LSVs have largely been relegated to college and corporate campuses with some personal transportation use.) This could become the classic case of the outsider coming in and disrupting a market.
Where are the golf companies?
There is no reason the golf car companies could not have developed this vehicle first and they certainly have the resources and time to create a vehicle of their own. However, in the past these companies have missed opportunities such as the utility vehicle market for which they were well positioned. In addition, the FUV could serve as an alternative to a second or third automobile for running local errands or short one or two person commuting.
What Does The Future Hold
It will be interesting to see what kind of uptake the consumer version has. Recreational vehicles like the Can-Am Spyder and Polaris Slingshot have not completely taken off and remained niche. However, they are more recreational and less of a practical and green transportation alternative than the FUV. I think the delivery version of the FUV might be the sleeper product. Given concerns about urban congestion, pollution and sustainability, these vehicles could become a popular option for last mile logistics in crowded cities. The urban environment could play to the vehicle’s strengths of smaller size and zero emission powertrain while mitigating weaknesses such as limited top speed and driving range.
Club Car recently announced a pair of recalls involving potential fuel leaks. The recalls apply to a range of models and includes approximately 12,000 vehicles in the US and Canada. The first recall includes Precedent, Tempo, Onward and Villager gas powered vehicles. Fuel can potentially leak from an improperly routed fuel line. In the second recall, gas powered Carryall 300, Transporter, Villager, Streetrod Lux and Streetrod Vintage vehicles may experience fuel leaks during low speed idling with a full gas tank. In both cases, owners should immediately stop using the vehicles and contact Club Car for a free repair.
The following are recall details from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
First Recall Details
Name of product: Club Car Precedent, Tempo, Onward and Villager model gas golf and transport vehicles
Hazard: Fuel can leak from an improperly-routed fuel line, posing fire and burn hazards.R
Recall date: August 19, 2019
Units: About 9,000 (In addition, about 2,000 were sold in Canada)
Description: This recall involves model year 2019 gas-powered Precedent, Tempo, Onward and Villager golf and transport vehicles, which are used for short-distance transportation. Vehicles with the following model and serial numbers are included in the recall. Serial numbers are located above and to the right of the accelerator pedal. The model number is the first two letters of the serial number.
BX1905-944274 to BX2003-039920
Tempo Gas 2 + 2
BY1910-953754 to BY2002-039481
Onward 2 Pass Non-Lifted Gas
BQ1924-981193 to BQ2003-041072
Onward 4 Pass Non-Lifted
BS1910-953760 to BS2003-041012
Onward 4 Pass Lifted Gas
BW1910-953767 to BW2003-041068
Precedent Villager 2 Gas
BJ1910-953915 to BJ2002-039525
Precedent Gas EFI 2P
DF1929-987941 to DF2002-039479
Precedent Villager 4 Gas
DJ1929-987934 to DJ1950-034968
Onward 6 Pass Non-Lifted Gas
AY1945-024474 to AY1949-033252
Onward 6 Pass Lifted Gas
AW1945-024474 to AW2003-041004
Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact Club Car to schedule a free repair. Club Car is contacting owners directly.
Incidents/Injuries: Club Car has received three reports of fuel leaks. No fires or injuries have been reported.
Sold At: Authorized Club Car dealers nationwide from August 2018 through July 2019 for between $7,000 and $11,000.
Manufacturer(s): Club Car, of Augusta, Georgia
Manufactured In: United States
Recall number: 19-770
Second Recall Details
Name of product: Club Car Gas Carryall 300, Transporter, Villager Vehicles, Streetrod Lux and Streetrod Vintage Vehicles
Hazard: Under continuous operations with low speed idling periods and a full gas tank, the fuel vent can allow fuel to leak, posing a fire hazard.
Recall date: August 19, 2019
Units: About 1,300 (In addition, about 13 were sold in Canada)
Description: This recall involves 2019 utility and transport vehicles, which vary in size, models and colors and are used for short-distance transportation. The recalled vehicles can be identified by the model and serial numbers. Serial numbers are above and to the right of the accelerator pedal. The model number is the first two letters of the serial number. Recalled models and serial numbers include:
Serial Number Range
MC1902- 939803 – MC1936-003158
MK1901-938752 – MK1936-001620
Villager 6 Gas
SE1903-941645 – SE1936-003004
Villager 8 Gas
SF1902-941407 – SF1936-003040
Transporter XL Gas
SK1907-948159 – SK1932-994341
Transporter XLC Gas
ZV1908-949040 – ZV1928987110
SO1908-948943 – SO1908-948929
SO1902-939821 – SO1937-004374
Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the vehicles and contact Club Car to schedule a free repair. Club Car is contacting owners of the recalled gas utility and transport vehicles directly.
Incidents/Injuries: Club Car has received two reports of fuel leaks. No injuries have been reported.
Sold At: Authorized Club Car dealers and Streetrod nationwide from July 2018 through March 2019 for between $8,000 and $16,000. Streetrod branded vehicles were sold by Streetrod dealers from July 2018 through March 2019 for between $18,000 and $20,000.
Manufacturer(s): Club Car, of Augusta, Ga.Manufactured In:U.S.
Recall number: 19-769
This is a large recall for Club Car and represents a significant percentage of their unit sales. Not too surprisingly for the STOV market, the recall involves some variation of a fuel leak hazard. Smallvehicleresource.com maintains a list of small, task-oriented vehicle recalls. Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com
My colleague Steve Metzger recently attended the 2019 PGA Show. He reports on the trends in personal mobility vehicles from established and new players. In addition, he discusses the mainstreaming of lithium batteries and related implications. The following is a summary of key insights from the article.
The personal mobility market in the form of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) is attracting an increased level of product development.
The major fleet golf car manufacturers, Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha are turning their attention to PTVs and other non-golf markets.
New models incorporate a greater variety of features and more automotive style features
The Sirius PTV from Star Electric Vehicles is the most likely candidate to seriously challenge offerings from Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha.
Club Car introduced lithium battery powered models and other manufacturers are considering the technology as well
Both Trojan Battery and ReLion Battery presented lithium batteries targeting the aftermarket for PTVs, golf cars and light-duty utility vehicles
Lithium battery market penetration has implications for the recycling of fleet golf cars, used PTVs and future demand for public road access for PTVs
EFI engine technology continues to advance in the face of improving battery technology as market choice will likely increase before a winner shakes out
Potential California LSV legislation could become a model for other states and a market driver
Product engineers may drive the market in the next 3 to 5 years