Body Snatcher Lookalikes Invade The U.S.! Is This A Good Thing Or Bad?

Does anyone remember the movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?  The movie was first released in 1956 50s, starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.  Subsequently, a remake appeared in 1978, this time starring Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams.

It was a pretty eerie story line, featuring alien creatures that came to earth as seed pods.  These pods had the frightening power to absorb the living bodies of humans so that, as the pod matures, it takes on the exact appearance of the person so snatched.

Kevin McCarthy torches an evil body snatcher.

Here we see lead actor, Kevin McCarthy, setting fire to one of the seed pods before it can fully take shape as his girlfriend, played by Dana Wynter.

Note, the 50s generation were not terribly enlightened, and did not much subscribe to inclusion and diversity.  A more enlightened version of the story would certainly welcome the snatched bodies as a new, perhaps somewhat amorphous gender variety and encourage kids to plant them in their backyards.  This to assure they had all the gender identity choices available to them.

The story continues…

So, what does this have to do with golf cars?  Well, it may be sheer coincidence, but pods of a similar shape are coming to America.  Instead of snatching bodies, they are snatching market share from the Big Three, Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha.  The photo below is the visible evidence that this is occurring.

Market share snatchers from China—Nicely wrapped and ready for final assembly in the U.S.

These pods are not alien creatures, but rather come from a more familiar source, that is, China.  The pods contain partially assembled vehicles.  They are delivered to final assembly facilities in the United States.  

If you track where these facilities are located, they seem to be close to major markets in the southern tier of the U.S.  That would be Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and California.  Locating manufacturing facilities close to market is one of the tried and true axioms of distribution.

Unfortunately, this is another disadvantage facing the Big Three with their manufacturing base solely in Georgia, from which they ship finished vehicles all around the country.  

The supply-demand gap continues

It appears that delivery times are still extended, and this is especially true for the Big Three where the time from a placed vehicle order to delivery to the customer is still in the double digits; i.e., 10-12 months.  For the new brands cropping up, such as ICON, Vivid EV, AdvancedEV, and Epic EV are apparently substantially better off, getting product to the customer in 2-3 months.  That being the case, and the fact that the COVID market bump is turning out to be a full blown pregnancy.

In fact, using this metaphor, we could say that the market has delivered a newborn trend that is growing rapidly.  The new crop of companies using manufacturing-distribution model just described, have taken advantage of the gap and are pouring resources into assembly lines, developing dealer networks, and assuring fast delivery of nicely appointed vehicles.

Sustainability of demand growth

What will make this newborn viable and sustainable over the long term?  The most important aspect of this will be continued growth in favorable consumer perceptions.  We are no longer talking about a mere golf cart.  We are seeing PTVs as a personalized, day-to-day means of transportation—or, to characterize the trend further, a personalized mobility vehicle, or PMV.  PMVs now displacing PTVs in terms of consumer perspective.

There are a number of other underlying factors that lend themselves to market sustainability, which are discussed below.

What’s the bottom line?

If you’ve been frustrated by the long wait times for your PMV, you are not alone.  Implications for the industry and what you see, and will be seeing, in the marketplace are quite significant.  Into this gap in demand and supply, and the rising margins for dealers, is  a dramatic inflow of imports via the supply model described above.

Thus, the industry, which is segmented into PMVs, fleet golf cars, and light-duty utility vehicles, and which has been dominated by Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha, is rapidly experiencing a plethora of new entrants and significantly greater competition.  There benefits to consumers, dealers, and manufacturers in this process.

Benefits to consumers

For consumers, this is good news.  If market entry models found both in economics textbooks and in the real world run true to form, over the next five years we can expect a decrease in prices at retail, more vehicle models to choose from, and continuing upgrades in quality and features as a competitive component.  Product diversity and quality improvement are not only attractive to consumers, but drive the increase in market size as well.

Benefits to dealers

Long subject to the whims  of three dominant manufacturers and their historical market power, dealers will increasingly find themselves in the driver’s seat, if you will pardon the expression.  Recent efforts to form a dealers’ association will be complemented by what can be described as the power of a more competitive marketplace.

Benefits to manufacturers

Although manufacturers face a competitive marketplace, their efforts to meet consumer demand for higher quality and improved performance in their product will help assure that the PMV market expands.

Conclusion:  It’s a win-win

As the market evolves in terms of consumers tastes and product offerings, it will be a win-win situation on all fronts—for consumers, dealers, and manufacturers.  An economist would delight in observing the process, historically described by Adam Smith in the 1776 publication of his Wealth of Nations, proving itself time and again to this day.  (Disclosure:  Yes, I am an economist by academic training!)

Get the full analysis:

Interested in getting the detail of the current market and forecasts to 2027? Contact Stephen Metzger and subscribe to SVR’s just published study, Pathway to a New Era in Small Electric Vehicles—Trends from 2017, Forecasts to 2027.  smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com .  The study covers all segments of golf car-type vehicles, as well as the off-road vehicle market.

Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.