The personal transportation segment of the golf car market is crowded with new entrants, as has been noted in previous writings and extensively analyzed in the recently published study from Small Vehicle Resource, LLC. While individual companies may not like the competitive marketplace as it is currently evolving, but for the customer, whether a consumer or commercial entity, there are significant benefits:
• More models to choose from;
• Possible lower prices;
• More upgrades as both standard and optional features.
These benefits are all the product of greater competition among companies in the market. It is a textbook example of demand and supply, dynamically moving toward a long run equilibrium. In moving to the long run equilibrium, however, the process can involve overbuilding on the supply side with some companies forced out of market. What is a nice paragraph or two description of the supply shifting to far to the right, meaning oversupply that drives prices below costs, translates into real world disappointments for both consumer and producer.
What are some of the risks consumers face in making their choices in today’s rapidly evolving market?
Risks in the new competitive framework
Along with a significant number of new entrants in the market, come additional risks. Here are few:
• How reliable are these new brands—in other words, length of service without major problems;
• Uncertain parts availability;
• How reliable are the warranties?
• Will the particular brand you are interested in be able to survive the intense competition the industry is now experiencing?
• Can you count on your dealer to continue to support the brand over the long haul?
Paralleling these risks to the consumer, are the risks associated with a newcomer’s market entry:
• Finding the sweet spot of product features, cost, and markup;
• Assessing local market demographics to maximize sales growth and returns;
• Developing a reliable dealer network;
• Staying ahead of the competition.
Making a choice—looking at the issue from the perspective of an aspiring new entrant
Economics 101 tells us that if you have a better product than your competition, you will have a unique position in the market and are likely to prosper, all else equal. So, if you were an aspiring entrant, what would your product look like? In all likelihood the ideal golf car—your product—would have to have features most of the–currently available upgrades and allow the customer to “build your own”, a marketing strategy which became quite common, starting a number of years ago.
This was a great way to “build” the price and the product markup. Start with a 2+2 lifted Onward basic model of around $14,000 MSRP and add various features, and before you know it, the price is up in the twenties.
From the customer’s perspective, what would be the ideal vehicle?
Here is a list of appealing features that are not uncommon in many models of the market today:
– 4-wheel hydraulic disk brakes;
– Four, front-facing seats, two seats facing to the rear (6 passenger);
– 3-point seatbelts for all occupants;
– Lithium batteries, standard upgrade—range up to 50-60 miles;
– Electric power steering;
– Integrated GPS;
– Bluetooth and a sound system;
– Custom upholstery, matching choice of body colors;
– Custom lighting kit;
– Windshielf wipers;
– Back-up camera and side mirrors;
– Turn signals’
– LSV certified.
Not so long ago, this combination of features would distinguish the brand from most of the market. Not so at this point in time. Most brands now have these attributes in their top-of-the-line models. What can be distinguishing is styling, which is why the Garia 4-seater is pictured above. Its single piece, swept-back front windshield is in contrast to most LSV/PTV models which retain the split windshield.
Future features to differentiate brands and draw consumer preferences
Automotive-type upgrades have made the LSV/PTV a viable alternative to conventional automobiles for short distance driving occasions and needs. For the most part a street legal LSV is confined to public roads with speed limits of 35 m.p.h. or less. Top speed of the vehicle is 25 m.p.h. Thus, one principle for future models that would seem logical would be to increase the “roadability” of these new models. By this is meant to introduce and enhance the features that would make LSVs even more attractive as an alternative to conventional automobiles.
To increase roadability and make the LSV even more viable as an alternative to the conventional automobile, a number of steps forward would be needed, to include:
• Proactive safety features;
• Style-conscious, integrated enclosures for comfort and safety;
• Faster speeds afforded by design changes.
Taking these one at a time, the following is a very brief overview of what would be required to accomplish the feature.
Proactive safety features
Here is a brief list of such features:
– Front collision warning and automatic avoidance;
– Read collision warning and avoidance;
– Side mirror warning light for passing vehicles;
– Lane change warning and protection.
Away with the tent-like enclosures. Vehicle design would include integrated, style-conscious enclosures, not only for aesthetic purposes and comfort, but for safety purposes as well. This innovation would provide for all weather driving and very likely increase the market reach into norther climes. Some current models do have removable, solid door panels and integrated half-doors. A number of utility vehicle models have full enclosures, and this feature needs to gravitate to the consumer market.
Faster speeds would be desirable, but not at the sacrifice of safety. Therefore, vehicle frames would have to be toughened, which hopefully could be done without increasing vehicle weight. The aim would be to pass one or more levels of the NHTSA crash test. The answer may be to steal a page from Elon Musk and the Tesla. In a new report from Reuters, five people, apparently with inside information, claim that “Tesla has achieved a breakthrough in making Hot Wheels-like single-piece car casting a reality…” See the full story here: https://electrek.co/2023/09/14/tesla-breakthrough-single-piece-car-casting-report/ .
The combination of single piece frame casting and alloy technology may vault the LSV into a dramatic new level of performance capabilities—from LSV to super LSV.
Final note on the path to electrifying the nation’s transportation system
Two headlines from the automotive world appeared just before submitting this article for publication. The first was that Detroit’s Big Three had reached a tentative agreement with the UAW, which includes a 25% increase in union worker wages. The second series of announcements was that all three vehicle companies would be scaling back their investments in electric vehicles. As both the wage increases and the investment in electric power trains would involve significantly higher costs and lower profits, something has to give. In addition, the demand for electric vehicles, even Tesla has not met expectations, even though heavily subsidized.
What does this mean for LSVs? SVR sees this as a market opportunity. LSVs are a cheaper alternative to conventional electric vehicles and have become, as noted, an increasingly popular option for short distance driving. (Most driving actually is withing 5-6 miles of home base.) With the performance upgrades suggested here, and given the much lower cost of operation as compared to the conventional automobile, significant market growth could well happen over the next three to five years.
Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at email@example.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.