What Consumers are Looking For and Buying

Vehicle upgrades and accessories(standard or optional) have been the key factors on the supply side of the market, driving growth in the PTV/LSV segment.  In addition, manufacturers have been adept at offering consumers a variety of choices among models at a range of price points.

In this article we examine the latest upgrades and options, as well as the range of models that various companies have brought to market recently.  First, with regard to upgrades:

Improved safety

Lighting

Headlights and taillights are basic to vehicle safety, but now companies have gone further by introducing LED lighting kits offering more efficiency and high style as well.

Street legal vehicles require turn signals in almost all jurisdictions, and even if not street legal in all respects, most current models do come equipped turn signals, or are offered as an option.

Back-up cameras and side mirrors

While most current models have side mirrors, back-up cameras with an audible warning signal are not so common.  One obvious reason for this is the openness of the vehicle design.  Nonetheless, as LSVs become more intensively used on public roads and become a more significant presence in the parking lot of you local grocery store, back-up cameras are a prudent safety feature.  (Parking lots, home of the fender-bender—very frequent, but rarely appears in national stats.)

Seatbelts—the sine qua non of safety

Here is where manufacturers are more cautious than drivers.  Virtually all LSV/PTVs come with three-point seatbelts, BUT only for the front seat.  The back seat, forward-facing, has lap-type seatbelts, while the backward facing seats most often have no seatbelts at all!  Yet this is where the kids are often seated.  Recently, about to enjoy my evening jog in the park, I spotted an Evolution six-seater (four seats, two rows facing forward and seating for two facing to the rear.  Very nice looking vehicle, and I complemented the lady who was apparently the driver on her choice of vehicles.  That said, I saw no seat belts on the rear facing seats, yet she admitted that that’s where they put the kids.

The Tomberlin “BadAss”–A long list of safety features.

Maybe the most safety conscious of the OEMs is Tomberlin.  In the list of specs found on the company’s website, which accompanies information on its various models, is the category of “Safety”.  The Tomberlin BadAss, despite the ridiculous model name, is a pretty safe vehicle.  In the list of safety features found on their website is “3-point safety belts”.  I had a first-hand view of this vehicle at this year’s PGA Show in Orlando.  Chris Plummer, VP of Market Development, made a point of showing me that the 3-point safety belt system was installed on both rows of front-facing seats.

In order to install the 3-point system in the rear row of seats, you have to integrate the third point in the overhead frame, which Plummer showed me.  A touch like this with regard to safety is important in my view, if for no other reason than it shows the company’s concern for safety and is in contrast to a number of other OEMs, where the topic  of safety is nowhere highlighted on their websites.  The E-Z-GO Liberty, for example, an otherwise great family-oriented vehicle, makes no mention on its official website of seatbelts or other safety-oriented features, which the vehicle may indeed have.

The use of street legal LSVs on public roads is increasing and is the topic of discussion and debate in many local jurisdictions across the country.  The A number One consideration in allowing LSVs on various roadways, is safety.  The village supervisor will invariably turn to the representative of the police department or sheriff’s office and ask for his or her opinion.  That opinion carries great weight.

Here is an idea:  Have a dealers’ special presentation to local law enforcement and transportation officials on the safety features of LSVs.  Point out feature by feature how the vehicle provides for safety.  And be sure to have more than one brand in the demo.  This is not competitive issue, this is a public service issue, focusing here on the community and not necessarily just the customer/vehicle owner.

Automotive features

Automotive features play a big role in attracting customers and expanding the market.  Virtually all OEM websites allow you to find a car and proceed to personalize it with a lengthy series of automotive-type accessories.  Such features include:

  • Bluetooth audio systems and sound bars;
  • Dashboard integrated LCD touch screens;
  • GPS;
  • Custom upholstery;
  • Wide choice of body colors;
  • Wide variety of alloy wheel designs;
  • Customized front cowls and body designs (upgrades of older models);
  • Custom lighting kits;
  • Brush guards (even when there is no brush to guard against)

Model choice as a wide range of price points

Over the past two years, the golf car-type vehicle industry has seen many new entrants.  We have commented on this development in other articles.  Consumers appreciate variety and this industry has increasingly provided that benefit.

E-Z-GO Valor at $8-$9,00

E-Z-GO Liberty at $15-$18,000

Moreover, manufacturers have also provided the market with a wide range of models at a wide range of price points.  For example, E-Z-GO produces the Valor model at about $8-$9,000 and the Liberty at $15,-$18,000.  Club Car matches this spread in prices, with its V4L at $9-$10,000 and the Onward 6 passenger lifted at just under $20,000.  

Club Car’s newest entry, the extraordinary CRU—at this point the ultimate in neighborhood envy—goes for a rich $29-$30,000.

One thing is clear.  While overall vehicle prices on the newest upgraded and accessorized vehicles, which are driving the market, are rising, the benefits are also multiplying.  From a consumer’s perspective, two things are working in his/her favor:  Greater competition among OEMs, as new companies enter the market and the increasingly broader selection models at a range of price points.

As to new features, technologies, and models coming off future production lines, that is the subject of another article.  Stay tuned!

_________________________

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.