Golf Car Report: Service and Environmental Concerns Top '99 Focus
By Kelly Hill
Having designed, developed and manufactured numerous new models in recent years, the golf car industry has consequently shifted its focus to the service of those new models, many of which were originally designed in response to environmental concerns that continue to influence the industry.
While a new color option may be the greatest manufacturing innovation this season, the three major golf car manufacturers have continued to develop their service facilities as well as their environmental awareness. Here is a brief look at the issues that have driven Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha in the past 12 months, as well as some of what we can expect from the 'Big 3' golf car manufacturers in the year to come.
A division of Ingersoll-Rand of Woodcliff Lake, NJ, Club Car, which is headquartered in Augusta, produces 33 base models with golf course, grounds maintenance, industrial, academic and commercial applications. Established in 1960, Club Car recently introduced the PowerDrive System 48, a 48-volt electrical system developed to address the issues of golf car exhaust emissions as well as a presumed lack of power among electric cars.
"Our electric cars, especially the 48-volt model, still continue to make in-roads into the gas car market," said Cy Davis, Club Car's Michigan manager who is part of the company's network of 300 distributors, dealers and factory branches. "In some counties in California, you can't use gas cars," Davis noted. "Our 48-volt cars are made for that because they have more power for the hills you often get out there. They are made for the conversion from gas to electric cars."
Michigan has no such emission regulations but according to Davis, many of the state's clubs also are converting from gas to electric cars. "In the Michigan market we continue to emphasize service," Davis said. "The problem with going to electric cars in Michigan is that a lot of people store their cars outdoors. Building a car-storage facility with the necessary charging positions holds them back. The new courses, however, have figured such a facility into their plan, so the new courses are showing more interest in electric cars."
It is Club Car which has introduced the new color to its lines of electric and gas cars this season. Davis described the color as burgundy or maroon, and said it has received a very positive response. Call 1-800-482-8830 or 1-800-321-9616
Backed by the Textron Automotive Company, the largest injection molder of plastics in North America, E-Z-GO Textron, which also is based in Augusta, GA, has made a commitment to service its cars such as the E-Z-GO TXT, a 1996 model that features a unique Thermoplastic Elastomer DuraShield body.
George Brophy is E-Z-GO's Michigan sales manager. "The most exciting news that will come from E-Z-GO in the next year," Brophy said, "is that there will be a new, state-of-the-art sales and service center in Michigan." This facility, which is expected to measure 12,000-14,000 square feet, "will be located in the central part of the state," according to Brophy.
E-Z-GO Textron, which also produces a line of proven utility vehicles that includes the Workhorse ST-350, Workhorse 800, Workhorse 1000 and Workhorse 1200, has increased its share of the Michigan market in the past two years by concentrating on service. "Over the past two years we have gained seven percent of the market share," Brophy said. "Our people have done a great job doing the right thing and the right thing is service."
According to Brophy, E-Z-GO employs twice the service personnel as its nearest competitor. "You have to take care of your customers," Brophy said. "It is not only service, though. We have key sales reps who have strong ties to the golf industry. We just cover the marketplace better than anyone else." Call 1-800-336-1016.
From its manufacturing facility in Newnan, GA, which opened in 1988, Yamaha USA produces three lines of cars for the golf industry - the G-19 Ultima 48V electric car with Pacesetter, the G-16 Ultima electric and gas cars and the G-11 Yamahauler.
Yamaha USA sales representative and distributor Mike Boylan, of Boylan Sales and Service, is relieved by the golf car industry's decision to at least temporarily halt new-product development. "Everyone is refining what they have," Boylan said. "There have been no significant changes to the models this year - which I am glad to see. For a few years there, it seemed like they felt like they constantly had to reinvent what they had."
Yamaha's Ultima 48V offers the performance of 48 volts while reducing fleet operating costs. The G-16 Ultima, which is available in electric or gas models, is powered by a 36-volt or 10-horsepower engine. The electrical system feature's the industry's first speed controller designed specifically for golf course use. The gas engine is designed to reduce emissions as well as the engine compartment temperature. The Yamahauler features two applications as its removable sides and tailgate transform its box compartment to a flatbed.
Yamaha also has developed a relationship with the National Golf Course Owners Association that allows the 2,000 NCGOA facilities to receive substantial savings through volume purchasing as well as the association's Smart Buy Program. Call 1-616-685-6828.
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