Segway's decision to stop making legendary vehicles was, unfortunately, inevitable.
Science fiction writers of the mid-20th century described the near future as filled with nuclear-powered flying cars. But the evolution of vehicles went in a completely different direction. It all started in 2001, when inventor and businessman Dean Kamen introduced the first Segway scooter in New York.
By that time, Kamen was already a very wealthy man who built his business on the production of medical equipment. The story goes that he was inspired to create a two-wheeled self-balancing vehicle by working on a new type of wheelchair equipped with a complex “stuffing”.
The first Segways went on sale in December 2001 at a price of $5000, which was comparable to the cost of inexpensive motorcycles that could reach much higher speeds and did not need electrical outlets for recharging. An unusual novelty quickly attracted the closest attention, becoming a kind of symbol of the new time.
But the high cost meant that only wealthy people could buy it, as a result, Segway scooters became a virtual toy for rich geeks like Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk. Initially, Kamen claimed that his creation would become for cars the same as cars in their time became for horse-drawn vehicles. But in practice, things turned out quite differently.
Segway scooters have never sold in the millions. What can I say, their sales were not even hundreds of thousands. Sales were originally expected to be 100,000 units per month. In practice, only 140,000 units were sold. By comparison, Honda sold almost three times as many of the much more expensive CRV crossovers in 2019 alone. Segway scooters never managed to flood the cities, they were mainly purchased by representatives of the tourism and security services.
Frustrated, Kamen sold the company in 2009, then it changed hands again. Since 2015, the rights to the brand belong to the Chinese manufacturer of personal vehicles Ninebot. Last year, Segway brought in only 1.5% of total income to the Chinese. Not surprisingly, they decided to abandon the low-profit asset.
The problem with the Segway, however paradoxical it may sound, was not only high cost. It was just the same, it was fully justified, since the device was of very high quality workmanship and was simply perfect from a technical point of view. But it was precisely this perfection that became the main problem. So, according to Judy Kai, president of Segway, a high-end and safe solution is good for users, but not for a company that expects to sell its products year after year.
Consumers simply did not need to regularly update the scooters they bought, which were provided with everything they needed and did not tend to break. The norm was scooters that served for 12 years and covered about 100,000 km. As a result, the company could not provide regular sales that would bring money to expand production and create even more advanced (although, it would seem, much more) new models. In the modern world, from an economic point of view, it is much more correct to innovate in stages, regularly, but little by little, updating products.
Some analysts argue that the introduction of the Segway was akin to the arrival of the first Apple Macintosh in 1984. A very expensive and advanced solution that presented fundamentally new ideas and opportunities to users, but failed to win a significant percentage of the market, losing it to competitors that are simpler in technical terms. But if in the case of Apple Steve Jobs was able to subsequently rectify the situation as a whole, but the creators of Segway did not succeed.
But in all this sad story, one thing pleases - the business of widespread introduction of personal transport started by Segway lives and develops. Streets of modern cities are gradually filled all kinds of gyroboards, unicycles, electric scooters, etc.
Incidentally, the company Ninebot claims to own the 70% of this market and the more than 1000 patents obtained with the acquisition of Segway contribute to the creation of ever new and interesting solutions. In addition, the decision to abandon the production of scooters does not mean the death of a famous brand. For this, it is too respected and recognizable, to be sure, in some regions the word "Segway" is used as a common noun for all types of personal self-balancing transport.
Segway electric scooter, photography depositphotos.com