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Golf Car Report
Golf Car Companies Form Alliances to Provide GPS Systems

By John Wukovits

For anyone interested in purchasing a golf car, 2002 should be a banner year. Three of the major car companies, each with a solid reputation and enhanced by an attractive alliance with a premier producer of the GPS course management systems, have offered sufficient diversity to satisfy any consumer needs.

Club Car
The final company stresses comfort and choice. Club Car offers three vehicles, ranging from the standard DS Gasoline or DS Electric car to the car specially designed for disabled golfers. Standard features for all vehicles include all-aluminum frames for a lightweight chassis, a canopy designed to veer water run-off away from passengers, and stylish seating. Club Car maintains a steady market share for its gas-propelled cars. Many courses prefer the vehicle to the electric counterpart because of its lower maintenance factor. Instead of hooking up the car to be recharged, the handler simply has to refill the fuel tank.

According to manager Cy Davis, however, the 48-volt electric car is the company's fastest-growing item. Club Car offers a four-year, 800-round guarantee on its battery, and provides an onboard computer. The car's speed can be adapted to fit the terrain of the course on which the car will be driven. "It seems everybody wants the electric car," explains Davis. "It is the wave of the future. The car received a boost in 1997 when certain California counties banned gas-powered cars."

The third item on Club Car's list of products is the 1-PASS car, a single-passenger adaptive golf car that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The car features ergonomic hand controls (left or right), multi-position, lockable 360-degree swivel seat, and a front-mounted bag attachment for easier access for the player. The car's battery provides up to 54 holes of play on a single charge. Currently, five dealers offer the car in Michigan.

"This is a growing market," added Davis, who is optimistic about golf in the coming years. "We feel golf in Michigan is still very, very strong. We're not seeing any drop in our business." To continue the progress, in the past year Club Car entered into an alliance with the National Golf Course Owners' Association to help promote the growth of the game and the car industry. UpLink Corporation has entered into an agreement with Club Car to produce the GPS systems. The founders of UpLink created and own the original patent used to perform distance measurement and tracking on golf courses, and their expertise is evident. The UpLink Traditional Caddy gives distances to the hole from each bunker and hazard as well as offers tips from the course professional on how to best play each hole. The Enhanced Color Graphic Caddy adds a three-dimensional image of the holes. A Personal Caddy is tailored for use by walkers or for golfers who own their own cars. Club Car president and CEO Phil Tralies claimed the merger with UpLink hands his company the edge over his competitors. "The addition of UpLink to the Club Car Solutions Network," he said in a recent press release, "is further evidence of our commitment to selecting best-of-breed partners whose products and services benefit our customers and the game."

While Yamaha relies on a trusted reputation for solid products to make a dent in the market, E-Z-GO focuses on safety. To prevent accidents from unattended vehicles, E-Z-GO highlights the Precision Drive System. This allows the purchaser to select golf cars that best suit the terrain in which they will be used. When the vehicle reaches the top speed set by the controlling device, the Precision Drive System slowly activates the braking system to keep speed at a safe pace. If the car rolls while unattended, a speed sensor engages the braking, slows the car to two miles per hour, and sounds an alarm.

The company offers three versions, each with its own level of regenerative braking and top-end speed. The All-Terrain vehicle can be used to best advantage at fairly level golf courses, while the Mild Hill and the Steep Hill versions add additional controls to curtail speeds going uphill and downhill. Thinking of the consumer's interests, E-Z-GO focuses on producing cars that not only last longer, but also will yield higher resale values. The thought is that an individual interested in the best financial deal will chose E-Z-GO over its rivals.

Through an alliance with ProLink, E-Z-GO also provides a GPS system. ProLink, which operates under the philosophy that "golf shouldn't be a guessing game," has developed a reputation for cutting edge computer technology, winning the 1995 Innovator of the Year Award in Computer Software and the 1998 Business Incubator Technology Graduate of the Year Award. ProLink offers a system that includes e-mail capabilities, access to stock market information, and an ongoing system that records the golfers' statistics as they play.

The Yamaha company features four vehicles, two for the golf course and two for multi-purposes. The Ultima G16A gasoline car's reputation for solid construction and durability has earned it the lowest maintenance task and maintenance cost ratings of any golf car made. The car also boasts the biggest engine in its class. Yamaha's G-MAX 48V electric car promises more power than other electric motors and offers a regenerative braking system that controls the car's speeds on steep inclines. While golfers can use Yamaha's other two cars, they are mainly designed for different purposes. The G-21 utility vehicle, basically a golf car fitted with a bed, is equally adept as a vehicle for moving up to 800 pounds dirt or sod, or as a mobile refreshment center to take food and liquids to golfers. The G20A Concierge car is a multi-passenger vehicle with extra-wide seats that can transport guests around a resort. Late last year Yamaha formed a partnership with ParView, Inc. of Sarasota, Florida. One of the largest producers of GPS systems, ParView is currently installed at more than 160 golf courses throughout the United States and Canada. ParView will enable the golfer to view a graphic of each hole, chart distances from hazards and landmarks, and keep track of the pace of play. The system will also warn golfers of approaching severe weather and offer a 911 emergency button.

The two companies see their partnership as a real opportunity for golfers to better enjoy the game. David Chessler, CEO of ParView, said, "Yamaha is known for its quality-made golf cars, and we were searching to combine our top-of-the-line GPS system with a top-of-the-line golf car. The question I am asked most often is, 'When will the price for GPS Systems come down?' With ParView and Yamaha's new partnership, I can say, 'Right now.'" MG

September 2002 Issue Table of Content
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