It was only a few months ago when the golfing world was abuzz with all of the options that would soon be available in the luxury golf cart market.
But some of that hope was recently dashed when Mercedes-Benz announced the company would be backing out of its highly promoted deal with Garia. Garia has always been a leading manufacturer of luxury golf carts, and the partnership with Mercedes-Benz to design and produce a custom vehicle that combined functionality with unmatched class and style was a natural fit.
Business Case Not Feasible
In what appears to be an exclusive story flying under the radar of other media outlets, Business News Network in Canada reported that Mercedes-Benz was initiating the cancellation of the Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car because the “business case was not feasible.”
BNN called on several financial analysts to discuss the topic, and at least one admitted that the move was far from a surprise. Mercedes-Benz has been targeting a new customer base – one that is younger, hipper and more active than the majority of golfers. While the Garia golf cart would’ve been new and inventive, the company apparently does not believe it can sway its prospective customers to participate in the sport of golf.
“It’s appropriate that Mercedes has cancelled this,” said Kash Pashootan of First Avenue Advisory. “Ten years ago, [the carmaker was] really struggling. Part of them reinventing themselves is they’ve been able to successfully nail creating product for the younger, professional market.”
Pashooton goes on to explain that younger golfers who are more likely to buy luxury golf carts really don’t need them. “Younger golfers between 25 and 40 years of age are more active,” he said. “They’re generally in healthier shape than someone that’s 70. They don’t mind walking.”
Golf Participation Slowing
So far, no one at Mercedes-Benz has hinted at why, specifically, the Garia golf cart is not a feasible business venture, but a spokesperson recently admitted that decisions concerning production are based on “the reactions of the market and potential customers.”
Participation in the sport of golf has diminished in recent years, and this has had a ripple effect on a variety of supporting businesses. Some companies have even exited the golf market altogether while others are seriously limiting their involvement.
For instance, Nike just announced last August that it is halting all sales of golf equipment but will continue to sell golf apparel and shoes. Adidas has also given indications that it would like to find a buyer for its golf division.
A Golf Cart Like No Other
When the Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car was unveiled last June, it was praised as not just a premium golf cart but an entirely “new class of transportation” that evokes feelings of “sensual purity.” It was promised to be “a real sports car” unlike any that had ever been seen.
The luxury golf cart was to be a manufactured using only the highest quality materials, including carbon fiber for the roof and trim with wood paneling, brushed metal and leather decking out the interior. A refrigerator was cleverly stashed under the bench seat, and a storage compartment would be located under the dashboard.
One of the most anticipated features, however, was a mobile-linked touchscreen tablet that provided a host of functions, including interactive scorecards, weather, golf course maps and communication with the clubhouse.
While the golf cart had the overall look of a Smart Fourtwo, the grille was unmistakably designed by Mercedes-Benz, giving it that elegant, stylish look for which the company has become known. Under the hood, the golf cart sported an electric motor with 15 horsepower and a top speed of 19 mph, and overall, it had a range of 50 miles on a single battery charge.
Ideas First Solicited Back in 2013
It seems a shame that Mercedes-Benz has chosen to drop a project it spent so much time and effort to bring to fruition. It all started in 2013 when company executives first realized that golf carts had changed very little over the years and no longer fit golf, which is increasingly viewed as a sport of luxury and sophistication.
Mercedes-Benz decided to crowdsource ideas on how to design the most desirable luxury golf cart in history, so the company put out a call to both golf fans and automobile enthusiasts. The goal was for a modern golf cart with characteristics from the future.
It was only by happenstance that Anders Lynge, co-founder of Garia, stumbled upon a Facebook page mentioning the request for input on the design of the new golf cart. Lynge subsequently submitted two full design proposals and requested a serious business discussion regarding a partnership on the new vehicle.
A Focus on Full-Size Electric Vehicles
Rather than luxury golf carts, it seems that Mercedes-Benz has shifted its focus on developing full-size electric vehicles to compete with Tesla Motors and BMW, and the automaker has already stated that it intends to establish a new sub-brand of electric cars.
To start, the sub-branded line of all-electric vehicles will include two SUVs and two sedans. One of the SUVs was featured at the 2016 Paris Auto Show, and company representatives confirmed that it will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers before the batteries need to be recharged.
Until now, Mercedes-Benz’s efforts to establish a line of electric vehicles consisted of simply installing electric motors and batteries in its existing models, a plan that was applauded for its cost effectiveness. However, creating a new sub-brand will open new doors for marketing to a wider range of customers, and parent-company Daimler is looking to include an all-electric, heavy-duty delivery truck by 2020.
“When Tesla started coming up many years ago, we decided at the time, and I believe correctly, that the technology wasn’t quite ready,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler’s trucks chief. “Now we believe the time has come to earn money in e-mobility over the next five to 10 years.”
While electric vehicles are in the future of Mercedes-Benz, they will, unfortunately, not be found on the golf course.