Power steering is ubiquitous in the world of cars, trucks and other large vehicles, so it might surprise you to realize that electric power steering is virtually unheard of in the electric golf cart landscape. For years, manufacturers believed that power steering was simply an unneeded luxury for the low-speed reality that most electric golf carts operate within. However, if you’ve ever tried to maneuver a golf cart along a tight paved trail or through a crowded parking lot, you and your arms have experienced firsthand the difficulty of providing all the power needed to steer a golf cart.
A History of Innovation
Tomberlin, a part of the Columbia Vehicle Group and its parent company, the Nordic Group, has a long history of innovation in the golf cart marketplace. Unlike many of its competitors, which chase after the low-cost, low-feature market dominated by fleet buyers, Tomberlin is focused on delivering a customer-centric driving experience with an emphasis on end-user customizability and innovative features. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Tomberlin would lead the way by delivering an improved driving experience by adding electric power steering as a standard feature.
Back in October, Tomberlin announced the inclusion of electric power steering in two of its new 2018 electric golf carts, the 2018 Emerge SS Coupe and the Emerge SS Saloon. With the addition of this new drive-by-wire feature, golf cart drivers can enjoy increased safety and maneuverability in even the tightest confines.
Power steering is certainly not a new concept; it’s been included in full-size vehicles as a standard feature for decades, first as a hydraulic system and more recently as an electrical system. This important safety feature amplifies the force provided by the driver, reducing the effort it takes to turn the steering wheel and giving drivers increased control and reduced reaction times. However, the addition of a power steering system adds bulk, complexity and cost to any vehicle, and this has kept power steering firmly out of the golf cart marketplace except as an expensive add-on feature or aftermarket upgrade.
Initial Tests Are an Overwhelming Success
Before deciding to make power steering a standard feature in its new models, Tomberlin commissioned a small pilot test program in the beating heart of the golf cart marketplace. Thanks to its unique combination of geography and amenities, the Villages in Florida sees tens of thousands of golf carts driven every single day. With so much golf cart activity, the locals are savvy and experienced, and the golf cart dealers have seen every new feature and gimmick that golf cart manufacturers can dream up.
Tomberlin’s electric power steering stunned nearly every driver who tried it. One early test driver, Bill Frishette, couldn’t stop gushing about the new steering system. Upon returning his test unit to the dealer, Frishette remarked, “You guys hit it out of the park with power steering. This is going to be big!”
Other testers were equally effusive in their praise, calling the power steering “brilliant,” and “a blast to drive.” Drivers felt smooth and in control, able to navigate along the trails and roads of the Villages with comfort and ease.
After their success in the Villages, Tomberlin expanded their tests to the West Coast. Drivers there were equally enthusiastic, with early drivers flooding their local Tomberlin dealers with overflowing praise. One dealer, after sneaking a test drive of her own on the new models, had only one word to say: “Yes!”
Demand is Fierce
Once the initial test runs were over, Tomberlin moved ahead with its decision to integrate power steering into its new 2018 models. Tomberlin dealers put their money where their mouths were; the first two production runs of the two new models with standard power steering were snatched up by enthusiastic dealers within days of the initial announcement. Tomberlin has already announced more production runs of the new Coupe and Saloon models, but demand is expected to be fierce for these innovative new models.
Tomberlin will be actively monitoring sales of these two hotly anticipated vehicles. Chris Plummer, vice president of the consumer group for Columbia Vehicle Group, shared the company’s plans for the future. If the two models do well, “we’ll incorporate power steering into other models and continue to own the ride in the electric personal vehicle market.”
In addition to the new power steering feature, the Coupe and the Saloon boast a number of enticing new features. They can be configured to seat between two and six passengers, with layered upholstered seats and an improved suspension system for increased safety and comfort. Owners will enjoy driving in style thanks to the low-profile 14″ tires, custom wheels, stunning red color and custom steering wheel. Despite all the upgrades for the new model year, however, the new 2018 models will carry the same MSRP as their 2017 counterparts.
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