As recently as March 2014, Tomberlin Automotive Group was one of the strongest and most popular U.S. manufacturers of golf carts in the world.
The company was headquartered in Augusta, Georgia, which is also home to Club Car and E-Z-GO, two of the world’s top three golf cart companies. Tomberlin seemed set to jump forward into at least the top five golf cart manufacturers when, quite suddenly, the company went silent.
Today, many past, current and potential customers are grasping for any information they can find about what happened to Tomberlin, but so far, discoveries seem few and far between. Last April, Tomberlin Automotive Group was acquired by another manufacturer of golf carts, low-speed vehicles (LSVs) and utility vehicles, Columbia ParCar. However, despite stating in a press release that Tomberlin vehicles will be integrated into the Columbia ParCar line, no official statements have been released since then, leaving the following question: Has Tomberlin vanished, or will it re-emerge?
Tomberlin Enters the Market
According to Michael Tomberlin’s LinkedIn profile, he founded his namesake company in 1992 as a manufacturer of utility task vehicles (UTVs), neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), low-speed vehicles (LSVs) and other alternative forms of street-legal transportation. Tomberlin Automotive Group was established with three principles in mind: safety, performance, and style.
The company made good on all three of its principles by incorporating appropriate features into its vehicles. Safety features include four-wheel braking, airbags, automotive pedal groups and controlled speed verification. The performance features were designed to enhance the driver experience, and a few examples are the shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, flow-through ventilation, and Operator-in-Charge technology. Finally, Tomberlin vehicles are easily recognized by the following style features: a six-bar grille, automotive lighting, and handlebar grips.
Tomberlin also made good on its pledge to become a global leader in LSV technology. The company’s vehicles are not only safe, stylish and high performance but also affordable. One of the reasons for this, according to the Tomberlin website, is to free people from the world from their dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Indeed, the company made a big splash as it transformed from a small, local business to an international corporation with worldwide distributorship in less than a decade.
Before Tomberlin’s sudden disappearance, the company established a strong network of vendors. “Passion is not just reserved for those on the payroll,” said Tomberlin, “Over the years, we’ve built a strong network that leverages skills we do not own. We reach far beyond a normal buy-sell relationship. It also is the most efficient method I know to get a product to the market.”
By the end of 2014, the Tomberlin Group had more than 700 dealers in the U.S. and more than 100 international dealers in addition to suppliers in eight countries and manufacturing facilities in North America and Asia. The company’s distributors served approximately 30 countries, and sales revenue from 2007 to 2014 totaled $70 million.
Columbia ParCar Acquires Tomberlin
On April 16, 2015, Columbia ParCar Custom Carts, Inc. announced an agreement to purchase the assets of Tomberlin Automotive Group, Inc.
“The acquisition of Tomberlin enables Columbia ParCar to market additional vehicles and distribution worldwide, creating a larger and agiler sales and service network,” said Todd Sauey, chairman of Columbia ParCar. “This positions Columbia to be the leader in the electric-powered LSV and passenger-transport-vehicle (PTV) markets. Tomberlin Group had more than 700 dealers in the U.S. and more than 100 international dealers, but in April 2015, it vanished further leverages the considerable investment we have made manufacturing and distributing pure electric vehicles for the widest array of applications.”
Scott Breckley, president of Columbia ParCar, expressed similar sentiments, stating that the combined portfolios in both the commercial and consumer markets would make the merged business one of the world’s leading privately held golf cart manufacturers. “The result will blend product innovation with superb branding into our heritage of customer care that dates back to 1946 – a winning combination in any strategic initiative,” said Breckley.
Michael Tomberlin also seemed excited when he announced the news. “Our teams are enthusiastic, and while much work remains, the future is bright,” said Tomberlin. “Assets are being deployed to assure we have a professional and prudent rollout that meets the standards Columbia ParCar has delivered for decades.”
However, it was Tomberlin’s final statement that has left many confused: “We’ll be in regular communication with our channel partners, suppliers and technology alliances regarding this outstanding opportunity.”
Tomberlin and Columbia ParCar Go Silent
Both companies anticipated that the sale would be completed within 45 days, only being held up for “final approvals and certifications.” Supposedly, integration teams had already begun exchanging information and developing new offerings and expanded programs for dealers. The press release announcing the acquisition ended with a statement that the companies will maintain separate operations and that no other details will be made available until the sale is final, and that is the last anyone has heard about Tomberlin.
Nearly a full year has passed since the sale. Tomberlin customers have taken to forums expressing their bewilderment and posting negative reviews about the company regarding its disappearing act, which includes the abandonment and dismantling of its social-media accounts.
On Twitter, Tomberlin hasn’t posted since July 2012, when its last nationally televised commercial for the Vanish UTV was aired. On Facebook, Tomberlin’s last post was June 4, 2013, and the page declares the company is permanently closed. In addition, all of the videos have been removed from Tomberlin’s YouTube channel, and all content has been deleted from the Tomberlin University website, which once provided warranty information, downloadable manuals, marketing media and tips.
The primary Tomberlin website and the company’s LinkedIn profile still exist, but both have remained static and unchanged since 2014. Many of Tomberlin’s dealers have also removed all mentions of the company from their websites, and most of them are now promoting their positions as authorized dealers of other brands, such as Club Car.
One of the few dealers or distributors that still mentions Tomberlin is its Australian affiliate. The website states that Tomberlin 2016 models will be launching soon, but the company failed to answer the emails we sent enquiring about the statement.
Columbia ParCar has also remained silent about Tomberlin. No mentions of the deal have been made since the acquisition press release, and Greg Breckley, media contact for Columbia ParCar, has not replied to our messages.
We will be sure to keep you updated as this story progresses, but for now, the fate of Tomberlin is anyone’s guess.