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believing your own hype

From Wired: Segway's Breakdown:

Before he'd sold a single one, Kamen blithely forecast that by the end of 2002, his enterprise would be stamping out 10,000 machines a week. Meanwhile, his best-known backer, venture capitalist John Doerr, predicted Segway would rack up $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history.

Segway's breakout year wasn't even a few months old before bad news started to hit. Kamen was pushing the scooter to corporate customers amid a period of belt-tightening that has yet to let up. Supposedly obvious buyers like Federal Express said no thanks, and others offered nothing but mushy maybes. A smattering of government agencies and corporate clients are testing the vehicle, but none have agreed to any bulk purchases. Kamen's largest customer last year was Walt Disney, which ordered four dozen machines for its theme parks and cruise ships. Meanwhile, the company decided to delay offering its überscooter to consumers until safety and training issues could be ironed out.

Segway officials acknowledge their factory sat largely idle last year but refuse to disclose specific sales or production figures. "My sense is they're producing 10 per week," University of Pennsylvania professor Karl Ulrich estimated near the end of 2002. Ulrich is nominally a Segway competitor - he's cofounder of a company that manufactures electric motorbikes - but he shares suppliers with Kamen and respects his work.

Segway is still pushing its scooter to the corporate market, but the great hope now is everyday consumers. Inside headquarters, a redbrick former mill along the Merrimack River in downtown Manchester, employees remain stoically upbeat. In November, the company announced that consumers could purchase a Segway on Amazon for $4,950. But at that price, the scooter seems doomed to life as a yuppie plaything.

Ah, the hubris. Only someone that lives in one of the affluent spots of the US could think that a device that costs $5000, for which no infrastructure exists and that goes directly against the idea of walking would sell "10000 units a week". Segways are truly something for the priviledged few. Even if they were cheap, they would create huge problems if you have more than one or two per block. Oh well.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on March 4 2003 at 4:24 PM

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