Monday, January 17, 2011

Dealer Expo 2011 Meetings and the New EV Revolution

I'm sitting here today thinking of what lies ahead. Dealer Expo is around the corner. It's my 11th year there exhibiting.

It's made for quite a few cold Valentines.

I'm also thinking about the future. Our mission statement and what it means to actually run a business that does more for society. I got an email about the article on MRP entering the EV market. The truth is we as a nation, as a company, as individuals have to embrace this even if its not profitable at first. Going green is not just a matter of making money, its a matter of gas independence, survival, and making sure a hundred years from now our world is safer thanks to what we do today.

I did study Political Science and Marketing and part of that lead me to look at the future trends and how to influence them. That's why I felt in 2000 that scooters were on the verge of going mainstream in North America. These days I think that "Green" vehicles are inevitable. As a "Futurist" I think in this transportation area I can help predict the general societal trends and general events from my point of view.

So green is in. The following are the truths that must be understood by all:

1. The technology is changing quickly.

2. Many companies are from the car market and = committing to the Powersports sector.

3. The Chinese are subsidizing this R&D at a rate North America and Europe cannot ignore ( since 300 million more cars in China will pollute this world to no end if they don't go electric )

4. Petroleum is a limited resource and we can't keep invading other countries to get it so there will be real demand at one point. Energy independence today guarantees fewer wars in the future. This is a truth that cannot be ignored. The wars of the future will be over resources, let's try to avoid them if possible.

5. Electric vehicles will cross all platforms.

6. There are many people looking to help, there are many looking to make a profit, like any business not all will survive.

7. Some are in it just to sell shares, sell tech, make a quick buck and get out.

I feel that my knowledge in this field should help guide government policies for governing some of the new EV motorized driven cycles, if we don't there could be disastrous repercussions for American consumers. Already we see everyone selling EV vehicles without any policies or industry standards in the US. We also have all the same fly by night guys selling vehicles, some even appearing in places like Sears.

This is our 11th booth at the Dealer Expo and as a guest of the show not only will we have a booth, but I feel its my duty when meeting with the dealer base to bring up all these new subjects. Lately when I walk into shops I get asked about E-bikes. I've actually had more than one conversation with US E-bike designers, battery makers, and even a lawnmower company all asking about scooters and how to get in the business.

My answer goes back to scooters and how the market is totally different be it electrics or gasoline powered ones. The same Chinese OEMs making scooters are also making EV vehicles. They have the volume, price point, and imitation tech to overtake in distribution any legitimate or major brand. So new emerging companies like Zero, Brammo, won't stand a chance against them in volume. Once the major vehicle producers like Honda and Yamaha move in the party for the smaller brands will be over unless they allow themselves to get purchased.

This is all something to consider at Indy because the EV market is constantly changing.

I see the same thing happening all over again just like in the Scooter / Atv sector where there's 50 importers one day and then 10 the moment gas prices go back down. History has a way of repeating itself. This all being said I feel its my duty to to make sure we not just work and help explain the trends in the industry, but that we can help shape the future of the industry. I want the same thing as everyone, a cleaner world and one less dependable on foreign oil. At the same time we have several parties approaching us that make great products in Taiwan, Japan, and Europe all looking to help design and capture part of the EV market. I look fwd to talking to them all as this is a new step for us.

We should have a big announcement at the Dealer Expo this year regarding our entry into carrying EV scooter parts and batteries. We're hoping that the industry itself stabilizes as a third party logistics provider I can already see that there are too many new technologies with no clear leader in the field for very similar price points from Brammo Motorcycles, Vectrix Motorcycles, ZERO, Current Motor and more. All very different platforms for a very small limited market in America ( Just like Motor Scooters ) Speak to any major dealer like Scooter Super Stores in Hollywood, Florida and they have $50,000 in Vectrix units sitting on the floor for over two years that don't work and a new owner that hasn't helped them. Tech getting purchased and sold doesn't help if you leave the dealers behind. So a lot of things have to be put into place because tech people are not necessarily vehicle people and understand how the laws / warranties affect the sales of vehicles. There is a certain amount of education that needs to take place to new OEMs and to new EV dealers on how things work.

There's already a dozen companies putting together simple E-bikes which are a dime a dozen in China. Many of these technologies will never reach volume in the USA either because of a lack of a distribution network in the Powersports Industry or because major players are now stepping in like Piaggio Group and Honda which should be releasing their own versions shortly. Many of them are strictly in the business of licensing or selling their wares and tech which is great for any early investor in technology. So if you want to buy software and battery tech Mission Motors looks amazing, but as a brand of new Motorcycles I think Vectrix pretty much sums up how you can pump money at mass distribution and unless there is major demand it doesn't work.

So my prediction is some tech will fall by the side. Some will emerge as clear winners. Some companies like Honda and Piaggio are making small moves and will eventually jump right in. The fact that Mini and Smart are spending time, money, and hoping to promote the EV scooter means that there will be an industry push to create consumer demand where there is little. That's called creating the market.

It's half wishful thinking, but its clearly the job of a "Futurist" and I would expect no less from brands like Mini or the Smart Car. As these units hit the market we hope to be the first to help them with accessories and upgrades for their riders.

To a certain point resistance is futile. Our nation is going in the direction of Electric Vehicles, the world cannot sustain a billion more people with cars so it is inevitable. We must all do our part.

So we look fwd to meeting with everyone at the Dealer Expo to talk more about the EV market, where its going, and how MRP can be a part of it all.

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