Segway's Brilliant New Strategy? Leasing!

from the that-all-you-got? dept

Yesterday, people were talking about how the latest in a long line of CEOs for Segway is desperately looking for a “liquidity event” of some sort. Of course, for that to happen, it would help if more people were, you know, actually buying the damn balancing scooters. Apparently, someone among the Segway braintrust realized that it’s a pretty tough sell when the vehicles cost about $5,000. So, their latest strategy? Leasing! Yes, it only took the company about five years to recognize that financing might make sense for pricey vehicles. Of course, among their long line of chief executives, there once was a former President of Subaru America who had planned to set up a dealer network similar to the auto industry. You would have thought the idea of dealer financing might have occurred back then as well.

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Comments on “Segway's Brilliant New Strategy? Leasing!”

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Mark Webb says:

Re: leasing

When they first brought these things out I recognized the private market fot these contraptions was going to be very limited. That said I thought there might be a very lucrative commercial market, police, security, mail, major events, companies who operate in big where houses, Boing etc.

I contatcted the folks at Seqway and suggested we set up a rep relationship where I would lease to, (that’s where the dough is anyhow, in financing,) to municipalities, Malls, sporting events and big companies like Boing but that I would need to have price protection, so that folks couldn’t go around me and lease directly from Segway. They wouldn’t give me the price protection.

Andrew Pollack (profile) says:

These guys thought they were going to change the w

The thought these were the next best thing to the flying car. There was talk of having to remodel city transportation centers to accomodate all of them.

Nobody told them that standing for long periods with your feet together isn’t comfortable, and that the human body was BUILT for long walks.

Trading the flexibility of walking ad-hoc where you want, for even a fairly efficient 5000 dollar machine isn’t idea for most people.

At some point, they realized what they really had was a great PLATFORM for building stuff onto. Robots, medical aid equipment, moving tools, whatever.

Strange though, they don’t seem to have sold many for that either. I guess they’re just too proud of the their toys to actually sell any.

John Bailey says:

Re: What we really need ...

What we really need is a wheelchair with built in cattle prods to nudge the damn bipeds that can’t see below their own eyeline out of the way….. I’ve lost count of the times I have nearly been tripped over, walked into, and rammed with a shopping cart at the supermarket.

I think there was a pretty cool wheelchair designed with similar technology some time ago It had four wheels, but also had a central pivot between the front and back pair, so it could rotate and balance on two wheels to reach things at standing height and could even climb some stairs and kerbs by changing the rotation of the wheels and rotating the central pivot. Pretty cool, but way out of the reach of most of the people who would have found it useful.

No idea if it ever came to market or passed the safety tests if any exist. Given all the computer gear built into it, I doubt the battery life would have been long enough for anything but short trips.

OpheliaAwakens says:

Re: Re: What we really need ...

Yes that wheel chair was courtesy of Dean Kamen as well, the company in charge of making it marketable sponsered my high school’s robotics team. Unfortunately that company went under. I hope someone is still working on it somewhere, because it is an amazing machine to watch in action. And I agree more focus should have been spent on that instead of the Segway.

doug (user link) says:

there is a wheelchair: the iBot

There is a wheelchair, built by Kamen (founder of Segway), called the iBot. Balances on 2 wheels to the height of an average person. It also makes it possible for the wheelchairs to manoeuvre stairs too (by going backwards and the 4 wheels revolving around each other as they tread up stairs).

Seems the company and its founder are good and well at creating things – just terrible with the execution.

Brad says:

Re: there is a wheelchair: the iBot

The fundamental flaw with the iBot was that it was all engineering, no design. It used technology pilfered from numerous high school students (see FIRST competition) with little thougth to the user experience. When one was shipped out, three ENGINEERS went with it, to set up the unit and “train” users on it. The thing was priced at around $25,000 – or roughly what a mid-level Honda cost, but much more expensive to make.

So imagine if Honda sent three of their engineers to your house when you bought a new car, and they spent two days showing you how to drive. Great customer service, but really….they could have saved a pound of cure if they’d done an ounce of product design.

But Kamen’s problem is that he regularly doesn’t realize that people aren’t as infinately wealthy as he is (private island), nor is every commercial device able to sell at the same price point as medical equipment (portable insulin shot – Kamen’s claim to fame and big money maker).

The guy’s a great engineer, and not a bad marketer, but he’s a crappy designer. Problem is, he won’t hire anyone who is. Otherwise someone would have said, “Wait…$5k alternative to walking that hurts you when you go over a curb, goes slower, is prohibited in many areas, and is bulky when not in use?”

Also: you can cut the cost of production by 90% by adding a third wheel right in the front. Maddox illustrated it best:

Kamen still follows the .com business model.

1) Invent cool technology

2) ?

3) Profit! IPO! Private Jet!

Dale Scott (profile) says:

Segway in City Traffic

It may be different in other cities, but San Francisco is NOT bicycle friendly (the hills are a bear and the ratio of incompetent/rude drivers to good/considerate ones is appalling). Segways are not permitted on the sidewalk (just like bicycles and skateboards). I think the only defense here is maximizing visability and the appearance of potential damage to any vehicle careless enough to come in contact with the Segway (think ‘brakelights’ mounted on 1″ rebar brackets at eye/windshield level). Knarly knights ready for the joust comes to mind.

Halbeik says:

Re: where to park?

It has an assist mode. Basically you use the handle bars on it to pull a little with your legs then turn the side handlebar (use to turn left or right) to rotate the wheels forward and backwards (ofcourse you wont be standing on it). Getting up on a sidewalk is easy even if you are standing on it the wheels are big enough to handle it.

eeyore says:


The whole concept of the Segway reminds me of Arcosanti, the “arcology” that Paolo Soleri built in the Arizona desert. I first heard about it when I was a kid like 35 years ago (OK I’m in my 40s now) and so when I actually saw it last year I was astonished at how little they had accomplished in that length of time and how crappy what they had really was. The Segway was touted as THE transportation for the 21st century. However they are at best a niche market item, and that is where they fail to understand the market. I have to commute 25 miles each way to work because my job site is on a large military installation and I have to cross a major highway to do that. I also frequently have to attend meetings and activities at other buildings that are widely dispersed. A Segway just isn’t practical for me. However we do actually have several of them at our facility. The support personnel use them to go between buildings, where a walk of a half-mile or more isn’t unusual. College campuses and industrial parks where buildings are within a short but inconvenient to walk distances are what the Segway is ideal for. Driving in rush hour traffic? Hardly. The Segway is the product of utopian thinking and until they think of how to actually use it in the real world it will remain essentially a high-tech toy.

Mario Leite says:

Should look at past

They should of taken the same Ideal Henry Ford did and make it affordable for everyone. At $5000 it’s to expensive for the average person, even if you are leasing it. They should focus on making it more affordable. I would consider getting it if it fell between $500 to $1000. They should also consider making wheelchairs with the segway. So who wouldn’t have to push anybody just gently push on handles on back of wheelchair. They would sell alot to older people.

Bing says:

Re: Re:

Are you dumb?

Have you not gotten it through your thick skul that we’re in a free country?

Now, here’s the choice for MOST americans:

Take the SUV, or (in this case) take the Segway to work. VERY few are going to EVER take something that you must exert energy and arrive sweaty to the meeting at work. Just not going to happen. GET OVER IT!

Now, people still have daily routines as they SHOULD but excersizing for transportation in the 21st Century just doesn’t make sense…

Joe Vandal (user link) says:

Leasing might allow pedestrian rentals

I had thought of getting a few and renting them out to tourists. There are already bike and pedal-cart rental businesses. Many tourists would likely rent out Segways to go through nice areas like parks or greenbelts in Idaho Falls.

We’ve discussed things like this for our community at , but a big barrier to even trying it is the huge financial investment. Perhaps this is what could enable trial rental shops to prove the business model.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a wheel chair

Don’t blame Dean Kamen or the company for the iBot wheelchair not coming out. The government body (It’s been a couple years so I don’t remember. The FDA?) that approves the use of the wheelchairs for the handicapped would not approve it.

They harped on about it failing during a stair climb and dumping the passenger. They seemed to overlook the redundant systems that prevented that.

Innovation and a lot of people suffer at the hands of our govt. “protecting” us.

Moogle says:

Re: How to render the Segway obsolete


Hah, I was just thinking about that page. The problem is that adding a third wheel would actually break the functionality of the segway in a bad way.

Try standing on a dolly and have someone push it. Goodby cocyx. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to intuitively shift your weight so that your center of mass is still over the accelerating base. Your feet will fly out from under you without months of training (see: unicycles).

Segway’s one big trick is that it doesn’t move forward until you have correctly shifted your weight. Without that, it’s impossible to have a usable vehicle with a base shorter in both dimensions than your height. Once you have a small base, you can then treat the vehicle like a pedestrian in ways you can’t with a bike. You can get in elevators with other people, you can park it in the corner of your cubicle, and you can travel more than 2 miles to work in summer without having to take a shower to avoid offending your coworkers.

As a piece of technology it’s great. Cities are generally not built for it, so few people have reason to buy it, so cities won’t change to accomodate it because it’s not prevalent. Stupid vicious cycles. As a product, it’s hard to sell and costs too much, so it may never get a chance to really shine. Sad.

Richie says:

Be Kind

If you can. When I was 30 years old I thought I had the world by the sneakers. Then I had a stroke at 62 and the world collapsed, I became the victem of the world as far as transportation is concerned. People are cruel as you can see here on this blog. Let me take my living room on four big wheels and 100 gallon fuel tank and waste as much energy as I can. You say “I have these things because I am young and foolish and I don’t know what an dung is. LOOK AT THE SEGWAY AS A VEHICLE THE IS NEW AND BETTER THAN A WHEELCHAIR (which I am stuck with) SO PEOPLE CAN STANDUP AND BE SEEN. Stop with all the negativity JERKS.

Tim (user link) says:

Be kind.. .was with you...

I was with you… until you went all caps and called everyone jerks with a broad stroke. Making your point while ignoring the “jerks” pays off in the long run.

I am considering getting one as a toy, but the biggest problem remains price. Even at half price, 2,500 is out of the range of most people. Leasing might be a good idea for warehouses and places like that. I worked at a warehouse years back that was 5 football fields side by side and they used bicycles. Its not a smart corporate move to replace a $200 bicycle with $5,000 Segway. The higher end one with li-ion batteries (which should be standard) cost up to 5,500. As for getting up stairs, I have read many have something called stair assist, don’t know what it is offhand.

Alex says:

I’ve heard stories of people standing for long periods of time and simply fainting (at weddings and such).

I can just see the insurance company loving it,

Segway insurance: For Those Collisions That Matter, “we care”.

Can Americans get any more lazier.

Damnit… myy wirrelesss keybboard and mousse neeeds too be rechargedd, aw man i have to get up now.

Wm says:

So Many Misconceptions

The Internet is full of opinion and too little fact.

Segway (the company) and Dean Kamen were not responsible for the hype surrounding the device and the inevitable lackluster response from the public. (People were expecting hovercraft?) That was the public/media/Internet’s own (un)doing. (Spoiled children; all of us.)

The technology involved wasn’t even available 15 years ago. For a version 1.0 product, it’s remarkably well-engineered and put-together. Obviously, $5,000 is too expensive; they intended to debut them for $2,500, but the lack of sales, legal expenses, and factory-building necessary to meet potential demand (40,000 units/month!) sent that price skyward. Had they sold, they likely would have dropped to ~$1,000 or less.

After you’ve ridden one for a while it hits you: this little 83 lb gadget is carrying your fat 200 lb ass up/down hills for up to 24 miles @ 12.5 mph on a relative energy consumption of 450 miles per gallon with zero emissions. Your awareness shifts; you see how utterly lazy and impratical it is to drive a 2500 lb box around in traffic, cut-off from your fellow man.

It wasn’t meant to replace walking; it fills the gap between walking and driving. While that isn’t necessary in many parts of our world, why does it bother you that someone else might have that need? Because you don’t like the idea of eating sushi other people shouldn’t too?

I ride my Segway out of my apartment, down the elevator, and 4 miles to work each day; it takes 25 minutes. Bussing takes 30 to 45, walking is 60, biking’s ~20 but leaves one sweaty. Driving my Subaru WRX STi is almost as fun as Segwaying, but takes the same amount of time and costs a lot more.

Did I mention it’s fun? Remember how you felt when you first rode a bike? It’s even better than that!

jj says:


Most of the negative comments regarding Segs are just ignorant. Obviously most have never even tried one.

Why do you think these are a replacement for walking? Did it ever occur to any of you that perhaps, just perhaps you don’t need to lug your 4 ton SUV to pick up a roll of toilet paper? Maybe a Segway would make more sense than driving on some occasions.

Let me repeat, not a substitute for walking, but a substitute for driving at times.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

m0rd3r says:

Re: Ignorance

“Most of the negative comments regarding Segs are just ignorant. Obviously most have never even tried one.

Why do you think these are a replacement for walking? Did it ever occur to any of you that perhaps, just perhaps you don’t need to lug your 4 ton SUV to pick up a roll of toilet paper? Maybe a Segway would make more sense than driving on some occasions.

Let me repeat, not a substitute for walking, but a substitute for driving at times.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”

For 1/5th the price of a segway you could buy a really nice, faster, bike and you could build some muscle while you’re at it.

Mr Cheap Stuff (user link) says:

Segway still has some legs

Ok, this makes sense now because the majority of the people that are buying these are commercial and the people in accounting are looking at the numbers. Providing leases allows them to see the ROI much easier. I still think Segway scooters are cool and have a niche just not a huge as once thought. I would love to see these things drop in price and become semi mainstream.

PostersCorner (user link) says:


It’s funny how long it takes many companies to figure out financing is usually the best way to go. There are so many people who would never consider purchasing an item paying all of it at once, but as soon as they see a monthly cost they go for it.

Really had they done this from the beginning, who knows how many segways they would have collected on by now.

Patrick Gearhart says:

A foot and a half

Never gave a Segway too much thought until my son visited in DC. He is 16 and I thought how do I entertain? We did a guided DC tour on Segways. I’m missing half a foot thanks to a teen drunk driver so walking long distances is not a possibility. The amount of ground we were able to cover was amazing. The price of $5K is what is stopping me from actually buying one although with the price of gas near $4 and work only 3 miles from home I’m considering one. I bought 2 honda hybrid cars when gas hit $1.86. The gov’t tax incentives virtually brought the car price down to about $10K from $20K maybe the Govt should consider something like this? Just a thought. I do feel that they are a bit too fast for crowded sidewalks though.

Ann says:

fun helper

I have asthma and when I walk my breathing (especially up hill) is very strained so a segway would let me get out and enjoy more things. Yes the price is a high but the price for scooter is almost as bad. I rode one for 3.5 hours on a tour and my feet got tired and the muscles in my legs and arms were sore that night so I know you use muscles when you ride one but as with anything you have to get used to the movement. I do ride a bike but being 60 plus, I can’t go uphill and have to plan my route so there are no hills only inclines and even then I have to stop and rest. riding a bike I can’t carry groceries without a backpack which causes more stress on my lungs.
I say, if these will help the environment and me at the same time, I would use the money for a segway instead of a big screen tv and chance looking like a 60 year old retard as long as I can breathe.
Too many advantages for me not to save and get one.

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