Originally created 01/11/00

Auto firm invades cart turf

Ford's announcement that it will begin marketing an electric golf cart was no surprise Monday to E-Z-Go executives. The company has been expecting it for months, spokesman Ron Skenes said.

Ford Motor Co.'s news came out of the Detroit auto show, where the carmaker said it would begin offering a line of electric cars and bikes under the brand name Th!nk.

While Ford's electric cars may compete with the three largest golf cart makers -- E-Z-Go, Club Car and Yamaha -- for private sales, it is not likely to cut into their fleet sales, Mr. Skenes said.

"It's a different style of vehicle," he explained.

Ford's golf cart appears to be more of a small car with doors and a windshield. It also will go faster than the traditional golf cart, which may make it better suited for gated and retirement communities than the golf course, Mr. Skenes said.

Private sales constitute only about 10 percent of all golf cart sales industrywide, Mr. Skenes added. Fleet sales -- sales to golf courses -- make up the bulk of E-Z-Go's profits.

Club Car officials did not immediately return a telephone call Monday. E-Z-Go and Club Car are based in Augusta.

Strategically, E-Z-Go is taking a wait-and-see position on the new competition, Mr. Skenes said.

"We'll see how it sells and respond accordingly," he added.

Ford, which has deep pockets and thousands of outlets, can easily sell its new cars alongside its automobiles. But observers noted that developing a distribution system to reach golf courses may be a challenge.


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