Segway - Still Off-balance?

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG125
Case Length : 17 Pages
Period : 2001-2005
Organization : -
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : US
Industry : Automobile

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"The bloom is off the rose about the Segway, I think a lot of it was ballyhoo. Now, with people looking at the practicality and cost and possible liabilities, I think they're abandoning their enthusiasm about it".

- Tom Ammiano, Supervisor, San Francisco County, in 2003.

"It's hard to say whether I should be ecstatic that we've even sold one of these things for $5,000 or be devastated that cities aren't filled with them. It's difficult to gauge what my expectation should be."

- Dean Kamen, Founder of Segway Inc., and Inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, in 2004.


In November 2005, US President George W. Bush gifted a Segway Human Transporter (Segway HT) to the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Executives at Segway Inc. (Segway) must have been pleasantly surprised at the unexpected publicity that their device managed to attract on account of this gesture.

But most newspapers and publications which reported on the gift, also mentioned that Bush had fallen off the device in 2003.

Many of them also reported that it was against the law to ride the transporter on public byways in Japan.

This type of coverage - where the positives were almost invariably accompanied by negatives - was typical of the kind of press that the Segway HT seemed to draw, ever since its launch in 2001.

Cities in Canada, UK and a few other countries had imposed restrictions on the use of Segway HTs on sidewalks as well as streets. It was illegal to ride it on the sidewalks of San Francisco, California, a city usually considered very receptive to new technology. The San Francisco County's Board of Supervisors was convinced that the Segway HTs posed a risk to pedestrians.

But unfriendly legislation was probably the least of the company's problems. To start with, the company was selling very few of its human transporters. Although the Segway HT was launched amidst unprecedented hype and public interest, and the scientific community was appreciative of the innovation and technology it embodied, the general public proved quite reluctant to actually put money down for the product. As a result, the Segway HT never became the rage that it was predicted to become. Nor did it change the way people moved around in urban areas. Although, at the start, it was hailed as being as significant an invention as the personal computer, many sections of the press eventually turned critical, calling it an impractical, idiosyncratic invention.

But the company that created the device was not willing to accept defeat so easily. It came up with better variations and improved versions of the transporter. The company also intensified its distribution and marketing efforts. However, critics of the Segway HT remained unimpressed - for them, the company was wasting resources on a lost cause.

Segway - Still Off-balance? - Next Page>>

1] "Segway Hits City Roadblock,", January 19, 2003.

2] Marguerite Reardon, "Segways in Slovakia,", December 13, 2004.

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