BOSTON – With an eye toward making its upright electric scooters easier for the average American to buy, Segway Inc. on Wednesday rolled out its first financing program.
The consumer financing arm of General Electric Co. (GE) will manage the program, allowing consumers to take out loans for the scooters, which cost from $4,000 to $5,500.
"The sticker shock of $5,000 there and then can in some cases be a deterrent," said Jason Barton, vice president of sales at Bedford, New Hampshire-based Segway. "But if you have an offering where they can have it as a monthly payment, that is more appealing."
Segway has sold tens of thousands of the self-balancing scooters since unveiling them with much fanfare in 2002, Barton said, but the Segway has failed to catch on as a common mode of transport in U.S. cities.
Consumer sales represent 60 percent of the company's business, although police officers in U.S. cities including Chicago ride the stand-up scooters on patrol, Barton said.
He said the company is contemplating selling shares to the public through an initial public offering at some point over the next few years, and that the financing option would help it toward the goal by allowing it to grow consumer sales more quickly.
Sticker shock is only one of the hurdles Segway faces in boosting sales. With a range of about 24 miles on an electric charge, the Segway occupies a niche somewhere between the bicycle and the car.
Ina Navarre, a tourist in New York who rode a Segway on Wednesday on a trip with New York Segway Tours, said she saw limited use for the scooters.
"We live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the distances there between points of distance are pretty wide, and it probably isn't a good Segway application," Navarre, 49, said in a phone interview. "But one of my daughters is at Louisiana State University, and she could probably use it. The campus is about three miles wide at its widest and you can't move a car around once you get it there."