In January 2017 at the PGA Merchandise Show, Club Car announced their first major product launch in almost a decade:
Club Car is introducing the Onward, a personal transportation vehicle (PTV) you can configure to match your active lifestyle. Onward is designed for residents of master planned communities and golfing communities that allow small four-wheeled vehicles.
We decided to get feedback from some of Club Car’s top dealers to see how the market has responded to the new product.
1) What were your expectations for the product at launch and how has that differed from what happened?
Brian Rott, Cart Mart (San Diego | Orange County | Rancho Mirage | Los Angeles): Like most dealers, and even many Club Car employees, we were all cautiously optimistic about the launch of the new Onward. The initial reveal of the product received a warm welcome by most dealers and distributors nationally, but dealers were not totally convinced the new styling and body design, accessory upgrades and included options were enough to make a material difference in our retail sales. Boy were we every wrong! Its been a huge hit!
Brad Walsh, Brad’s Golf Cars (Belews Creek, NC): From the moment Club Car introduced the Onward concept to me, I felt very confident at release. We had what I considered a lofty goal but have exceeded even our personal goals.
Don Osika, King of Carts (Columbia, SC): We knew that the Onward was going to be a hit when we first saw the product, at it is. The styling, seating and handling is first class, it’s a luxury vehicle in the PTV class for sure.
Ann-Marie Van Etten-Kania, “Golf Car Annie”, Associates Golf Car Service (Poughkeepsie, NY): When Club Car invited us dealers for a sales meeting in February to unveil a new vehicle – was excited! At the Launch – the Onward was presented to us, along with the pricing. I thought to myself how am I going to ever sell a $10,000 plus 2WD GOLF CAR up here in New York? I honestly didn’t think I would sell half of what they needed us to commit to. However, as of today I have sold more then my required commitment. (Not by a lot, but more!) So as I sit here typing this – I am definitely in awe that people will spend $9000 or more on a golf car, but really it is a PTV!!!! People love the Onward – from the looks to all of the accessories you can add to it and they love the fact that they can customize it!
Cody Homer, Intermountain Golf Cars (St. George, UT): The launch was really professionally done by Club Car, so that when the Onward was released, people seemed to be waiting anxiously to purchase and were already fairly knowledgeable about the Onward. (Even in a couple of cases more than the salesman. ?
Ben Andrews, Club Car of Hilton Head: We had high expectations for the new vehicle. We were not sure exactly how it was going to be received in the marketplace, but the response has been overwhelming. Club Car really did a great job with the Onward, and put great emphasis on things that were important to our customers.
2) Any trends on the typical Onward buyer and what is important to them?
Ben Andrews, Club Car of Hilton Head: It’s been a huge mix of people buying these vehicles. Club Car has stressed the importance of competitive financing options & that has been a huge success for us this year. The options installed on these vehicles have certainly varied, but the new Premium Contour seats from Club Car have definitely been a hit.
Golf Car Annie, Associates Golf Car Service: My sales have been across the board. From CAMPING people to the ultra wealthy. I guess nothing surprises me anymore. If I had to say a common denominator – people like the “build your own at clubcar.com” – and they are doing so – so my answer would be they all like the fact that they can get a new vehicle, in which they designed. Oh – and SEATS!!!!!!!!!!!! I think the seats almost sold the vehicle!!!!! Once they sit down on a premium seat – they never want to go back to a basic seat again!!! Their tushy’s are happy tushy’s!
Brian Rott, Cart Mart: Many of our customers are further enhancing the vehicles to include customized seats, air conditioning systems and stereos, but to much of my surprise, the Onward is so nicely equipped as its built, that there is not much else to add to the vehicle. Lots of built in value for the price.
Cody Homer, Intermountain Golf Cars: Sales far surpassed our expectations and product sales even spilled over into other products. Our customers like the versatility of the Onward as well as the overall look and quality. I was skeptical prior to the release of the Onward and he’s now pleasantly surprised about how many we’ve sold. In St. George and in Salt Lake, we have moved a lot of new Onwards–more than we thought we would.
3) Are most sales from your inventory on the lot or do consumers prefer a custom build and wait for delivery?
Brian Rott, Cart Mart: At Cart Mart, we believe that customers won’t buy what they can’t see. Therefore, we stock well over 100 new and 200 used units in varying configurations. If a customer sees a vehicle that they like, but want it in another color, we will custom design and build it for them. That can take up to two weeks depending on the order, but most of our customers purchase the units directly from the floor, as they sit.
Brad Walsh, Brad’s Golf Cars: Most units sold were on the lot and online sales, many sales came from folks seeing them while they were either in for service or looking for a much cheaper car. Not many want to wait for customization.
Ben Andrews, Club Car of Hilton Head: We find it critical to stock as many of these vehicles as we can. You cannot sell what you do not have & many times our customers are purchasing because they have family coming into town, etc. It is a lot of fun to see the excited faces of customer’s friends and family when you deliver a new Onward into their driveway!
Golf Car Annie, Associates Golf Car Service: Most sales were from my lot. However with that said – we had enough inventory at all times – (colors, seat combo’s) that we could pretty much sell the person what they built online. Not sure if a lot of other dealers go out of their way like that to do that – but we want to make the customer happy – so if it entails swapping seats or ordering seats then swapping them out – we did it. Premium Seats were the biggest thing people wanted and what they wanted is really what they wanted for the most part.
Cody Homer, Intermountain Golf Cars: Most of our sales are coming from our five dealership lots. People want to see and “kick the tires” and test drive before they buy.
Don Osika, King of Carts: Club Car created a great way for customers to build-to-suit with their easy to use online configurator. When we engage with the customer via phone, we often find that we have what they’re looking for, or close to it, already in stock. When they come in one of our Onward dealer locations, they generally don’t want to wait for a special order, and we can fulfill any special accessories requests in a matter of days. The end result is they leave with an Onward they love. We’ve place multiple orders for multiple units this year, in a myriad of colors and styles. Our customers seem to like the lifted option the best.
4) Any additional thoughts or comments?
Brad Walsh, Brad’s Golf Cars: Financing offers were crucial to the success of the Onward. We used the availability of finance as a sales tool.. Finance sales growth has been tremendous this year across the network.
The only surprise, for me, is that used car and refurbished car sales have still increased.
Ben Andrews, Club Car of Hilton Head: I will say the biggest surprise or change for us has been the lifted products offered from Club Car. We have traditionally been a primary non-lifted market, but we have sold more lifted Onwards this year than we expected. Club Car did a fantastic job with this vehicle, and the sales/response from our customers on the lifted products is a direct reflection on the quality of the design. It will be exciting to see how Club Car builds on the Onward product line in the years to come!
Golf Car Annie, Associates Golf Car Service: Overall – I think Club Car hit a home run with the Onward. Again, I am not selling the 100, 200 that some dealers are selling (down south) – but for up here – where people just use golf cars for around home or camping for the most part – people are loving them and willing to spend the money to buy them. Some may be thinking, how do we justify buying a $9000+vehicle? I explain like this: a lot of dealerships are taking old cars and stripping them and building them up (lift kits, new seats, bodies, batteries, lights, etc etc) – and by the time you are done – you still have an old golf car with new parts- and guess what, you just dropped $6000 more then likely. For a few thousand more – you can have a new Onward, with a factory warranty. And the best part for me, as a dealer – if they can’t afford the Onward – at this point – I have their attention – and they end up buying a new golf car – just maybe an XRT 800 or maybe a Villager 2. So it truly has helped me with new car sales!
Cody Homer, Intermountain Golf Cars: The Onward has revitalized our sales I think. The promotions and pre-launch created new levels of interest in the golf car industry!