January 14, 2015

Gogoro: The Tesla of Scooters

While scrolling through what is often an endless stream of self-promotion and mind-numbing professional “advice” pieces on LinkedIn, a single headline from Business Insider caught my attention: “Gogoro hailed as the Tesla of Scooters.”

For anyone who knows me well, cue eye-roll. My Tesla obsession was piqued. I scanned the article, trolled the gorgeously designed Gogoro website, and watched a few well-executed promotional videos with a mix of skepticism and excitement. Skepticism, because how could anyone really do electric transportation like Tesla? Excitement, because… this scooter is damn cool.

I mean c’mon, when have you seen a scooter that looks like this? It doesn’t really feel right calling the Gogoro a scooter. It’s like calling Google Glass “eyewear” – it simply doesn’t do the product justice.

Like Tesla, Gogoro is more computer than machine. Digital integration from the bottom-up allows for incredible features such as custom light displays, torque control, dashboard customization, nearby charging station alerts, and more – all from the Gogoro phone app.

And the designers who worked on not only the scooter itself but the website, video, and app all deserve incredible recognition for their commitment to clean design enhancing the seamless functionality of the brand experience.

From a business perspective, it will be interesting to see how Gogoro will overcome some of their external challenges and internal choices. First off, will they follow in the path of Tesla and trash traditional advertising in favor of earned media? A risky strategy since earned media is by definition uncontrollable (just ask Tesla how that bit them in the butt).

Additionally, scooters may be a good sell in the Asian and European markets, but the U.S. will be a tough sell. Scooters are by no means mainstream even in urban transportation markets and Gogoro faces an uphill battle to prove that not only is a scooter a good idea, but an electric one is an even better.

An interesting choice from the makers of Gogoro is to rely solely on battery-swap stations, meaning there is no option to cord-charge the batteries. This brings up some major infrastructure issues since it will be impossible to own or drive a Gogoro outside of areas with pre-existing battery-swap stations.

Why make what seems to be such a bone-headed choice? Gogoro wants to charge you a small monthly membership fee to participate in these battery-swapping stations (which is in effect mandatory). Ouch. This scooter just got way more expensive for you and way more profitable for Gogoro. To be fair, with a traditional engine you would still be paying for gas on a regular basis so the difference still may come out in favor of Gogoro.  Despite all the challenges I’ve just laid out, Gogoro has a strong set of opportunities and strengths.

Without an officially announced price point, it is difficult to say whether the Gogoro will be an appealing choice for their stated 18-28 year old target market.  I anticipate a skew towards the older end of that range, but geographic area and starting price will make a huge difference. It will be interesting to see how Gogoro moves forward with their communications strategy and how they target the global marketplace. If only I could get my hands on one for a test drive…