Their Own Words E-Z-GO Golf Carts

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Editors note: Founded in Augusta, Ga., in 1954, E-Z-GO is the first name in golf car manufacturing. E-Z-GO golf cars can be found at great courses around the world ' including seven of the top 10 of Americas 100 Greatest as ranked by Golf Digest ' while their popularity as a mode of neighborhood transportation is skyrocketing. Over the years, E-Z-GO has engineered countless innovations like the Precision Drive System, which allows operators to tailor a golf cars performance to suit varied terrain.
 
John L. Garrison brought 20 years of managerial and operations experience to the position of E-Z-GO President in 2002. Under Garrison, the company has strengthened its stance as the golf car industry leader while introducing bold initiatives such as the E-Z-GO Factory Showroom near The Villages, Fla., and Innovative Designs by E-Z-GO, a new customization division. Garrisons knowledge and versatility are evident in his education ' he holds an engineering degree from the United States Military Academy and an MBA from Harvard.

 
A Conversation with John Garrison, President, E-Z-GO
 
Casey / Q:
Quite a history your company has
 
John / A:
We have been serving the golf industry for the better part of 53 years now. We are a significant long term player and we take great pride in having been part of this wonderful industry for such a long time. Our jobs here are geared towards making the very best products we can and providing the very best service we can to make sure we are around for another 50 years.
 
Casey / Q:
The two biggest companies in the golf car industry, E-Z- GO and Club Car, are located not much more than a Bubba Watson drive away from one another. How did you both come to be located in Augusta, Georgia?
 
E-Z-GO
E-Z-GO
John / A:
Maybe a little farther away from one another than one of Bubbas drives, but not too much I guess. Well, the Dolan brothers founded E-Z-GO here in Augusta way back when. They worked for many years and then sold the company to Textron. Ultimately, Bev Dolan retired as the Chairman and CEO of Textron Corp. Billy Dolan and seven executives from E-Z-GO werent particularly thrilled with the direction E-Z-GO was moving after Bev Dolan retired so they acquired Club Car which at the time was a small golf car company in Texas and they moved it here to Augusta, Georgia. So you had the evolution of what can be politely called a very dynamic, competitive environment. Thats how Augusta, Georgia became the worlds golf car city.
 
Casey / Q:
Whats your assessment of the current situation in the golf car segment of the golf industry?
 
John / A:
Were doing well. We have gone with the ebb and flow of the golf industry post 9/11 and so we have had to adjust to the dynamic changes in the industry just as many of the other companies in the golf industry have had to adjust. We are thrilled to continue to call many of the great golf courses in golf our customers and partners. We have seven of the top ten courses of Americas 100 Greatest List. We continue to deal with companies like the Pebble Beach Company. Were on a couple of major champion sites this year in Oakmont and Southern Hills and were excited about that.
 
Casey / Q:
How did business change for you in a post 9/11 business climate?
 
John / A:
We saw an adjustment in some cases in the size of fleets. I think the biggest adjustment we saw was in the reduction of new course openings. If you remember back to last year one of the big headlines in golf had more golf courses in North America closing than opening. This is something that had never happened before. This is a far cry from what we were experiencing in the 90s when 300 to 400 new courses a year were opening. So we had to adjust to this new paradigm of a stable market rather than a growing market. Its still a good market but it is much more of a stable and steady market and thats the adjustment we had to make.
 
Casey / Q:
What is the relationship between E-Z-GO and Textron?
 
John / A:
Well, Textron is our parent company and I am proud to say I think we are the oldest company in Textrons portfolio. Bev and Billy Dolan founded E-Z-GO and then in 1961 sold the company to Textron. Its a great relationship because it provides us the resources we need from a large, multi-national Fortune 500 company. Were able to bring in a lot of top talent from other Textron companies. A lot of our executive team comes from other Textron businesses. We can call on important and varied resources that are available from such a large and premiere Fortune 500 entity. Theyve been in the business a long time and they really understand the business and they like the business.
 
E-Z-GO
E-Z-GO
Casey / Q:
Theres also the finance side of your business, correct?
 
John / A:
Thats right. The E-Z-GO Textron Finance Company is one of the largest lenders in the golf industry. They do most of the leasing for our fleets of golf cars and utility vehicles. They also have a large mortgage business. And then our sister company Jacobson provides a lot of the turf equipment to the golf industry. So Textron is a major player in golf when you consider E-Z-GO, Textron Finance and Jacobson. In reality we are calling on the resources of an $11 billion company and as you can imagine that is a big help.
 
Casey / Q:
What is the passion that drives your business?
 
John / A:
Without a doubt the passion that drives our business is customer service and the drive to improve our products. Its been very exciting over the last couple of years to see the company grow and change as the market place has changed.
 
Casey / Q:
What do you consider E-Z-GOs strength to be?
 
John / A:
We stress the value we provide to our customers and a significant part of that is the value that our product provides. In order for us to be competitive in a global economy we have to produce a world class vehicle at a world class cost. Our customers are looking for a competitively priced vehicle but they understand the value that a golf car provides to them in terms of revenue generation on a golf course. I am happy to tell people it is the highest return capital good in business. We surround the quality product with a tremendous sales organization and a tremendous service organization. Being in the business as long as we have we understand that we are making a product but at the end of the day we are in the service business and we have to make sure we provide the service that our customers have come to expect so that their fleets are up and running properly all the time.
 
Casey / Q:
You guys produce a wide range of vehicles. Talk about some of the vehicles you offer other than golf carts.
 
John / A:
Well, youre right Casey. We are far more than a golf cart company. Weve got a very broad product offeringactually over 50 different types of vehicles that we produce. We produce a complete line of utility vehicles, a line that we call our MPT line. These vehicles are geared towards golf turf utility uses. We also have a complete line of ST or sport truck product line. These are utility vehicles that are used in all sorts of business applications from nurseries to schools to campus activities. And off of this line we have a consumer line of ST Sport and ST Sport 2+2 and our ST Custom line that are vehicles purchased by individual consumers and these are used as run-a-bouts in gated communities. And to round things off we offer a complete line of shuttle vehicles ' four and six passenger shuttle vehicles ' and Im sure youve seen these vehicles used everywhere: churches, airports, shopping malls, amusement parks, etc.
 
Casey / Q:
Does E-Z-GO still own the Cushman brand?
 
John / A:
We sure do. We produce a complete line of heavy industrial utility vehicles under the Cushman brand. Youll see E-Z-GO and Cushman throughout the industry. And one other brand of car that we are doing extremely well with is our Freedom golf car. This is a tremendous growth opportunity for us. These are golf cars that are sold to people for the most part in gated communities and theyre used as both on-course golf cars as well as general transportation around the community.
 
Casey / Q:
What about the technology you build in to golf cars that we cant necessarily see; like the Precision Drive System?
 
John / A:
We pioneered the PDS (Precision Drive System), a regenerative braking system, and that advancement and technology at the time led to improved control of a golf car while generating energy that goes back in to the cars batteries while the car is out on the course. We try to make our golf cars appealing to look at but the real beauty is under the skin ' under the hood so to speak ' and thats the technology that makes sure the golf car will operate beyond the users expectations and provide a wonderful experience to the golfer.
 
Casey / Q:
I see more and more customized private golf cars than ever before. Tell us about this market.
 
John / A:
Well, Casey, this custom golf car, custom parts and accessories aspect of the business ' the bling of golf cars if you will ' is huge and getting bigger and bigger by the day. Individual consumers, when they purchase a golf car, they dont want it to look like a fleet golf car. As a result, weve done a lot in our accessories and options business to be able to offer customized versions of our golf cars because that is what the individual consumer is looking for. They want to differentiate themselves from their clubs fleet cars and from their neighbors. So weve been thrilled to see that part of our business grow so rapidly.
 
Casey / Q:
So what kinds of custom accessories and options do you offer?
 

John / A:
Oh my, just about anything you can think of. Some of the more popular options might be a stereo, CD player, chrome wheels, spinner wheels, chrome step-ups, seat designs and materials, air-conditioners, TVs, paint schemes, coolers to keep beverages coldall kinds of fun things. And the interesting thing is this customization program is spilling over to our dealerships and our dealerships are starting to have much more of a car dealership feel to them. For example, we have a factory showroom down in the Villages in Florida not far from where the Golf Channel is located. And it is a heck of an inviting place to go buy a golf car. It really feels like you are going in to a car dealership showroom.
 
Casey / Q:
You have a couple of the heavy weights of all heavy weights as customers of E-Z-GO, dont you?
 
John / A:
If youre referring to the two gentlemen I think you are referring to you are absolutely right. Mr. Palmer has been a long time supporter of E-Z-GO and we are proud to say he runs all of our products on all his golf properties. And the same can be said for Jack Nicklaus. Weve had a long standing relationship with both these great men of the game and it is something we are very proud of. Weve also recently signed Vaughn Taylor to represent us on the PGA TOUR. Vaughn is an Augusta, Georgia native and his mom worked for many years at E-Z-GO. So thats pretty neat. Signing someone like Vaughn helps us in reaching out to individual golfers as customers which is a growing part of our business in addition to the regular fleet golf car part of our business. And Vaughn is just a great young man and a heck of a player so we are delighted to have him associated with our brand.
 
Casey / Q:
What makes a golf car a good golf car?
 
John / A:
Weve done our job when a golf car is transparent to the golf experience. A lot of engineering and manufacturing capability and competency goes in to building a golf car so that it is comfortable, easy to use, safe, and provides a reliable 18-hole round of golf for the golfer. All these things are often overlooked by the golfer and thats just fine with us because it means we were relatively unobtrusive to the golf experience itself. So when a golfer isnt really thinking about the golf car, theyre just using the golf car, thats when we know weve done a good job.
 
Casey / Q:
What do want the golfer to know ' our GOLF CHANNEL readers ' to know about E-Z-GO?
 
John / A:
Id like your great Golf Channel audience to know that
E-Z-GO is a company that for 53 years has had an absolute passion for customer satisfaction. We have the most dedicated work force all the way through our organization from the folks who actually manufacture our golf cars to the designers and engineers, the sales people, the folks that service the golf cars, our administrators and executives. On every level we have a passionate, dedicated team that is focused on providing a wonderful customer experience. And that is on the fleet golf car side of the business as well as the individual customer side of the business. Every customer is important to us and thats what Id really like people to know.
 
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