Among Taiwanese scooter brands, the relative newcomer Gogoro is an anomaly. Unlike such major scooter makers as Kymco and SYM, Gogoro did not begin as an OEM or ODM producer. If that suggests the company may lack the manufacturing acumen of some of its competitors, it also means that Gogoro may have an easier time capturing the imaginations of consumers. Its founders are not schooled in the rigid cost-down business model of contract manufacturing.
In contrast, their roots are in design and branding. Co-founder and chief technology officer Matt Taylor formerly worked as an engineer at Microsoft, Motorola, and HTC. Chief executive officer Horace Luke worked as a brand designer at Nike, creative director at Microsoft Xbox, and chief innovation officer at HTC before co-founding Gogoro in 2011.
Gogoro public-relations manager Jessica Chuang notes that Luke sought to create a company that would have a positive impact on the environment. “He believes that environmental protection is important and that green energy is the wave of the future,” she says. Describing the pollution in the greater Taipei area as “terrible,” Luke told the Wall Street Journal last year that he specifically aimed to bring eco-friendly electric scooters to Taipei City and New Taipei City.
While Luke appreciated that Taiwan has strong manufacturing ability, good technology, and talented engineers, he was also aware many of its companies lack an understanding of branding. According to Chuang, Luke observed that “Taiwanese manufacturers remained stuck in an OEM/ODM middleman role, working on behalf of foreign brands.”
Environmental protection is important and green energy is the wave of the future
With Gogoro, Luke intends to develop a strong Taiwanese brand with global appeal. Asked how Gogoro differentiates itself from other Taiwanese brands, Chuang says the company prefers not to make such comparisons. “From the beginning, we’ve thought of ourselves as being globally oriented,” she says. With the Gogoro scooters, “our goal is to be an industry leader, to integrate hardware and software in an innovative way.”
Choosing to launch Gogoro in Taiwan was a logical move given the island’s high rate of scooter ownership and the existing manufacturing infrastructure. But will the fashionable smart electric concept – the batteries have to be swapped at charging stations – catch on with Taiwanese consumers long accustomed to conventional motorized bikes?
Chuang notes that the company was quick to change its sales strategy when consumers were put off by Gogoro’s initial US$4,100 price tag. After selling only about a thousand units in its first three months on the market, the company slashed the starting price to US$2,970 and offered a suite of freebies to consumers: for instance, a year of free theft insurance as well as two years of battery swapping and maintenance free of charge.
Their extensive experience designing products for end users apparently freed the top Gogoro executives from the tunnel vision affecting so many Taiwanese manufacturers and enabled them to respond adroitly to consumer needs. And unlike many Taiwanese brands, the company appears willing to sacrifice short-term profits for long-term gains.
Those moves have positively impacted sales, Chuang observes. She says that there are currently 9,000 owners of Gogoro smart scooters in Taiwan; 212 battery-swap stations covering northern Taiwan, Taichung, and Changhua County; and 17 Gogoro sales outlets across the island. In June the company sold 1,200 scooters, marking its best sales performance so far. In the near term, she adds, the company plans to continue its focus on developing its business in the Taiwan market even as it gears up to build a global presence in the future.