Segway, which boldly claimed its two-wheeled personal transporter would revolutionise the way people get around, is ending production of its namesake vehicle.
The Segway PT, which is popular with tourists and police officers but perhaps better known for its high-profile crashes, will be retired on July 15, the company said in a statement.
“Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle,” Segway president Judy Cai said on Wednesday (Australian time), noting that in the past decade Segways had gained popularity with holiday makers in major cities around the world.
But the Segway, which carries a standing passenger on a wide platform, accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of the company’s revenue in 2019.
The vehicle even resulted in the death of a former Segway company president, who drove one off a cliff in 2009.
The US company said 21 employees will be laid off, another 12 workers will stay on for up to a year. The company will keep five staff at its factory in Bedford, New Hampshire.
“This decision was not made lightly, and while the current global pandemic did impact sales and production, it was not a deciding factor in our decision,” Ms Cai said.
The transportation revolution that inventor Dean Kamen envisioned when he founded the company in 1999 never took off.
The Segway’s original price tag of about $US5000 ($A7190) was a hurdle for many customers.
It also was challenging to ride because the rider had to be balanced at a specific angle for the vehicle to move forward.
If the rider’s weight shifted too much in any direction, it could easily spin out of control and throw the rider off.
Segways were banned in some cities because users could easily lose control if they were not balanced properly.
“What did they think the market was when they built this, when they designed it?” automotive industry analyst and author Maryann Keller said.
“My impression was they were talking about this as personal mobility. How could you think that something this large and expensive would be personal mobility?”
Ten months after buying the company in 2009, 62-year-old British self-made millionaire Jim Heselden died after the Segway he was riding careened off a 10-metre cliff not far from his country estate north of London.
In 2015, a cameraman riding a Segway ran over Usain Bolt as the Jamaican sprinter did a victory lap after winning a 200-metre race in Beijing.
Bolt wasn’t injured and later joked about the incident.
In the same year, former US president George W. Bush took a tumble from a Segway while visiting his parents’ summer home in Maine.
In 2017, Segway got into the scooter business – just as the light, inexpensive and easy-to-ride two-wheelers took over urban streets.
It might have been a sign that the Segway PT’s days were numbered.
“It was probably over-hyped before it was launched – and when it was launched, it was like, this is not going to work on city sidewalks,” Ms Keller said.