Arcimoto is a Eugene company that's making a cool three-wheeled electric motorcycle billed as a FUV (Fun Utility Vehicle). I was one of the first to plunk down $100 as a pre-order reservation.
My #129 place in line means I'm an early adopter. Or at least, a potential one.
I'm still undecided about whether I'm going to pay upwards of $12,000 for an Arcimoto. The final design hasn't been revealed yet, nor has the final pricing with options.
My experience with being an early adopter of the all-electric Nissan Leaf gives me some pause about jumping headfirst into the Arcimoto buyer-pool.
Before I describe that experience, I'll share some quotes from a recent Washington Post review of the Tesla Model 3.
To date, Teslas have mostly been bought by enthusiasts, who tolerate design flaws, spend hours learning about their vehicles — and don’t take well to critiques. They’re like the first adopters who bought that original iPhone.
...My buddy says he’s happy with his Model 3, but after three weeks he’s still unearthing how to operate it. He says it feels like he’s leveling up in a video game. He’d think twice about getting a Model 3 for his wife, who unlike him isn’t a Silicon Valley engineer. I agree for my family: Tesla’s mass-market car is still for early adopters.
To date only a handful of "beta" Arcimotos are out and about, being driven by early adopters who are helping to refine the vehicle before the production model is finalized.
As the Washington Post story accurately says, early adopters are enthusiasts who enjoy being the first to try out something new, even if it is rough around the edges. I've noted that the comments on a Facebook Arcimoto club seem to run at least 90% positive about the vehicle.
Which makes sense, since virtually everyone who joins the club does so because they find the Arcimoto appealing.
But this gets me to my Nissan Leaf experience. The Leaf was released in the United States in December 2010. We took a test drive in September 2011, and bought a Leaf soon after. We were able to get one that quickly because someone cancelled an order.
So early on, there was a waiting list to buy a Nissan Leaf. The car was in hot demand by people who had been waiting for a quality electric car to hit the market. Somewhat similarly, currently the Arcimoto has over 2,500 $100 pre-order deposits, if I recall correctly.
For various reasons my wife and I decided to sell our Leaf in March 2012, after owning it for only about six months. In that short time demand for the car had changed a lot. After several weeks of advertising it on Auto Trader, we eventually had precisely one person who was seriously interested in buying our blue Leaf.
We gave him a pretty good deal. He had to have the Leaf trucked to his home in eastern Washington, because there was no way he wanted to drive a car home from our house in rural south Salem, Oregon that had a range of well under 130 miles at highway speeds.
This experience taught me that being an early adopter of an electric vehicle has pluses and minuses.
Yes, it's enjoyable to be among the first to own an innovative vehicle. However, once the group of avid early adopters has bought their vehicles, there's a good chance the pool of people interested in buying the vehicle is going to be markedly diminished.
With Arcimoto, there are some additional risks, since Nissan was a well-established company when it introduced the Leaf. There was a network of dealerships that could service the electric car, plus buyers knew Nissan would be around to handle maintenance and repair issues for many years to come.
Arcimoto is a small company that has to build sales and service from scratch. And it is marketing the Arcimoto FUV nationwide, from what I can tell. I've wondered if maybe it would have been wiser to roll out this electric motorcycle only in Oregon at first, or maybe just on the West Coast.
It appears that Arcimoto is planning to ship vehicles anywhere in the country, where, I assume, the company will have to line up places where it can be repaired and serviced. Sure, an electric vehicle needs less maintenance than a gasoline-powered vehicle, but things still will go wrong.
Anyway, living as we do just 50 or so miles north of Arcimoto world headquarters in Eugene, I'm not hugely worried about being left in the lurch should I decide to buy an Arcimoto FUV. However, being an early adopter brings with it some other anxieties, since there won't be much of a buyer experience history once my #129 pre-order number comes up in the production queue.