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Southwest Florida firm rides scooter sales wave
Juan Carlos Rivera's first taste of the life people with disabilities face came during his college sophomore year as a volunteer taking class notes for others who needed the help.
Success Story: Don Ruane, Special to the News-Press
"I used to see students going to class in wheelchairs and on scooters," Rivera said. Using his knowledge of three languages and engineering, he got to know some of them and their daily challenges.
That experience was a seed that germinated and grew into a career of rehabilitation engineering. He designed his first motorized scooter in Fort Myers in 1999. He's now owner and president of EV Rider, a successful assembler and marketer of electric scooters.
This year he expects sales fueled by a contract with the online and television marketing QVC to reach $2.5 million compared to $1.6 million a year ago. QVC quickly sold more than 600 units of EV Rider's TranSporter Traveler model in April and has another QVC order for 1,500 units to be delivered by the end of July.
The TranSporter Traveler is a small scooter that, like a Transformer toy, changes shape in a few easy steps to become a compact, suitcase-size device that can be stored in a car trunk or taken on a passenger jet with ease.
EV Rider also earned a 2013 Florida Excellence Award for its great customer service and product quality in its field. The award came from the U.S. Institute for Excellence in Commerce. The company was notified of the unsolicited award by email.
"It just came to us. I thought it was another spam email," Rivera said.
The institute uses research and surveys to identify companies that are successful in their local business environment and industry category. The award recognizes their services to their customers and community.
EV Rider assembles and tests the scooters at its warehouse at 6410 Arc Way, between Metro Parkway and Penzance Road in Fort Myers. Any problems that show up are addressed then to improve customer service, Rivera said.
EV Rider employee Walter Estenssoro assembles a battery pack for a scooter.(Photo: Don Ruane / Special to The News-Press)
Employee Walter Estenssoro handles the assembly.
Scooters typically can go 4 mph, but some models can reach 12.5 mph. The typical range is 10 to 15 miles, but some can go 30 miles on a charged battery. EV Rider warrants batteries for one year.
Rivera bought EV Rider in 2005 after successfully selling power chairs, which he says have fewer moving parts.
"We knew the market was going to change," Rivera said.
Rivera looked to the high end of the market for opportunities while still serving the needs of people who seek mobility help or experience temporary mobility problems due to injuries. The market is broad.
"It's used by grandmas who want to get around with their grandchild or pet. Or grandpas who are told they no longer can drive," Rivera said.
One customer is a college student. Scooters aren't just for the elderly, he noted.
Others are using the scooters with a seat as well. Some use them in lieu of a golf cart to cruise around their neighborhoods.
"They are more compact. You can always put them in the garage," Rivera said.
There is a Chicago customer who ordered 25 to start and plans to get 40 more for use at a fair there. EV Rider also has models in use at airports, by the TSA, at the White House, by electricians who work in a convention center and in countries such as Japan and Dubai and on continents such as South America and Africa, Rivera said.
Joe Reardon, 71, of North Fort Myers praised the service and reliability of his EV Rider, which he's had more than four years.
"Of the six different brands I've owned they're the best," Reardon said.
"I use it for shopping and going to the store," Reardon said. "It's my freedom. It allows me to be independent."