Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Garmin came to dominate the GPS marketplace

Earlier this week, in an article on Garmin GPS units being offered in Avis and Budget rental cars, the Kansas City Business Journal noted that:

"Garmin is the leading maker of portable navigation units for automobiles in the United States. In June, Garmin sold 58 percent of all portable navigation units domestically, ahead of TomTom NV (24 percent) and Magellan (7 percent), according to researcher NPD."

Just how did Garmin achieve this lofty position in the GPS marketplace? Sure they have wonderfully intuitive interfaces, a reputation for good customer service, a weak competitor in Magellan and a fumbling one in TomTom.

But I see another reason. Garmin has done an excellent job of developing niche markets. Let’s see how many I can list:

  • Automobiles – One of their newest units, the StreetPilot c550 is garnering rave reviews.
  • Handhelds – If you spend any time on outdoor recreation message boards like this one, you’ll soon find that the GPSMAP 60CSx is the most widely embraced unit by those who want the nicest toy out there.
  • Motorcycles – Did you catch the zumo announcement today?
  • Bicyclists – The Edge series aims to replace cyclometers with a more high-tech approach.
  • Runners – Forerunners have got to be the favorite GPS line among runners.
  • Marine – Garmin has the, ahem, waterfront covered with multiple units from handhelds to sounders to chartplotters to land/sea hybrids. And have you seen how much some of these things cost?
  • RVs and trucks – They have the big screen crowd with the StreetPilot 7200 and 7500.
  • GPS for international travellers – People love the nuvi.
  • Aviation – Yet another product announcement today.
  • FRS/GMRS radios – Rinos appeal to the safety-concious outdoorsperson.
  • PDAs – Let’s not forget the iQue.
  • Cellphones – Not content to let others hack away at market edges, Garmin is wading into this market as well.
  • Rental cars – I already mentioned this one in the intro.

I imagine I’ve left some out.

There is often speculation online about what features might be integrated into the next generation of  Garmin devices, but perhaps we should be asking how they’re going to be slicing and dicing the market to further exploit new niches.

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About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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