- Jul 5, 2022
- Reaction score
Cogent and well written. Kudos.This message is for potential buyers of Autel’s UAV consumer retail products:
Ever since the sale of X-Star, Autel’s first drone, I’ve watched Autel create and sell high quality drones with excellent customer support during the manufacturing warranty period. I think product quality and customer support during the warranty period has differentiated Autel from its competitors.
Since the X-Star, Autel has launched next-evolution drones like the X-Star Premium, EVO 1, and EVO 2. When the X-Star approached EOL, the company stopped selling parts to focus on the sales of their next product. That’s not unusual as companies need to address the changing demands of their customers. What was unfortunate at that time was that since the company was small and the user base for X-Stars limited, there were no third-party manufacturers of critical parts like batteries, propellers, etc. At that time, I gave Autel the benefit of the doubt since the X-Star was their first drone - after experiencing their first sales cycle I thought Autel would learn and improve their sales and support for their future products.
As Autel announced the sales of the X-Star Premium and subsequently, the EVO 1, as each of these drones approached EOL (the EVO 1 will approach EOL in December 2021 for parts availability), there was/will be no change in the unavailability of critical parts, leaving these customers holding some nice expensive drones with eventually no way to fly them (e.g., because of the technology used, these drone batteries last 2-3 years even when treating them with the best care, whether they are used or stay new in the box).
I thought the EOL issue with the X-Star was just one single bad data point with Autel, but 3 data points about what Autel does regarding EOL with their drones suggest a sad consistent trend - I’m confident that if Autel continues this current practice with EOL products, their latest drone, the EVO II, and future drones like the EVO III and the Mini/Light will endure the same fate as their 3 previously launched drones.
This iterative cycle of winning new customers for each drone (I own the EVO 1), then losing them and starting all over to win new customers for Autel’s next drone is inefficient and exhaustive for a small company like Autel – I think this is one of the reasons why Autel cannot become a successful drone company. Instead of focusing resources on the creating the next drone so that the company can win new customers while losing its existing customers, I think the company is missing one important step in the sales cycle, which is to create an EOL parts eco-system so that current customers can continue to use their current drones, while building trust that these customers can safely purchase the next drone from Autel when they are ready to do so and use them without the fear of EOL parts abandonment. I’m not suggesting that Autel commit factory resources to manufacture legacy products indefinitely, but rather, I think they can have forge agreements with third parties to create these critical parts to appease their customer base so that Autel can then focus on their next line of products to then increase their customers on top of their current customer base.
Now, will some customers not want to purchase the next line of drones with Autel because their current drones will still be flying in the air? Of course. But the marketing advantage of building brand loyalty and encourage future purchases will outweigh any revenues lost by allowing current customers to hang on to their current drones. It’s not like creating an EOL parts eco-system manufactured by third party companies hasn’t worked before – it’s a common practice for technology hardware companies. In fact, I can’t think of ANY reputable tech hardware company that is surviving today without some EOL parts eco-system in place.
Another disturbing point (not related to EOL but you can infer when EOL happens to EOV II) – due to the chip shortage Autel has had to resort to creating a “V2” version of the EVO II which render users of “V1” EVO II’s incompatible with components of the EVO II “V2”. In other words, there are no additional V1 components being produced (and this is during the current sales cycle of the EVO II). Think about all these V1 users who purchased the EVO II before this announcement on 6/4/21 – since there are no compatible parts for their Smart Controller and/or Live Deck – they are all out of luck if these parts fail. To be fair, Autel is saying the chip shortage is what led to this “V2” version, but I would at least think that Autel should better support their EVO II customers by offering them an incentive to switch up to the V2 version.
I guess all this EOL management stuff wouldn’t matter much if we were buying toys. But these drones are expensive and regulated by the FAA, with safety first as the utmost priority. Some customers use these drones for commercial purposes and so making sure they are safely flying the skies is that much more important. I fear that without an EOL parts eco-system that Autel will see more of their older drones malfunction and cause harm – with the current sentiment towards drones as the “bad guy” I don’t think Autel would appreciate that kind of negative media.
So potential buyers - Please consider this point above when making your purchase.
To Autel Management:
Continuing to perpetuate current practices on unavailability of EOL parts is making your resources work inefficiently by creating these stellar products only to have them “fall off a cliff” at EOL. This compels your company to resort to perpetually restart the sales cycle with the next shiny drone hoping to capture a new group of customers rather than reaping dividends from all the hard work done earning your existing customer base (think of it as trying to increase the value of your investments without the benefit of compound interest, or at best, a lower interest rate than what you deserve). How many more sales cycles do you think your brand can survive until your potential customers realize that your products’ parts are abandoned at EOL and, at best, become nice-looking models on desks or hanging off ceilings?
I sincerely hope someone from Autel is reading this message because I’m really rooting for this company to be around. However, without taking an honest introspection of themselves and addressing EOL parts concerns I don’t think Autel can consider themselves a serious long-term player in this market as existing competitors evolve and new competition emerges.