Science and Technology

Robots Replace Gardeners as Auto-Mowers Take Over

businessweek.com
Ola Kinnander

Robots Replace Gardeners as Sales Surge for Auto-Mowers

The Husqvarna AB Automower 265 ACX. Source: Husqvarna AB

Europe’s backyards have become the latest front in the robot wars.

With a quarter of lawn owners saying they dislike mowing the grass, sales of machines that will do the job for them are taking off, especially in Europe where landscaping services are more expensive than in the U.S.

That has spurred a legion of manufacturers to challenge market leader Husqvarna AB. (HUSQB) Robert Bosch GmbH, Deere & Co. (DE) and Global Garden Products Italy SpA this year started offering robotic mowers, which Husqvarna sells for as much as 5,000 euros ($6,487). Honda Motor Co. (7267) plans to enter the fray in 2013.

“We felt we had to get on board,” said Thomas Olsson, head of Swedish operations at privately owned Global Garden Products. “For the first time you hear that people exchange relatively new manual mowers for robots.”

The market for hands-free mowers, which expanded by more than 30 percent last year, offers a rare bright spot in Europe’s consumer climate. The European market may grow as much as 20 percent annually over the next five years, Olsson said. Most of the customers are in Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland — countries that have so far proven resilient to the debt crisis.

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