Rural Lifestyle Dealer was on site for a Greenworks event and talked with Tony Marchese, commercial business unit leader for Greenworks America, about what’s ahead for the company.

Greenworks Commercial has been on a steady pace of product introductions within the last year, including a 13.8 kilowatt lithium-ion powered utility vehicle, expansion of its 82V string trimmer lineup, a48/24V system of tools, mini cultivator and upcoming introductions of a residential zero-turn mower deck and two commercial grade UTVs.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer was on site to view the new products and talked with CEO Yin Chen and Tony Marchese, who is the commercial business unit leader for Greenworks America. Here’s a round-up of Marchese’s comments about what’s happening at Greenworks.

On perfecting battery technology: The great thing about battery technology is once you have perfected the battery and the charger, you can add tools to that family very very easily. So one of the things you'll see here today is the addition of a power tool line. This will allow the prosumer customer who has bought a trimmer, blower, chainsaw, or whatever that may be, and they've acquired a charger and a battery with that purchase, they can now buy additional power tools, such as a drill driver, grinder, wet dry vac or other tools. 

Our customers tend to be outdoors people, gardeners, hunters or fisherman or campers. All of those segments are avenues for our product. So when you buy that trimmer as a chore item, then we'd like to be able to provide you with a camp light or a power tool or even a trolling motor. So we're looking at a variety of different areas that we can expand our product line one. 

On future battery development: We're making smaller batteries that are producing the same power that larger batteries did in the past. The great thing about our industry is that we follow behind the automobile industry. The development of high performance lithium batteries is paramount to that. The same cell used in our products is what is used in Tesla cars. They just use more of them.

As the auto industry demands more from battery manufacturers — more length of service and more power — we will benefit as well and we see a future of new battery technology that will be cheaper. For instance, advanced design work is being done on saline- based batteries, sea water if you will. Those batteries will be cheaper and lighter and provide more power.

What we’re doing today is light years ahead of what we did 5 years ago. Five years from now, I think we will be totally amazed at the performance, reduced weight and reduced cost with battery technology.

On the recent tariffs and North American production: In the ever-changing world that we live in, we have to be reflective of world issues that occur, such as the tariffs happening between China and America.

We have major sales organizations in the U.S., North America and Europe and, of course, the Far East. We want to make sure that we have the very best rechargeable battery products at the very best prices for our customers. And, in this case, we had to look at the effect of the Chinese tariffs. We looked at what we could do to diversify our manufacturing base and remain competitive in a competitive market. We made the decision to expand our manufacturing outside of our traditional Chinese manufacturing. We opened up a full-service manufacturing facility in Vietnam and will be serving North American customers out of that facility this fall.

We continue to look at where we need to be. We own our warehouse facility in Morganton, N.C., and we distribute throughout North America out of that facility. We also have a 140 additional acres in Morganton and are looking at doing some assembly work there and, potentially, also have a full production facility. We believe that having product on the continent and being able to respond quickly to our customers is going to be a need for the future for our company.

On what might impact growth: When we look at the lithium battery today, a significant amount of lithium is mined in China. This happens to be the same country that we're experiencing tariffs with, so will that have an effect on batteries? Potentially. That won’t affect just Greenworks, but the manufacturers of the cell phone that you're using every day or the car that you potentially drive every day. So, I think everyone needs to be concerned about that. There was talk about lithium running out being in short supply. We haven't seen any of that yet.

On STIHL’s minority ownership: STIHL saw that their business was transitioning. They are the No. 1 producer of two-stroke gasoline products in the industry and they saw the need to find a partner that has expertise in lithium-powered products.

We were fortunate that they came to us and the relationship has been very good. They are an excellent engineering company and have helped us from a manufacturing perspective. We, in turn, have helped them a great deal around the development of their lithium-powered outdoor power products. It's been a very, very good marriage. STIHL is a very strong brand and so is Greenworks, but we work very well together.

Read more: Greenworks Sees a Future Without Gas-Powered Equipment