Raising the bar another notch in the already hotly competitive treadmill market, the Landice treadmill company has added a lifetime warranty for no extra cost to its home models.
"This allows us to focus on not taking any shortcuts," said Greg Savettiere, president of the second-generation treadmill-only company founded in 1967. "To put your company behind the wear items, the belt, the rollers, the deck, the bearings, the motor -- that's really committing."
The new Landice warranty -- in place as of last month -- is a "bumper-to-bumper" lifetime warranty on the entire treadmill, down to the tiniest nuts and bolts in the motor, for as long as the original owner still has it. The new warranty applies to its eight treadmills for the home market that range in cost from $2,795 to $5,895, but does not include labor after the first year.
The company says it can back that up with 30 years of experience in commercial settings that show one of its treadmills can last 9,000 hours before items start giving. That, Savettiere says, would translate into some 30 years of regular home use.
A traditional warranty on a quality treadmill is often 5 years motor, 3 years parts, and one year labor, although some lower-cost treadmills drop that to 3-2-1.
"I think people are going to have to (step up) to compete with Landice," Savettiere said.
And indeed they already have. Or they're thinking about it. Or they think he's nuts.
Woody Fisher, vice president of sales at Spirit Fitness Products, says his company upped its warranty to lifetime on certain models for consumers who are willing to pay an extra $175. That went into place about a week after Landice's move, but Fisher told SNEWS the company was making it retroactive to all treadmills sold at the Health & Fitness Business Expo in mid-August.
"We had it in our minds before Landice," Fisher said. "We feel as if it will work, or we wouldn't do it. We don’t like to think of ourselves as foolish."
The Spirit warranty is available on its gold and platinum home treadmills and the folding 277 model, which range in cost from $1,995 to $3,195. It is also non-transferable to subsequent owners, and includes all parts and wear items, normal wear-and-tear, and any manufacturer's defects. Spirit had offered lifetime warranties on deck and frame on some of its models since 1994. Normal warranties with purchase are others are 5-3-1.
At Life Fitness, home treadmill models also normally offer a 5-3-1 warranty with lifetime on frame and "Lifesprings" shock absorbers. True Fitness models vary with the price range, but all offer lifetime on frame, then either 5 years parts and 1 or 2 years labor, or 5 years on motor, belt, deck and rollers, with 3 years on other parts and 1 year labor.
Thomas Staub, vice president of Pacemaster, said he and others were surprised at the Landice announcement: "To warranty your products for a lifetime is a big jump," he said. Pacemaster typically offers the 5-3-1 plan and has no plans to change.
Another longtime industry insider told SNEWS that last year was a tough one for treadmill companies and that small one-product suppliers are having the roughest go of it. The Landice move, he said, is one of "desperation."
"A treadmill is a wear item, and they're playing the odds," the insider noted.
SNEWS View: Playing follow-the-leader on something like a lifetime warranty -- heck, just offering a lifetime warranty -- isn't something that should be taken lightly. Things go wrong with big machines like these, and a company that hasn't thought through the costs and ramifications could be playing Russian roulette with its future. Other companies in other industries have tried lifetime warranties in the past -- for example major names in both outdoor and cycling -- and have bailed out because of high costs and lack of feasibility. One-product companies like Landice will have a hard time competing with other companies that have full lines. It's simple logistics -- what customer wouldn't want to deal with one company, one freight bill, and perhaps better discounts with more bulk when buying big-ticket items like cardiovascular equipment. A move like a lifetime warranty could be a play to regain market share, and either the company will indeed succeed -- or it will not, therefore opening the door for a buy-out or the death knell. The fitness industry will be in wait-and-see mode -- especially as other companies are said to be considering a similar move.