Money & Business

In Industry Salvage Effort, Chinese Hoverboard Manufacturers Create Alliance

By / Mar 10, 2016 (iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

The Hoverboard Industry Alliance, a new trade group for manufacturers of the popular devices, has emerged at a time of duress for the fast-growing industry, which has seen its products go from pop-culture phenomenon to hard-to-find safety hazards in a matter of months.

Popular, buzzworthy, dangerous: These three words describe what a lot of people think about hoverboards, the Segway-like devices that gained a pop-culture foothold last year. (Back to the Future II fans, we know: They should be called “balance boards” or “self-balancing boards.”)

Missy Elliott Hoverboard

When R&B icon Missy Elliott banks her comeback on hoverboard theatrics, you know the devices are hip and cool.

The problem, of course, is that the devices are increasingly being called unsafe, as Mike Tyson can attest:

Mike Tyson Hoverboard

Whille hoverboards won’t prevent you from being clumsy, more concerning is the fact that the devices are often made by low-quality manufacturers in China, who have cut corners on the very practices that keep the devices safe, such as battery testing and certifications.

0310_hoverboard

So, hoverboards bursting into flames, like the one above, are far more common than they should be. As a result, airlines have banned the devices, fire departments are responding to hoverboard-sparked house fires, and retailers like Amazon have chosen to stop selling the devices.

But the biggest step may have come from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which last month called for the recall of hoverboards that don’t meet federal safety standards.

“We believe that many of the reported incidents, and the related unreasonable risk of injuries and deaths associated with fires in these products, would be prevented if all such products were manufactured in compliance with the referenced voluntary safety standards,” the commission wrote in a letter last month [PDF].

As a result of these problems, several Chinese manufacturers are banding together to fight for the industry.

A Hoverboard Alliance Forms

The Hoverboard Industry Alliance, which formed in January, is working to bring together more than 100 producers in an effort to create quality standards for the industry, as well as to connect the manufacturers with safety boards where they can get their devices certified, according to a report this week from Quartz.

The alliance hopes to build relationships with both CPSC and Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the testing firm that commonly certifies electrical devices in the United States. (UL is currently accepting hoverboards for testing, according to its website.)

Beyond ensuring safety, there’s also a commercial element to the new alliance: By banding together, Quartz reports, the manufacturers hope to gain leverage with Amazon and other e-commerce sites that have stopped selling the devices over safety concerns.

It’s unclear whether these steps can stem the rising distrust of hoverboards, but they could provide a starting point for an industry that has grown perhaps too quickly for its own good.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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