COVID-19 won’t stop lawns from being mowed, but it looks like you’ll be doing it the old-fashioned way for even longer. iRobot delayed the launch of its long-awaited Terra robot lawn mower. And the Bedford, Mass.-based company didn’t specify a future launch date for the product.
In its Q1 2020 earnings call, iRobot said it “suspended our go-to-market plans associated with our Terra robot mower. Although we believe there is substantial long-term opportunity in the robot lawncare market, our decision to take our foot off the gas for Terra was based largely on the likelihood of significant delays to our 2020 commercial plans for Terra caused by COVID-19 combined with the overall intensity of ongoing technology investment that would be required over the coming quarters to continue advancing the product. It is simply the wrong time to launch this product.”
There has been talk of an iRobot robot lawn mower since at least 2006, but the Roomba-like Terra was officially unveiled in January 2019. iRobot was touting ease of use as one of the main differentiators from other robotic mowers. Instead of having to bury and run boundary wires throughout a yard, iRobot claims that it will simplify the process for consumers.
Another benefit of Terra is that it mows in straight, back-and-forth lines, which many robot lawn mowers do not.
iRobot stressed on the earnings call that all other product development and digital roadmaps are funded and on track, including plans to launch a new Roomba later in 2020.
COVID-19 to blame for cost-cutting initiatives
Overall, iRobot’s revenue declined by 28% in the U.S., 11% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and 14% in Japan. According to iRobot, COVID-19 disrupted its sales and supply chain activities in March.
The largest factor associated with the shortfall was our inability to completely fulfill first-quarter demand for our i7+ and s9+ products due to design-driven engineering and supply chain challenges that were unexpectedly complicated by the impact of COVID-19 on our organization, our contract manufacturers and some suppliers.”
iRobot’s revenue was also affected by subpar Q1 manufacturing volumes in China. Due to COVID-19, iRobot’s contract manufacturers didn’t ramp back up to full capacity until late March.
iRobot also laid off 70 employees, mostly in R&D, and furloughed 14 sales and marketing staff. iRobot said the Terra delay and staff reductions are part its cost-reduction initiatives that are expected to “reduce 2020 spending by approximately $30 million.”