CHRISTIANSBURG — Honda’s new robotic lawn mower buzzed around a patch of grass in front of Power Zone on Thursday, the only store in Virginia where the device is sold as part of a limited U.S. launch.
“Is it cutting the grass?” a skeptical passerby asked, adding as he walked away that it’s just the latest sign of our increasing laziness.
Honda is planning a nationwide rollout next year, but for now Power Zone is alone in the state.
Honda dropped off the first units last week — the Christiansburg business hasn’t sold any yet.
Higham said he knows it’s not for everybody, but he didn’t want to miss the chance to get in early on a piece of technology he thinks will one day reshape the industry.
The launch is part of a growing trend as more and more lawn mower manufacturers now offer a robotic option. Most began selling the autonomous devices in Europe, but now they’re becoming increasingly available in U.S. markets as well.
Sweden-based Husqvarna now sells an American version of its Automower. Cub Cadet’s parent company merged with Israel’s Robomow in July, announcing plans for a new line of U.S. robots.
“You’ve got to be on top of technology. Robotics are a reality in our industry,” Higham said. “All the manufacturers are working on it.”
The Miimo does have its drawbacks, most notably a $2,500 price tag. But Higham noted during his sales pitch that it comes out to about $70 per month on an interest free, three-year loan.
Power Zone has a demo running inside the store and outside near Roanoke Street, so shoppers can see the Miimo in action.
It looks, sounds and operates almost nothing like a traditional lawn mower. Instead of big, powerful blades cutting inches of grass at a time, the Miimo has small razors under the hood that cut just a sliver off the top with every pass.
The autonomous mower is in a constant state of maintenance, trimming ever so slightly so it never needs a major cut.
“It’s like if you went and got a haircut every two days,” Higham said. “Your hair would always be the same length. The barber would have a hard time taking hair off — but they would. It grows a little bit every day.”