The Ricardo effect in Europe (Germany fact of the day)

Six percent of the value of all mowers sold in Germany are now robotic, and the country’s automatic mower market is growing in “double digits,” according to research company GfK Retail and Technology GmbH…

The market for hands-free mowers, which expanded by more than 30 percent last year, offers a rare bright spot in Europe’s consumer climate. The European market may grow as much as 20 percent annually over the next five years, Olsson said. Most of the customers are in Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland — countries that have so far proven resilient to the debt crisis.

Demand for the garden robots has “exploded the last couple of years,” said Mats Gustafsson, owner of Moheda Jarnhandels AB, a hardware store in the southern Swedish town of Moheda. Gustafsson said he’s sold almost 60 robomowers this year, compared with fewer than 10 five years ago.

They cost about 1,700 euros, with falling prices, and they work like this:

The mowers use sensor technology to stay within a defined area of the yard, and are typically able to avoid obstacles such as trees and lawn furniture. Some of the mowers, including those made by Husqvarna, move around in random patterns, while others such as Bosch machines follow distinct lines.

For obvious reasons, this technology is less widespread in the United States.  By the way, for those of you who doubt whether machinery can exert a negative effect on wages, it is still worth reading David Ricardo’s chapter “On Machinery.”

The article is here, and hat tip goes to the excellent Daniel Lippman.


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