Most Asphalt & Rubber readers are aware of Skully, the San Francisco startup that is making a helmet with an integrated heads-up-display (HUD), and many A&R readers are also aware that Skully is now officially late in delivering its maiden product to the masses.
Finally acknowledging the tardiness to its 2,000 or so early-adopting customers, Skully has released a video (after the jump) explaining its activities, and that the company is on-track for its new delivery date, before the end of the year – or as they say in marketing speak: just in time for Christmas.
Of course we knew back in late-2013, when Skully first announced its helmet, that there was no way the company was going to hit its delivery promise for 2014, though now the company seems in good stead for its new 2015 promise, with an actual office in SF, a deal with Flextronics to make the augmented reality portion of the helmet, and manufacturing tooled-up.
Our issue with Skully though isn’t that the company has missed its delivery date (that’s nothing new in the land of startup companies), nor that it has taken them this long to acknowledge it (we get it, you’re busy).
Instead, our issue with Skully boils down to transparency and honesty. Making a claim back in 2013 that product would be available to customers in six months is basically a lie when you’re a startup of six people that is working in a shared workspace incubator in San Francisco. Anyone paying attention, should have seen this coming.
Of course the big issue for any helmet manufacturer, and especially when it comes to Skully, is who is making their helmets, because many brands do not make their shells in-house.
When you start looking at helmet brands, you come to realize there are actually only a few companies doing the manufacturing, with many brands operating as a private label. Skully is no different.
Sharing many visual and component similarities with helmets made by LS2, we asked Skully if the Chinese brand was making their company’s helmets, and we got a flat denial. Of course, LS2 is actually made by MHR Helmets, which is owned by the Chinese company Jiangmen Pengcheng Helmets Ltd.
Whether that’s just a game of semantics, or a remarkable coincidence, one can’t say for certain.
One thing we do know is that even in Skully’s own video, it sure doesn’t look like shell manufacturing is coming from an “American manufacturing partner” – a statement by Skully that reads more like fine legalese, and is almost surely meant to mean the electronic portion of the helmet, which is being built by Flextronics.
Comparing the production line scenes in Skully’s own video, to the photos on MHR’s site also makes for some interesting comparisons.
To further compound things, as far as we know no motorcycle journalist has actually been able to use the Skully AR-1 in the wild, an issue that is only compounded further by the fact that Skully chooses to engage the more motorcycling-naive mainstream press, rather than the endemic motorcycle media outlets who actually know a thing or two about helmets.
In the end, this update from Skully is somewhat encouraging, as we want to see more technology come into the helmet space. The unfortunate part is that the video does nothing to help the fundamental issues we, and many others, have with Skully as a team and as a company.
Considering how skeptical and cynical motorcyclists are with their helmets, we would think that disclosing the helmet shell manufacturer and being more forthright and open with customers would be a more beneficial long-term plan for this budding helmet upstart. Time will tell, of course.