Founding and growth

In 1983, Gary Burrell recruited Min H. Kao from the defense contractor Magnavox while working for the former King Radio.[7] They founded Garmin in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas,[2] as “ProNav”. ProNav’s first product was a GPS unit which sold for US$2,500. The company was later renamed “Garmin”, a portmanteau of its two founders, Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao.[8] In 1991, the U.S. Army became their first customer.[9]

By 1995, Garmin’s sales had reached $105 million, and it had achieved a profit of $23 million. By 1999, sales had reached $233 million and a profit of $64 million. Garmin reported a 2006 total revenue of $1.77 billion, up 73% from $1.03 billion in 2005.[10][11]

By 2000 Garmin had sold three million GPS devices, and was producing 50 different models. Its products were sold in 100 countries and carried by 2,500 independent distributors. As of 22 August 2000, the company held 35 patents on GPS technology. By the end of June 2000, the company employed 1,205 people: 541 in the United States, 635 in Taiwan, and 29 in the United Kingdom.[12] In April 2018, Garmin launched Connect IQ 3.0  along with new apps—MySwim Pro, Yelp, Trailforks and iHeartRadio.[13] In May 2018, Garmin partnered with the University of Kansas Medical Center to tackle sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation.[14]

Public offering

The company began public trading on NASDAQ on 8 December 2000. At that time Burrell owned 19,911,155 shares. Kao owned 20,352,803 shares. Together their holdings accounted for 45 percent of the company’s stock. Kao’s brother, Ruey-Jeng Kao, an attorney in Taipei, owned another 7,984,109 shares, which when combined with Burrell’s and Kao’s shares constituted 54.22 percent of the shares outstanding.[15]


From 2006 to 2015 Garmin operated a retail store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

In August 2003, Garmin completed acquisition of UPS Aviation Technologies, Inc. based in Salem, Oregon,[16] a subsidiary of United Parcel Service, Inc., expanding its product line of panel-mounted GPS/NAV/COMM units and integrated cockpit systems for private and commercial aircraft. The acquired company changed its name to Garmin AT, Inc. and continued operations as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmin International, Inc.[17]

Garmin has acquired Dynastream Innovations,[18] EME Tec Sat SAS (EME),[19] and Digital Cyclone.[20] Dynastream, in Cochrane, Alberta, produces personal monitoring technology (ANT+)—such as foot pods and heart rate monitors for sports and fitness products—and also ultra-low-power and low-cost wireless connectivity devices for a wide range of applications (ANT). EME Tec Sat SAS (EME) is the distributor of Garmin’s consumer products in France; following the acquisition, EME changed its name to Garmin France SAS. Digital Cyclone Inc (DCI), located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, provides mobile weather solutions for consumerspilots, and outdoor enthusiasts. Garmin also bought Nautamatic Marine Systems,[21] an Oregon-based company that makes autopilot systems for boats. In July 2011, Garmin finished its acquisition of the German satellite navigation company Navigon.[22]

In 2006, Garmin introduced a new corporate logo,[23] and opened its first retail store, located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.[24]

In 2015, Garmin acquired South Africa’s iKubu Ltd. for its Backtracker on-bicycle low power radar system.[25]

In 2018, it was reported that the Garmin subsidiary Navionics had exposed hundreds of thousands of customer records, when its MongoDB database wasn’t secured with a password.[26]

Corporate governance

Burrell retired in 2003 as Garmin’s chief executive officer and in 2004 retired as chairman of its board of directors. He remained chairman emeritus until his death in 2019. Kao became CEO in 2003, and chairman in 2004.[27]

In 2005, Forbes estimated Kao’s net worth at $1.5 billion. He has donated $17.5 million to the University of Tennessee. The same year Forbes estimated Burrell’s net worth as $940 million.[28] Cliff Pemble is the current CEO of Garmin.[29]


Garmin Tech Center (??????????) is the head office of Garmin (Asia) Corporation and located in the Xizhi District of New Taipei City, Taiwan.

Garmin operates in several other countries besides the UK, USA, and Taiwan.[30] It operates as Formar (Belgium), Garmin AMB (Canada), Belanor (Norway), Trepat (Spain), and Garmin-Cluj (Romania).

Products and brands

Marine GPS

The company’s first product was the GPS 100, a panel-mounted GPS receiver aimed at the marine market, priced at $2,500. It made its debut at the 1990 International Marine Technology Exposition in Chicago.

Handheld GPS

A Garmin eTrex H, an early, basic GPS model

Another early product, a handheld GPS receiver, was sold to military personnel serving in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War. In the early 2000s (decade), Garmin launched a series of personal GPS devices aimed at recreational runners called the Forerunner. The Garmin Foretrex is a similar wrist-worn GPS device with two-dimensional GPS trackingand waypoint projection called .


Garmin eTrex10 Handheld

A Garmin eTrex 30 simultaneously connects to both GPS and GLONASS satellites.

The compact eTrex was introduced in 2000; several models with different features have been released since. The original eTrex, commonly nicknamed “eTrex Yellow”, offered a lightweight (5.3 oz/150 g), waterproof, palm-sized 12-channel GPS receiver, along with a battery life of up to 22 hours on two AA-size batteries.[31] It was replaced in 2007 by the eTrex H, which added a high-sensitivity receiver.[32] Other eTrex models include the Summit, Venture, Legend, and Vista, each with various additional features such as WAAS, altimeter, digital compass, city database, and highway maps. Many of these models come in color and expandable-memory versions.[33]

In May 2011 Garmin refreshed the eTrex product line with new mechanical design and support for advances in cartography and hardware technology with its release of the eTrex 10, eTrex 20, and eTrex 30, Garmin became the first company to manufacture and distribute a worldwide consumer navigation product supporting both GPS and GLONASS satellite constellations.[34][35] On May 13, 2015 Garmin released the eTrex 20x and 30x, which succeeded the eTrex 20 and 30. The main upgrade was a higher resolution screen and 4GB storage, double of the previous models.[36]

On July 2, 2015 Garmin introduced its eTrex Touch line, releasing three models (25, 35 and 35t), all featuring a 2.6″ touch screen.[37] The 35t model designation is not used in Europe, but the European market 35 is essentially the 35t, and both the European 25 and 35 include Garmin TopoActive Europe maps and 8GB of internal storage.[38]

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