2007 Dealer Expo: POCphil’s review
February 25, 2007
Since a week has passed and I still haven’t been able to collect my thoughts on the ginormous mindblowing extravaganza in Indianapolis, here’s POCphil‘s writeup. I’ll add my comments in italics where appropriate. -2SB
We were so excited to get to the Indianapolis Dealer Expo this year, we were running about 2 hours early. We took that time to go visit Speed City Cycles in Indianapolis, only a few minutes from the Show. Mike and Marybeth Tockey have created a fantastic shop with an ingenious use of space and rural/industrial feel that leaves room for a snack bar, lounge and a ton of scooters and accessories. Mike also builds award winning metric cruisers. Just hanging around his IWL Berliner is a treat. After a great tour and some bench racing we were back on our mission to deliver two scooters to the Scoot! Magazine/ Corazzo booth and still arrive early enough at the hotel for some hottubbing before showing up in time for the open bar at 4PM, whew!
After the “Handsome Boy” incident of ’06 (reprised this year with the other Nick -2SB) we figured there would be no free booze. Well, we were wrong, they doubled the number of bartenders this year and added a full appetizer buffet. Wow, the Chinese must be making some moneyâ€¦ the hotel certainly was. With the free food and booze the Chinese Pavilion has also become a scooterist meet-n-greet. This is less appreciated by whatever company’s booth we are coagulating in front of. We slow down traffic more and more as our group grows and it’s of no benefit to our hosts as the longer we stay, the more vocally we tear down their products. The folks from P Town Scooters were there and it was great to see Patrick, Jim and Sean again. These guys have fantastic energy and always make Indy a lot of fun. Steve Guzman of The Scooter Scoop wandered into our cluster and before you knew it, Josh and April from Scoot! Magazine showed up. (Was April there? I didn’t meet her, I think Phil might mean Carrie -2SB) I knew this was going to be a great show. We perpetually travel with Doug Day from Scooter Centrale/Vespa Hartford and he always brings an experienced viewpoint to the show. This year we needed itâ€¦ there was more new stuff than you could possibly absorb in such a short weekend.
The Chinese plot was working, the booze must have been making me dizzyâ€¦ I was seeing things that couldn’t exist, Honda Ruckus 150’s and Aprilia SR 125’s and at least 20 different interpretations of the Kymco Cobra and Honda Joker, all with different names. But, it didn’t stop there, as if the Chinese have no shame (they don’t) they didn’t limit their booth space to scooters. Ab-loungers, R/C cars, kitchen gadgets, and foot massagers were all on display between the scooters and bikes. All of these products displayed names you and I recognize, but with somehow substandard-looking packaging etc. They’ve gotten so bold I can’t help but think we’re on the cusp of some sort of corporate class action lawsuit. Could you imagine if the lawyers from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and about 10 other Japanese companies ganged up and figured out a way to hold China accountable? (Yamaha has been moving in that direction, though there’s not much anyone can do to stop the Chinese from producing clones, they can fight importers. -2SB)
Last year the vast majority of Chinese booths were manned either by folks who spoke a tiny bit of English but knew nothing about the product, or by actual company representatives who were only good if you spoke Chinese. This year some had hired American faces for their products, but, I wonder where they got them. Instead of a spokesmodel or guy in a slick tie, they seemed to just be slipping their truck drivers a few extra bucks to sit in the booths. One guy actually had to spit out his “dip” to talk to me. It was clear he was not very familiar with the product and that he had no communication with the Chinese folks hosting the booth. Weird.
We were comforted to see that the Handsome Boy had returned, but we did notice that a lot of the companies had changed their names slightly in the past year. We’d assume this is the result of some sort of legal action, but it was not uncommon to see names on bikes with an extra prefix or suffix added since last year. The creative use of vinyl lettering was not lost on us. As we were walking around we also noticed that the hall seemed less crowded than last year. This surprise was short-lived, as we discovered there were at least twice as many Chinese bikes, scooters and quads scattered around the rest of the show. Indy has become a clearing house for all things Chinese. If you weren’t interested in seeing the same Chinese scooters 200 times, I can see how you might have had a bad trip.
One piece of good news is the chopper fad is probably on the way out. (hear, hear! -2SB) Most likely because the folks at Wildfire (if it’s crap from China, we’ve got it) were showing an American-built prototype of a 110-cubic-inch chopper that will be made in China in kit form and sold for the bargain basement price of $20,000. When a guy pulls up next to you at Bike Night on a Chinese chopper, you might as well find another hobby.
Saturday found us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to attack the show. Bryan Bedell (That’s me! -2SB) showed up with Brooke and Stephen from Scooterville in Minneapolis. Celebrity photos were taken with Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts. Regretfully, there were no Kenny Rogers sightings. We started touring the show and it was pretty clear if anyone ever wanted a scooter focus group we would have been all too happy to volunteer. As the day wound down we reeled in an invite to an open-bar and buffet hosted by Supertrapp Performance Exhausts and the liquid conventioneering began. From there we went to the Kymco dealer dinner/drink-a-thon, where everyone laid on a good layer of padding for the madness that is known as the Corazzo Dealer Party. Scooter clothing creator Bradford Duval puts on a party every year that can’t be beat. This year was no exception. We were introduced to a new sport called “crop-dusting” where the assailant drops an air biscuit right in the middle of a conversation already in progress. Cruel–even the Canadians left the room. The rest of the party is kind of a blur, but I do remember something about being the only one in the room to have a “dick knuckle.” Sunday morning came around way too soon.
Kymco had their full range on display, and while I still think they’re spending way too much time on quads and letting their grasp of the scooter market slip, they did have one new addition to their booth. They’ve re-introduced the venerable People 150 in a nice retro green color. Our only gripe was that the curtains should match the carpetâ€¦ the black seat didn’t match the brown grips and floor rubber. Kymco could own a bigger market share if they launched the YUP 250 (with any other name).
LS Motorsports (Diamo USA) introduced the new Italjet Dragster and Torpedo. Reps in the Diamo booth swore these bikes would be available to dealers in April. If that is the case, why was the Dragster on display clearly not DOT/EPA legal? If you’re telling folks that you’re bringing in a 250cc Dragster, why is the unit on display a 50cc unit? People in the Diamo booth could not answer one question regarding EPA testing, or motor family information on the Dragster. The scooter they were calling an Italjet Torpedo simply is NOT an Italjet Torpedo. Don’t take my word for it, do a google image search for Italjet Torpedoâ€¦you won’t find a single bike like the one they had on display. Oddly enough, there was a bike EXACTLY like the Diamo-Italjet-Torpedo over in the CF Moto Chinese booth. Putting the Italjet name on a cheap Chinese scooter doesn’t make it an Italjet.
Other Diamo LS Motorsports news – The Indy Dealer show is hosted by Motorcycle Dealer News magazine, you can’t walk 30 feet in this show without someone trying to hand you a copy, we even found copies in our hotel room and restaurant. On page 8 there is a scathing review of Diamo and LS Motorsports, excessive failures and horrible parts and warranty support are all listed as a warning for potential dealers. Just when I got excited to see an advertising-based publication had finally taken a stand I went a few pages further and found a full page ad for Diamo. Hey, they got it half right. I suppose we can’t complain. At least they’re not burying the bad reviews to protect their advertising $$$.
Piaggio/Vespa has got a full booth these days– having to incorporate Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, Vespa, and Piaggio has got them packed tight. Obviously the big talk of the booth was the MP3, and our rep PROMISED they would ship the first week in April. Other Piaggio reps told us they wouldn’t guarantee it. Piaggio is also happy to announce that they have a fleet of demo trucks that will be touring around to motorcycle events, and Piaggio dealers will be having “MP3 Demo Days” April 19-29. Contact your local dealer to get more info about riding the MP3.
Genuine Scooter Company managed to have three dramatic new offerings, and one sneaky one. The most interesting was the new Buddy Series Italia. This scooter was well-executed and nicely-appointed with whitewalls and a great two-tone paint scheme. The new red Buddy was a little darker than it looked in pictures, and I like it better. All of the ’07 Buddies will have the 12-volt power point and LED tail/brake lights, and the bigger, brighter halogen headlight. There is a stealthy new 200cc Blur that will be priced at under $4K, offering more HP and retaining the fantastic Blur suspension and brakes. This can’t help but be a great performance scooter. Now for the sneaky partâ€¦we all know the Stella went away about a year ago. We all know that aside from a few left-overs, you simply can’t buy a new Stella. All that being said, why was there a shiny, new, red Stella sitting in the booth? Are they trying to sell dealers a 2 year old unit, or is this a sign of things to come?
CMSI/TnG has managed what appears to be a complete turn-around. Last year you couldn’t find their booth with a map and a guide, and when you did get there, if you blinked you’d miss it. This year, they went high-rent, with new scooters and a heavy focus on the new L type (Lambretta) prototype. The latest incarnation of the Lambretta (look, I’m calling it a Lambretta and there’s nothing you can do about it!) is using the same fuel injected, 250cc motor found in the Vespa GTS. They’ve also gone to a superbike-inspired dual radiator setup to aid cooling. The body is more proportioned now that they are using SX legshields. It makes the front taller, and provides a much nicer riding position. Word is they’re going to start production in autumn, and there is talk they may even be building it in TORONTO! Gasp! They have made some very good moves this year, bringing on scooter expert Rich Easton (formerly of Vespa Canada) to handle parts and warranty, and their PM Tuning division shows commitment to the customer and the desire to support what they’re selling. They also have produced a nice line of soft luggage for scooters that appears to be good quality and reasonably priced. The only downside to their booth was their newest scooter has been named the “GS150,” one look at the scooter will end any confusion at the scooter rally.
TGB (Cobra Powersports) has unveiled a new scooter called the Sunset it appears to be the “Pizza Delivery Scooter” sans box. I think it’s a good idea for them, as the Laser series scooters were so sporty they left little for non-squidly customers. The other announcement was a 150cc version of their R50X which is arguably the most sporty scooter available in the U.S. market. Aren’t there already enough 150cc sport scooters on the market? How many very similar scooters can our small market support? If you’re a scooter manufacturer and you want to produce a sport scooter for the US market, make it light, agile, and it must hit 100 mph. It can be done with a 250cc motor, but they’ll have to work on it.
The oddities were everywhere, this years focus seemed to be on 3 wheeled vehicles. We saw no less than 7 different versions of the same idea. Most are cobbled together contraptions featuring a scooter motor mated to a primitive frame with some sort of frangible body. There was one notable exception and that was the Argentinean built Tango 3 wheeled micro car. Unlike most, this one is DOT approved and EPA approved and is powered by a 200cc motor with a top speed around 60mph. It was the only one with real safety glass in the windshield and a confidence inspiring roof assembly. Unfortunately their website isn’t up and running, but hopefully it will be, next week.
The biggest disaster of the show must have been notorious Chinese importer SunL, I don’t care how many fake Lacoste dress shirts you hand out, I’m still going to call that Smart Car clone a complete travesty. The bodywork was so bad it actually felt like wood. The windows were just thin sheets of plastic glued in place. The Texans in the booth refused to open the door so I could see if there were any certification stickers inside. They assured me they would be legal for the ’08 year. I sure hope nobody mentions this to Mercedes. This show should have taught even the casual observer, if you want to test the quality of a product, just tap it. The Chinese stuff has a feel all its own. (and, oddly, a smell all its own: the Chinese Pavillion smelled just like the pallets of jewelboxes we get at my day job, we call the smell “monkeypox.” -2SB)
The “scooterists must be really stupid” award goes to Vintini (I’m not giving them the satisfaction of a link -2SB). Hands down, these were the ugliest scooters at the show. They are clearly trying WAY too hard. These Chinese pieces of poo actually had styling cues and names taken from iconic 50’s Cars. The 250cc touring scooter had ’59 caddy tail lights and guess what? It was called the “Eldo”. The 150 had side embellishers ala ’57 Chevy and was called the “BelAir” These scooters are taking a different approach: ignore that it’s a piece of crap, and price it like it was made in Europe. The “Eldo 250″ retails at $5995, the exact same MSRP as a Vespa GTS250. Someone call them at 877.810.5281 and tell them if their scooter does the 85 mph they claim in the brochure they may want to consider installing a front fender to at least make it look DOT legal.
Icon manipulators Schwinn were out in force, with a sure-fire way to get people into their boothâ€¦ FREE BEER, and you even get to keep the pint glass. I’m sure it will look great up on the wall next to your Black Phantom or Stingray. Unfortunately, the scooters were the same leftover stuff we’ve been seeing for years. They did have a Chinese built Whizzer Clone, but they weren’t even able to tell me who manufactured the bike, let alone if they’d be offering it. (This was one of many booths I crept past with my badge turned backwards, not even free beer could lure me in. -2SB)
My innovation award goes to Revopower. A gas powered motor that resides within the front rim of a bicycleâ€¦Hell, a website’s worth a thousand words, take a look. These babies go for under a grand and that includes a nice one-speed beach bike. Let’s just say I’m intrigued, and I’m willing to order a few to see how they do.
In closing (finally) it makes me feel good to see so many scooterists at this event every year, even those who don’t own or work at shops. It shows that we do care about what’s going on in OUR hobby/scene. We’re not willing to let it be marginalized by a flood of Chinese garbage and get-rich-quick artists. We show up to be educated and pass that on to others. I’d like to see all of the dealers/enthusiasts get together next year and stay in the same hotel, this would make getting together after the event a lot easier and contribute to what has become one of the best non-rally events of the year.
–Phil Waters, Pride Of Cleveland Scooters