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Do the Khuranas own the Lambretta name?

May 31, 2007

In my post about Khurana’s “new” Lambrettas last week, I said:

The Khuranas are selling bikes from a slightly-lower-tier maker, using one of the most beloved names in scooterdom. They almost certainly have no global rights to the Lambretta name, and even the American rights are questionable. (Note the logo on the bikes and the Lambretta USA site reads “Lambretta International,� and the site reads “Official Factory Web Site of Lambretta,� which seems to be tempting international legal doom).

Even though I mentioned the promise of a future bike from Scooters India Limited (SIL), it never occurred to me that the Khurana family may have actually struck a deal for the name with SIL (who apparently DO own the international trademark). According to a few sources, that is indeed the case. With that news, the picture becomes a little clearer, if not any happier.

So it appears that the Khuranas, after abandoning the CMSI/PM Tuning project because of doubts about the name, decided that a good name was worth more than a good product, and set off to work out a deal with SIL, who is still in business producing “Vikram”-branded three-wheelers, but no longer producing Lambretta scooters. Presumably, the Khuranas got SIL excited about the U.S. scooter boom and convinced them that getting a Lambretta scooter back on the market (even one not produced by SIL) would pave the way for the rebirth of the SIL Lambretta (I imagine a reasonable amount of money changed hands as well, and/or a large percentage of Adly sales profits were promised.)

This would explain the boast “Official Factory Web Site of Lambretta,â€? and also explain the promise(again, we’ll believe it when we see it) of an Indian-built ‘real’ Lambretta down the road. While there may still be a battle over the name, it appears they have a pretty legitimate claim and would be likely to come out on top. While Lambretta Clothing and Denny Kunman (if he’s still around) seem to own the name in England, they appear to be licensing the name from SIL as well, meaning any complaints they have with the Khuranas’ use of the name are already settled, or would have to be taken up with SIL.

The name is, sadly, very likely being used legally, though that still doesn’t resolve the fact that they’re using it to sell a rebadged, unimpressive scooter that’s already available on the market. Not illegal, but still depressing. Even if the best-case scenario comes true (SIL starts making high-quality, GP-styled, mustard-colored, tastefully-striped, metal-bodied Lambrettas, dare to dream that they’re 2-strokes with manual transmissions), they’re going to sit on showroom floors with plastic twist-and-gos bearing the same name. Even Piaggio knows better than to call their entry-level discount 50cc scooters “Vespas.” It’s still bad news for the Lambretta name, and as many have pointed out, it’s unclear who’s going to pay a premium (no pricing info has been released, but why use the name “Lambretta” if you’re selling it cheap?) for a Lambretta-badged Taiwanese/Chinese scooter in a market full of better-designed and more reasonably-priced Taiwanese scooters.

Diamo USA announces Roadside Assistance program

May 31, 2007

Diamo Motors USA has announced a new roadside assistance program, included with all new street scooters and motorcycles. Diamo’s Kathryn Davis tells us “This program is unique because it is offered to customers free of charge and is comprehensive in nature.” A well-implemented roadside assistance plan is good news for anyone saving up their cash for the new Italjet Dragster.

Stellas soon?

May 31, 2007

My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw LML making scooters at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.

OK, it’s not quite that convoluted, but we just heard that LML’s plant is officially back up and running, making Euro-market Stars and N.Z.-market Belladonnas (sisters of the U.S.-market Stella), and that LML brass have been in the US to talk to Genuine recently, so things are looking good that we’ll see more Stellas soon (new engines may be here as soon as July). A photo on LML’s Japanese site labeled “May, 2007″ shows an assembly line loaded with scooters (anyone out there read Japanese?). Being put behind the Stars and Belladonnas is probably good news for Stella fans, LML can hopefully get up to speed on the Kiwi bikes and be at full strength for the U.S.-market.

Matsuyama’s cloud plates

May 29, 2007

From The Scooter Scoop: Japanese city Matsuyama is offering cloud-shaped license plates for scooters. Aside from a few states (Rhode Island is a favorite) the U.S. has some lame license plates, maybe these will inspire someone.

Beatles Scarabeo?

May 29, 2007

Motoblog.it reports that some sort of Beatles-themed Scarabeo 50 Street is in the works, to tie into Aprila’s sponsorhip of Rome’s “Sgt. Pepper’s” 40th Anniversary festival on June 1. We here at 2SB are holding out for a Kinks-themed Yamaha C3.

Can an Adly pull a pop-up camper?

May 28, 2007

pathecaravan.jpg

If the Lambretta tent video we posted a few months ago was inspiring, but a tent just isn’t “all-mod-cons” enough for you, check out this video from the same source (Britsh Pathe Archives): a Lambretta towing a pop-up camper. I can’t imagine that it was wise to load a 150 or 175cc engine, even when factory-fresh, with a pop-up camper AND a boat AND gear AND a pillion passenger AND a sidecar with a child. (Thanks, Dan Epstein, who sent this so long ago he surely forgot about it.)

Hell’s Fairies in Time Out

May 24, 2007

2sb pals Alex and Dawson’s Hell’s Fairies scooter club was featured in this week’s Time Out Chicago. The Fairies’ May Cicada Ride is Saturday at Noon.

Adly’s comedy routine

May 24, 2007

Speaking of Adly, here’s a funny thread from the BBS. I don’t think these people are involved in the new Lambretta deal, but it’s a good chuckle. Again, for all we know, Adly may be a good marque, they are fairly successful in Britain, but a marque is only as good as the people selling it.

The disappointing new “new Lambretta”

May 24, 2007

The Lambretta is back, at least in name.

On Monday, May, 21, 2007, a couple Modern Vespa bulletin board users started to tease readers with some information about a new Lambretta that was to be unveiled Tuesday night at a local club meeting (via San Francisco Scooter Centre and a Scoot! Magazine test-ride/review.) Others reported seeing the bikes earlier at SFSC with taped-over logos. Thanks to their hints and some tips from our network of spies, 2sb has pieced the story together and it’s sadly not the fairy tale rebirth of Lambretta scooterists have always hoped for.

First off, let’s make it clear that we’re not talking about CMSI/TNG’s “L-Series,” formerly known a “Scomadi” and originally known as the “new Lambretta.” CMSI’s plan to build a modern Lambretta (whatever they end up calling it) is still underway. That bike is exciting, if way over budget and years behind schedule, and just about any scooterist would be thrilled to see it (finally) on dealer floors.

This new “new Lambretta” shares its origins with the “L-Series,” however. At the genesis of that project, CMSI was working with the Khurana family, owners of a Seattle car/scooter dealership called Maharaja Motors/Scooters of Seattle. The Khuranas backed out of the venture in February, 2006 when CMSI determined that the Lambretta trademark was too volatile to use for a project with global sales implications. CMSI (with british engineering assistance) kept moving forward (slowly) on the newly-dubbed “Scomadi,” and the Khuranas went back to selling used luxury cars.

Until yesterday, that is. The Khurana family is apparently behind these new Lambrettas, which appear to be rebadged Adly Moto scooters, manufactured by the Her Chee Industrial Co. of Taiwan. Her Chee is ISO Certified and publicly owned, but appears to have some manufacturing ties to mainland China and probably falls short in quality to the better-known Taiwanese brands (Kymco, SYM, and PGO), though is hopefully superior to the truly garbage Chinese manufacturers. The Lambretta UNO 150 is a 150cc 4-stroke Adly Noble, while the DUE 50 is a 50cc 2-stroke Adly Panther. At first glance, one would think that the Khuranas have matched Genuine Scooter Co.’s flair for marketing Asian scooters in the American market. Pictures show the DUE in solid orange or black, and the UNO in solid red or white with a minimum of graphics. Even though the Lambretta crest badges look ultra cheap, the other graphics (in white, presumably vinyl) are tastefully designed, placed and restrained.

But where Genuine took good-quality new-to-us scooters and and creatively rebranded them for the U.S., The Khuranas are selling bikes from a slightly-lower-tier maker, using one of the most beloved names in scooterdom. They almost certainly have no global rights to the Lambretta name, [alas, they do, we later discovered -ed.] Note the logo on the bikes and the Lambretta USA site reads “Lambretta International,” and the site reads “Official Factory Web Site of Lambretta,” which seems to be tempting international legal doom. Their logo is technically original, though clearly derived from several variations of the original Lambretta and Innocenti logos. If Genuine was behind such a project, at least they’d source some quality three-dimensional badges, seeing as how the badges are the top selling point of the product. The whole enterprise lacks originality and attention to detail. On top of all that, Adly is already available here (and has a fairly low reputation, likely due to the questionable retailers that generally sell them).

Let’s assume for a moment that the Khuranas do legally own the name [they do -ed.] and that the Adly is a fully-respectable quality scooter. This may even be the case. If so, why is this so wrong? Simple. The Lambretta is almost indisputably the second-most famous and respected motorscooter ever produced. It is an icon of style, history, and performance. While the most hardcore vintage Lambretta fans will be shocked and disappointed with anything new, there is a place in the market for a “new” Lambretta, even a plastic-bodied twist-and-go. But it at least deserves an original design and first-rate engineering. This product shows no respect for the Lambretta name, and couldn’t be more clearly a cash-grab. CMSI’s Lambretta is much closer to the target, though perhaps it’s devotion to the original Lambretta may be unrealistic.

What will these Asian “Lambrettas” cost? It’s safe to bet they’ll cost more than an Adly. With all the nondescript Asian scooters on the market, there’s nothing to differentiate these scooters but a name. And that’s part of they mystery why the Khuranas would risk this trademark battle. At least when Schwinn put their own brand on “their” Chinese scooters (and further desecrated that hallowed name) it was a name with which Americans were familiar. Unlike “Vespa,” which is nearly synonymous with “Scooter,” and despite its worldwide cachet, “Lambretta” is a fairly-unknown marque in the U.S. Those that know the name will cringe at the sight of these bikes, those that don’t know it will simply wonder why they cost more than the other six bikes next to it that look the same.

And even if the Khuranas can build a great dealer network, will parts be available? Even Genuine and KymcoUSA have a hard time getting what they need from India and Taiwan sometimes. And I’m willing to bet a company that would put cheap Lambretta badges on a Taiwanese scooter isn’t going to be building a solid dealer network, or developing their infrastructure. Sure, they’re courting the trusted dealers now, but how long until they’re unloading them at Internet scooter shops, feed stores, and (ugh) Pep Boys?

One key to the success for the “Uno” and “Due” may be a “Tre:” the Khuranas are promising a SIL-design metal-bodied Lambretta later this year. Whether that’s reality or pipe dream remains to be seen, but I’d hope prospective dealers would demand some pretty solid evidence before buying into that, especially after more than four years selling TNG scooters waiting for the L-series. or bringing Diamo into their shops on the promise of the new Italjets. Even Piaggio floods dealers’ floors with Typhoons and Flys while keeping the GTS in demand. Hopefully dealers are learning their lesson, that a good scooter in hand is worth a dozen Chinese knockoffs in the bush. Unless you’re in it for the money and don’t want to stick around for the long haul, which appears to be the Khuranas’ plan.

When Piaggio returned to America, their greatest asset could have been the goodwill of American scooterists, but they took a pass. The Khuranas seem to be trying to capitalize on that power by getting current scooterists interested in their product (after all, glasseye’s first post on the BBS was “I have been asked to post up about the new Lambretta.”) But this ‘teaser’ campaign isn’t doing them any favors, it’s just angering scooterists by making a promise (New Lambrettas!), then delivering something so uninteresting (Adlys!), it inspires disappointment and/or rage. Hopefully dealers and magazine reviewers and customers will take the high road and stand up for the Lambretta name. Hey, even if the scooters are halfway decent, the Adly-branded versions will almost definitely be a better value.

The new new Lambretta?

May 22, 2007

Reports are popping up that a new “Lambretta” is about to be unveiled in America, allegedly some sort of run-of-the-mill Chinese bike with Lambretta badges. It’s unclear who’s bringing them in, and equally unclear who owns the rights to the name in the United States. If these rumors are true, it’s a shame that CMSI’s L-Series has barely made any progress in more than four years, after several name changes, while someone else is likely to drag Lambretta’s proud name through the dirt. This will be interesting, and probably not in a good way.

Dragsters on the way?

May 22, 2007

The ScooterScoop reports that the new 250cc 4-stroke and 50cc 2-stroke Italjet Dragsters are due at Diamo dealers in 6-8 weeks. Italjetamerica.com features the a photo that some scooterists recently suggested may be a mock-up or photo manipulation, and the highly-anticipated Dragster debut at the 2007 DealerExpo turned out to be an older model, so many riders are very excited to finally see the new Dragsters in person.

More info: 2SB’s interview with DiamoUSA’s Mathu Solo from January.

Kinetic’s Africa deal

May 21, 2007

MyIris reports that Kinetic signed a contract in late February with Egyptian and Sudanese concerns for 6,000-7,000 scooters to be delivered by the end of 2007. The article also reports that Kinetic has also shipped half of a (more realistic) order of 88 scooters to Japan, and goes on to remind us that no one has a clue what’s happening with Kinetic’s SYM or Italjet deals.

Julie Plug’s “Blue Sky Propeller”

May 16, 2007

Julie Plug

Once again, YouTube (via John Rana) serves up a great music video that slipped by unnoticed (to us anyway) a few years ago. Julie Plug (on MySpace) is a Bay Area band influenced by Britpop and the Sundays. Their 2003 “Blue Sky Propeller” video is pretty much the Filipino-American “Lloyd, I’m ready to be Heartbroken”, only a few years older and more scooter-ific. Read John’s post for more about the band.

ET4 Transformer

May 16, 2007

Following up on the Vespa “Transformers” Open House link he sent yesterday, Dave McCabe found photos of a Japanese Vespa ET4 robot toy on the BBS (though it doesn’t appear to be officially-sanctioned by Transformersâ„¢ or Vespaâ„¢).

Vespa “Transformers” open house

May 15, 2007

Vespa’s planning a dealer Open House June 14-24, 2007, featuring a “Transformers” cross-promotion. Something about “Transforming Transportation”? Yeah, we’re not really getting the connection either. That said, I guess Spiderman and 7-Eleven don’t have anything to do with each other, but that hasn’t stopped us from drinking a schload of Spiderman Slurpees.

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