PiaggioUSA’s “Test Ride”
June 3, 2009
PiaggioUSA is targeting scooter-curious customers with a 12-month “test ride” on Piaggio and Vespa scooters. While the deal isn’t entirely unreasonable, the name and description of the promotion are a bit of a stretch, especially “your dealer will buy it back,” which implies that the dealer will refund the cost of the scooter.
Here’s how it works: You buy the scooter with 10% down and a three-year loan from Sheffield Financial. After 12 months, if you’re current on the loan and don’t like the bike, the dealer will take over your loan and take back the scooter. As 2SB reader Pete Selkowe points out, you’re paying 43% of the MSRP, and none of that is being refunded to you. So you pay almost half the MSRP of a scooter to ride it for a year, if you don’t like it, the dealer’s stuck making your payments until they can sell it used. If the dealer can sell it used for more than what you owe, they make some cash.
There’s nothing reprehensible about it, it’s basically the same thinking as any automobile lease. It’s just not a good deal for most consumers, or the dealer (but good for PiaggioUSA and their financing company). If you have the resources to buy a new Vespa with cash (instead of with an expensive loan), and decide not to keep it, you could almost surely sell it privately a year later and get a better deal. If you can’t buy with cash, you could certainly secure a better loan elsewhere. The line “Customer is responsible for excess wear and mileage over 4,000 miles at $0.10 /mile” is also troubling, and if comprehensive insurance isn’t required for loan approval, you’d certainly want it, as with any financing deal (lest you’re still making payments three years after your scooter is stolen).
I’m very interested what dealers think about this. When I saw it, my first thought was “PIaggioUSA finally realizes they’ve oversaturated a shrinking market, and they’re trying to unload as many bikes as possible before they bail out of the U.S. in 11 months.” If I’m not mistaken, dealers do not get a cut of financing, so they’re just making their regular dealer margin, with the added risk of having to take it back and sell it at enough of a profit to cover two years of loan payments (probably at a reduced rate, but still…). Hopefully there are some sort of incentives to make it worth the dealers’ trouble, or maybe dealers hope it will lure customers to their shops, whom they can then talk out of the “test ride” deal.