A Piaggio/Vespa dealer has told 2strokebuzz that a new 2Q 2012 dealer order form from PiaggioUSA has eliminated a large share of the Piaggio product line from the U.S. market, most notably the full range of MP3s.
According to our source, The Piaggio MP3 250, 400, and 500cc three-wheelers are no longer available to dealers, and the promised MP3 Yourban 300 will not replace them, let alone the endlessly-hyped hybrid that Jay Leno promised dealers in 2008. It appears Piaggio is totally abandoning the MP3 in the United States.
(UPDATE: Other evidence suggests the MP3 Yourban will be available in the U.S. later this year, probably with 350cc displacement. see comments.)
The BV lineup, previously available in 250, 300, and 500cc displacements, is now limited to the new 350 model in black or silver only.
The Vespa line is being desaturated in a more literal way, with a far smaller color palette. The Vespa GTS/Super 300i is no longer available in red, and the Vespa 150 LX S loses its red, orange, and two-tone versions, it will now be available only in Black or Titanium.
If our info is correct, that leaves only the Fly 50, Fly 150, Typhoon 125, and new BV350 in the PiaggioUSA lineup. The Fly is a reasonably-priced and worthy but unexciting scooter. The new Typhoon is an obvious competitor for the Yamaha Zuma, a very popular scooter in the U.S., but it sorely lacks Piaggio’s italian charm. The BV350 is the most compelling offering by far, and a reasonable decision… there was no need for a Scarabeo-esque range of displacements. The biggest surprise is that after years of betting the farm on the MP3, PiaggioUSA seems to have totally abandoned it. It’s actually selling great in other markets, but (to the surprise of zero Americans) Piaggio’s innovative but expensive three-wheeler never caught on here.
The Vespa line seems to remain mostly intact, but far less colorful.
None of this is surprising, Yamaha and Honda have scaled back to 2-3 models each for 2012, and it’s a well-known fact that most manufacturers are still unloading years-old stock. Honda, for instance, lists seven models on its current site but only two are labeled as “2012,” with the Metropolitans labeled “2009.” It’s not hard to find Piaggio/Vespa dealers with 2009-era stock on the floor, and with so many dealers closing industrywide, and the resulting unsold bikes coming back on the market, just about any importer would be wise to limit new models, and riders on the market may actually not even notice the lineup reduction, with so many 2-3 year old scooters on the floor nationwide. The U.S. scooter industry simply can’t support the annual model turnaround that the auto industry enjoys, and needs to find a way to convince customers that the manufacture date isn’t important. Honda’s decision to be up-front about it should be emulated by all importers.
So if the lineup reduction was understandable, and the MP3 was simply a flop, the more disappointing news might actually be the loss of colors. As we reported last spring, European riders see scooters as modest transportation and are not fond of garish colors, but Americans prefer to see a rainbow at dealers. Possibly the most appealing thing about the successful Genuine Buddy and Stella are the range of colors and ‘custom’ two-tones available. Americans don’t like to have to choose between black, white, or silver scooters. American Piaggio and Vespa dealers have always had problems getting popular colors, but if you prefer a scooter that matches your Model T, you should have no problem finding the model you want. Maybe it’s time for dealers to cook up some “Dealer Specials,” like the old days.