Piaggio SpA chairman Roberto Colaninno, will head a new privatized Alitalia, and the weird Italian business cycle of salvation, success, abandonment, failure, government intervention, more failure, more government intervention and more salvation begins anew. Since Piaggio went public, press announcements from Pontadera have slowed considerably, this new pet project will likely divert even more of Colaninno’s attention away from Piaggio.
Every few months, there’s an “End of the Vespa PX” story, even though I’ve read that Piaggio officially ceased production in December, 2006. They’ve offered a few “limited editions” since then, and the standard PX has been available from European shops, so who knows? In any case, this story isn’t winning any awards for implying that manual-transmission scooters are illegal in Europe, or for ignoring the fact that Eddy Bullet and other importers sell a fair number of PX-clone LML Stars in Europe, though perhaps that will come to an end, too. Which may be why LML is perpetually rumored to be working on a 4-stroke automatic helium-powered 8000cc PX-style scooter.
Continental, the company that makes some of the better scooter tires available has been the target of a take-over by another German automotive component giant, the Schaeffler Group. The BBC reports that Conti had resisted the move but has now agreed to allow Schaeffler, also the makers of FAG bearings, to take an all but majority stake in the company. The question remains whether the new structure will continue to keep scooters rolling smoothly in the future. Signs suggest the relationship will not call for Continental to be parted out like a GS with a rusted frame and no air box, so lets hope that we’ll still be able to get good Continental Zippy 1s, 3s and Twists (not to be confused with the film) for years to come. (Maybe I could send a letter to Schaffler suggesting they stop the white wall nonsense.)
Well, the news isn’t quite what we expected, but Lev Mirman has shut down Baron Scooters to run CFMoto’s U.S. operations.
The Baron site (and tech support forum) are already gone, and the retail and internet sales center in Minnesota has closed and is being cleared out, according to ScooterBBS member “scootindan,” who adds:
The stock of parts and remaining scooter inventory has been sold to Marty at GoMoto in Osseo, Minnesota. GoMoto will be doing local repair and can send parts from the remaining inventory if they have them. Customers are also being referred to partsforscooters.com.
Mirman comically excuses his abandonment of Baron’s warranties, customer/dealer support , and other obligations by more or less admitting Baron’s (non-CF-Moto-made, ha) bikes were cheap pieces of crap and Google searches can help you with your bike more than Baron ever could. Read the thread, it’s typically snarky ScooterBBS dialogue, but it speaks volumes.
Welcome to Zhejiang Zhongneng Industry Group Co Ltd or “ZNen”. They make (or have made) scooters for many different importers, including the new “Lambretta” sold in Italy, Baron, FlyScooter, ZN, possibly Roketa, TNG, and Peirspeed, and plenty more (it’s hard to tell without looking at the VIN, and even then, it’s confusing). Some of these brands are better than others, and often the dealer and importer you buy from has as much to do with your experience as the manufacturer. The Chinese are plenty capable of making good scooters, it comes down to the ethical and financial choices made by the manufacturer, importer, and their dealers.
At Dealer Expo2008, a ZNen rep spent a half hour trying to convince me to import their scooters. I finally cut her off and asked “don’t you already have many importers here? She said “sure, but you can make more money if you import directly.” I said I wasn’t interested in importing (I didn’t bother telling her I’m not a dealer, either). Only then did she reluctantly staple a Lance Motorsports business card to my brochure.
I talked to a couple other booths selling scooter manufactured by ZNen. When I asked “Aren’t these the ZNen models they’re selling at their booth?,” most admitted they were pretty angry that ZNen had bought a huge booth to try to sell scooters directly to the same customers they were targeting. Then they went on to explain that their quality control and dealer support was better than all the other ZN importers’. Lance didn’t have a booth, and probably were under the impression that ZNen was giving dealers their information, which was hardly the case.
You can’t tell much about ethics or quality from a video. Even if you think this video does prove something, it still leaves 20 importers to choose from. I’ve never ridden a Lance scooter, but there’s plenty of evidence on the internet that they’re not great: Many complaints about quality and service, Many dealers sell them online, they’re indistinguishable from some other brands that friends have had negative experiences with, no experienced dealers that I know and respect sell them, and ZNen’s ethics are questionable, as noted above. Are Lance Scooters OK? I don’t know, but this video tells me nothing.
I reported earlier today that Vespa GTS300S scooters were starting to appear in the U.S., which is weird, because they’re not on the site yet, and dealers were strangely insisting they were really 250cc models. Turns out it wasn’t anything sneaky, it was just typical Piaggio weirdness. Piaggio sent over a new U.S.-only model, the GTS 250ie Super, that had been accidentally misbadged as the GTS 300 Super. The 300cc (278, but who’s counting?) engine has not been EPA/DOT approved. This mislabeling occurred on “fewer than 100 scooters” according to a PiaggioUSA letter to dealers. The 250 Super is basically a regular GTS 250 with the louvered right cowl, a different seat, and a new instrument panel. The VINs allegedly confirm that they are in fact 250cc models. 20 years from now, wizened Vespa nerds will cherish the opportunity to warn newbies not to buy an old
1998 2008 Vespa 300 Sport without checking the VIN first.
Oh, and why aren’t they listed on the site? “Don’t get me started on PiaggioUSA,” said one dealer I contacted.
Motorsport Scooters in San Diego is celebrating their 16th birthday this weekend with a big sale/party on Saturday and a ride and BBQ on Sunday. Alex has been a top-tier shop owner and a very supportive presence on the American scooter scene since well before most of us were riding, it seemed like he’d already been around forever when I became a customer 12 years ago. Congratualations!
The August 11th Powersports Business magazine reports the following stats from the Motorcycle Industry Council: Powersports new-unit sales have dropped 8% since mid-year 2007. ATV sales dropped 23.4% in the same period, and off-road bikes dropped 19.7%. Meanwhile, dual-purpose bikes rose 24.3% and scooter sales increased by 65.7%.
What does this all mean? Clearly, people love Euan and Charley, and the hillbillization of America has finally come to an end, and Barack Obama will ride up the steps of the inauguration platform on a Kymco People 150. Sure, it won’t last long, it never does, but if it buys us a few years of education funding and global respect, it’s all worth it.
The PGO I’ME 125 that we mentioned in June is now listed on PGO’s english site, as well as the Ligero 125, which appears to be a Euro-friendly BuBu 125 in Genuine’s Buddy International colors. (Interestingly, it seems PGO has never offered a 150cc BuBu on their site). Also new: the Black Magic 50, with a Buddy/BuBu rear end and an X2 front end (it’s called the “Young BuBu” on their Taiwanese site, and is also offered in what appears to be an electric version). The Hot 50 isn’t labeled as “new,” but I don’t remember it from before. The G-Max (Genuine Blur) Evo (4-valve version) is now listed on the Taiwanese site as 150 and 200cc models, and the 200cc model gets the fancy new digital speedometer that we’ve all been lusting for at Modern Buddy (Speaking of speedos, check out the the I’ME’s handsome cluster).
I’ve been assembling a long list of questions for Genuine, this news just gave me ten more. The way scooters have been selling, it’s a safe bet we’ll see some new Genuine models soon.
I’ve long stopped linking to most stories about the scooter “boom,” gas savings, and supply shortage, every small-town paper in America has covered it to death already, but now we’re making news overseas. Italian news agency AGI posted their story today, with some details about Piaggio’s sales (up over 100% in May!), their plans for U.S. hybrid models, and some glaring errors about U.S. motorcycling laws.
Power Sports Factory, who recently announced a collaboration with motorsports legend Mario Andretti and Benelli, wasn’t taking any chances on getting exposure at DealerExpo. Every attendee’s badge had a PSF logo sticking out of the top and PSF ads were prominently placed in every official publication. They had an expensive-looking aluminum-and-glass booth in a great location right near the RCA dome entrance. And, of course they had Mario Andretti, in the flesh.
Continue reading “Dealer Expo 2008: Andretti/Power Sports Factory”
Let’s get the DealerExpo ball rolling again (finally!) with a booth that didn’t offer many surprises, but gave us a first look in person at a few bikes we’d been hoping to see in person. The return of the Stella was of course big news to long-time scooter fans, but only one avocado model was on display at the booth shared by sister companies Genuine Scooter Co. and Scooterworks. Presumably, they sold the rest of their first small shipment since 2006.
Continue reading “Dealer Expo 2008: Genuine/Scooterworks”
NOTE: I got a couple things wrong in the original story, hopefully I’ve covered all the mistakes. Apologies to Cobra Powersports for the mistakes and the delay in correcting them.
As Brooke pointed out last week, one of Dealer Expo’s biggest surprises was that TGB importer Cobra Powersports has added historic German marque Sachs to their lineup. Cobra is a solid operation with a good dealer network, and most dealers we talked to were pretty excited by the news.
Continue reading “TGB/Sachs at DealerExpo2008 REVISED”
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Picture a midwestern pro football stadium. Got it? Now picture it totally full of Chinese motorscooters. Hold on, we’ll save you the trouble, here’s what it looks like:
We have a lot to say about Dealer Expo, and a lot of photos, so instead of one really long writeup, we’ll split it up into smaller posts all week. Stay tuned.