Sambuy slams Stella

What started out as a ho-hum scooter roundup in the Sunday Tribune [reg. req., thanks Jordan and Chad] turned interesting towards the end when Piaggio USA president Costantino Sambuy wrote off the Stella:

The Stella is what? It’s 1970s technology? 1980s? Can’t we come into the 21st Century, guys? You have to ride the Granturismo first–and then judge.

(If you can reach the handlebars!) Phil McCaleb of Genuine/Scooterworks replied with

I bring in cargo containers filled with crated Stella motor scooters, There are always several containers on the way, filled with 30 or 40 scooters each. Our dealer network is up to 62 locationsā€¦ I’ve never seen anyone walk into our place–and then walk out without a smile. Motor scooters do that to you.

This makes up for the lack of Bajaj-Genuine rivalry I’d been hoping for. Bajaj has been quiet lately, I hope they’re up to something good. Wait a minuteā€¦ this just in: As Seen On TV: $1,499.95 Bajaj Legend Closeout! [Thanks Lu$] Oh, my.

16 thoughts on “Sambuy slams Stella”

  1. Aw, yeah, I agree the Stella’s cool, so’s the Bajaj. I think the GT is too much scooter for too much money and the ET2 and ET4 are ho-hum and overpriced. Sure, the GT is more modern, faster, safer, more comfortable, more reliable. I’m sure some people like that, but Piaggio ignoring (and mocking) the vintage/retro market is like the Rolling Stones giving a Bollywood record company the rights to their entire ’60s/’70s catalogue, and then complaining that no one’s buying “Undercover of the Night” and “Flashpoint.” I’d pay $5 to see a good Stones cover band at a bar,while I’d never pay $150 to sit in the nosebleeds and see the real Stones prance around pretending they still have it.

  2. And their rotary valve is, tech-wise, more ancient than the stellas reed.

  3. I get a real kick out of everything that comes out of PiaggioUSA’s collective mouth. Yeah, the Granturismo is a nice scooter. It ought to be for 5 grand. But guess what? The Stella has more “Vespa” in it’s little finger than the GT will ever muster, so does the Bajaj in fact.
    How do they not see this?

    I guess what it boils down to is that they pinned all their hopes of saving their failing enterprise on the GT, which is just another huge albatross.

    Another funny thing: Have you noticed how people who buy high-priced scooters never ride them? It’s a status symbol to them, like a trendy Gucci purse or something. Yet Stella’s I have sold have over 5000 miles on them and still ticking strong.

    Back when I was Vespa Utah’s service manager, I had a hell of a lot more warranty claims to file than I do on the Stella.

    Sorry for getting all defensive and wrapped up in this pissing match, but Stella puts food on my table, while the “new Vespa” (whose hype I addmittedly bought into for a time) has been nothing more than a shiny, shiny empty package.

  4. The funny thing about the Sambuy quote is that he told me to my face that it was his personal goal to get the PX back in the USA, even if it only sold a small number of units, “because it’s the quintessential Vespa”.

    Of course, this was May 2003, before the new GT hit these shores.

    But he really did say it, I can vouch for that.

    And as for the GT being an albatross, I’ll say this much: We can’t keep them in stock they are selling so fast at the local dealership. hmmm…”people who buy high priced scooters never ride them” doesn’t square with the phenomenal amount of business that Wellesley does up at the service center.

    I’m a vintage girl at heart, always will be. But the ET4 I picked up as a commuter hasn’t given me one lick of trouble for the past 5k miles. which is something I can’t say abot any of my vintage scooters.

  5. There is no contest in CA (or anywhere else if you want a decent sized, affordable, clean burning and manual shifting scooter.) My Bajaj rocks and new it cost less than $2K USD.

    No blue smoke and that is good!

    Bajaj USA is too busy with apes right now to do anything new…

  6. I like how he slams the company he works for as well…. Does he not know they still make the P125 and P150?


  7. say what you will.. the stella is a great product. how come piaggio isn’t doing so well?


  8. the closeout legend is for “2001” model, Bajaj didnt import these until 2002…

  9. Does anyone know how much the shipping is for those 2001 Bajaj scooters?

  10. Let me see if I can get this straight: You defend Sambuy by illustrating that he contradicts himself, (nothing new, Erik Larson said the PX was six months out back in October of 2001, and that the Liberty 50 and 150 were 3 months away– ended up being a year and 3 months, and we will never see the PX) Then say that the GT sells so fast that you can’t keep them in stock– not hard to believe considering the intentional scarcity, typical overhyped paid media blitz, and the strategy of marketing it as the latest fad, but just wait and see. Somewhere in all the sizzle-selling, everyone forgot the steak.
    Another contradiction: You say the new “Vespa” is reliable, yet in the same breath confess that your service dept. is very busy. Busy doing what? Oil changes? Give me a break. Since you are female and therefore probably weigh less than 150lbs. I can safely say that the brazilian made “Pirelli” tire on the rear wheel of your ET$ wore out at about 2500 miles. You have surely also had to replace your Fiamm battery that was probably activated a year before your scooter got on a boat to the US, your carburetor has probably given you mysterious fits of flooding due to overfilling the gas tank and having your evaporative emissions control wreak havoc on the bowl pressure. Maybe your wiring harness had critical junctions left disconnected at the factory, or your speedometer clock battery ran out and the whole headset had to be disassembled to replace it. Any of this sound familiar? I could keep going. Doesn’t sound like “not one lick of trouble” to me. But what do I know? It isn’t as if I have any experience with this sort of thing. Back when I was the service dept for the dealers 2 boutiques here they were the top selling boutiques in the country and I was pulling 80 hour weeks just trying to keep up with all the mess, not to mention how my vintage business suffered for it. But hey, at least I had my $1000/month salary and my ET4 to get to and from work.
    Vintage girl at heart? Maybe you need to get somebody good working on your bikes, ’cause properly done, they can be bulletproof.
    So things may look good now– from your perspective. I respect that. I try to always be optimistic about my business too. But try to be prepared for the worst possible outcome. Piaggio has done it before and from my perspective it is bound to happen again. When your distributor tanks, after making a last-ditch effort to save itself by allowing any shmoe to sell “Vespa”, and you are begging STR to let you sell Kymco, and you have to learn the Canadian nat’l anthem to get in your new distributors good graces, and the Piaggio group is still $250 billion in the red. . .
    Well, I will be nice and not say I told you so.

  11. Can’t we just agree to call it a “love/hate” relationship? Are we really complaining that we miss the P-series?

  12. By the way, I dropped an email to Al Kolvites, president of BajajUSA, I’ll let you all know what he has to say about it.

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