Indian scooter manufacturer Lohia Machines Ltd (LML) continues to fight financial and labor woes, as a lockout starting May 7–following strikes and protests–continues amid complaints from the workers’ union that interim payments are not being distributed properly. (It also appears they’ve blown off their web hosting bill). It’s unclear if LML has produced any scooters at all since the beginning of the year. While the Indian business press has frequently reported on potential investors and buyers, nothing has come of these rumors to date.
With demand for small motorcycles and modern automatic scooters on the rise (in India and worldwide), the Honda Eterno, Bajaj Chetak, and LML Star together accounted for only 16% of Indian scooter production in 2006, including 95,000 Eternos, and a combined 70,000 Stars and Chetaks. The Chetak presumably outsold the Star in the Indian market, so LML could certainly benefit from the Chetak’s recent demise (not to mention the demise of the Vespa PX150). Another sales boost comes from the hot, but relatively small, market for the Stella and Belladonna (both LML-manufactured variations of the Star) in the USA and New Zealand, respectively.
As it stands, most US Stella dealers are running very low on stock, and Genuine’s large backorder is–at best–months away (LML surely has domestic obligations, and Belgian, British, and other international dealers are promising a 2006 model). Sadly, it may never come, unfortunate considering US demand has never been higher. Genuine’s deal with PGO (manufacturers of their Buddy 50, 125, and Black Kat, along with other models likely to be announced soon) should reduce the shock on Genuine, their dealers, and scooterists, and Belladonna has introduced a Vino knockoff to their lineup. But those with their hearts set on a Stella would be wise to act fast and settle for whatever color they can get (some colors appear to be sold out nationwide), or place an order for what, if it comes, will likely be the last batch of metal-bodied 2-stroke geared scooters to ever see American soil.