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.
U.S.-market Sachs will be the manufactured in China and sold under Cobra’s “Peirspeed” name (with Sachs branding also intact).
The MadAss 50 and 125 are distinctive moped-style bikes that made a big splash when introduced a couple years ago, though their impact was tempered by the XKeleton Trickster, an identical bike that hit American shores about the same time with a bit more marketing behind it. Both XKeleton and Tomberlin (the previous importer of the MadAss) seemed to lack the after-sales support and dealer network that Cobra brings to the table, so it’s good news for dealers and consumers. The MadAss is definitely not for everyone, but it has a fanatical following, and with moped popularity growing, it’s nice to know there’s a a modern-looking good-quality moped available for juvenile delinquents everywhere. Pierspeed will import the 50cc as a 4-speed manual, and the 125 with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Peirspeed will also offer a new Sachs bike, the X-Road 125, which was one of the few “wow” bikes of the show (OK, we have weird taste). It’s a 6-speed (!) mini-supermotard-style bike with a cool-looking red trellis frame. There are very few affordable small-displacement motorcycles available these days, so this distinctive bike (and its reasonable price) will hopefully be popular with new riders, students, and maybe even commuters. If 125cc doesn’t cut it for you, dear reader, a bigger-displacement version is in the pipeline.
Back to the meat of Cobra’s roster (that’ll be popular with anyone Googling “cobra meat”), the Taiwan Golden Bee lineup has barely changed for a few years now and it’s starting to look a bit stale. TGB is a top Taiwanese manufacturer with quality and reliability on par with Genuine and Kymco, and Cobra offers a great dealer/support network, so it’s a shame TGB’s bikes offer such a “beachfront scooter rental” vibe. POCphil and I spent an hour talking to Cobra sales reps, trying to explain to them why their bikes aren’t selling on par with Genuine or Kymco, even at better prices, and to their credit, they seemed very receptive, (even though we gave them roughly the same spiel last year).
Cobra plans to add Peirspeed branding to all their bikes, including the TGBs. It makes sense from a consistency standpoint, but we hope mixing generic Chinese products with their higher-quality TGB and Sachs products isn’t detrimental in the long term to the reputation of the company. The Peirspeed-badged “Europa 400” on display was the same 400cc Chinese scooter we saw at several other distributors’ booths (it’s also being sold as the “Italjet Marco Polo” in Europe). Cobra Sales Manager Mason Orr insists it’s a quality bike (it may well be) and that it and any other bikes will need to meet a high standard to be sold as a Peirspeed. If they can keep quality control up on their Chinese products, differentiate their bikes from cheaper identical bikes from other importers, stock a good supply of spares, and support their dealers as well as they have with TGB, the Chinese risk might pay off, but that’s a lot of “ifs.”
Of less interest to scooterists (and not targeted to us anyway), but a concept worth mentioning: Brass Balls Bobbers (oof!) are a line of bobbers (not mini-choppers as I said earlier, though I make no apologies for my complete ignorance of the V-Twin world) that allow the buyer to have a bike custom-built from a variety of engines, bodies, suspensions, colors, and accessories. The dealer displays three or four sample bikes on his floor, and the customer can spec his bike at an in-store kiosk. The bike is manufactured and shipped to the dealer, who preps it properly, and the customer comes and picks it up. Again, the bikes are not our bag, but we like the idea of a design-it-yourself system, and a similar online design/ordering system for scooters might be a good way for a mid-sized scooter importer and their dealers to compete with unaccountable quasi-legal drop-shippers— such a system would allow online sales, which might attract more customers, but also ensure bikes were prepped by professional dealers, and that a service/support relationship was in place for the life of the bike.
Stay tuned for more news from DealerExpo 2008!