CARB approves Stella 150 4T


Modern Buddy moderator Eric Almedral has posted the California Air Resources Board approval certificate for the Genuine Stella 150 4T, and confirms that it’ll be available in the U.S. in 2010. My bet is that it’ll be here sooner than later, and probably the Stella and it’s claimed 130MPG will be one of the few bright spots for the scooter industry at DealerExpo in a few weeks.

When we test-rode the bike last year, we didn’t really talk about its importance to the scooter industry and scene. While the U.S scooter market is famously cyclical, there’s ALWAYS a limited market for scooters, and a large fraction of that guaranteed market for new scooters is folks looking to get involved in the everlasting vintage scooter scene. The first choice of any neophyte scooterist is a Vespa, and for ages, the best ‘starter Vespa’ (the most fashionable, affordable, and reliable scooter with at least relatively modern conveniences and widely available spares and accessories) was the Vespa P-series. The P-series remained the top choice of just about anyone entering the ‘scene’ until Vespa stopped importing it to the US in 1985 (largely because of California emissions regutlations), and it remained amazingly popular in Europe and elsewhere until it was discontinued last year. Vespa saw the model as an anachronism for a small target market. Bajaj Auto held on a little longer, even developing a short-lived 4-stroke version, but ultimately felt the same way. But LML is a much smaller company. When the Indian market for metal-bodied manual scooters dried up, Genuine and others stepped in to show that with a little marketing, the 2-stroke LML Star could be rebranded and targeted at first-world customers as a reverently-vintage-styled bike. After almost being done in by labor problems, LML focused on developing a 4-stroke motor to fill demand in lucrative markets like California and other parts of the world where tightening emissions regulations did not allow 2-stroke higher-displacement scooters.

With the “old” stella unavailable in California, and vintage Vespa-P-series bikes getting harder and harder to find, this bike is almost guaranteed success, albeit on a small scale. That small scale is plenty big for Genuine who, arguably above all other U.S. scooter importers, have always had their eye on longevity and sustainability. Vespa’s refusal to give the small American market what it wanted may spell their doom in the long run, as once again, Genuine is offering what Americans want from “a Vespa” better than Vespa can.

Our initial opinion was that on the surface, it’s as identical as a 4-stroke bike could be to a vintage P-series. Aside from the depressing lack of noise from the exhaust*, it’s a very similar riding experience, the good–and bad!–features of the Vespa were preserved perfectly. It’s great to have this vehicle available, but how will it’s long-term reliability compare to the legendary Vespa P? Will DIY maintenance be a thing of the past? Will LML’s still-somewhat-shaky labor situation be able to guarantee supply of bikes and parts for years to come? If Genuine and LML can keep quality high and keep bikes, parts and accessories coming, it’s a sure winner, or at least a guaranteed seller through the lean years ahead. Piaggio will continue to sell craploads more bikes worldwide. But with a great dealer network, well-branded bikes from two different quality manufacturers, an associated wholesale and retail parts business and two more exciting new bikes on the way (the 220efi Blur and their secret “touring scooter”), Genuine is the only American importer really well-positioned to thrive the next few years.

* And I’m not a noise junkie, I hate “loud pipes,” and all that, but if you’re used to riding a two-stroke, you’ll immediately notice the difference in engine sound, and surely be a bit disappointed. (The performance is just right, it’s only the sound!) Those who actually care about the environment, and who don’t know what they’re missing, will be ecstatic, so it’s barely worth mentioning.

Also note: The photo above is the preproduction model sent to CARB and EPA for testing, final design, colors, etc. will vary.

13 thoughts on “CARB approves Stella 150 4T”

  1. So when do we start the unsubstantiated rumor of a twin-cam, four valve head, EFI and big bore kit?

    POC Phil, tell us about how you are working on an adapter kit to use that ingeniously fool-proof EFI/ignition from a Royal Enfield on one of these (along with a new POC pipe right?).

  2. Will DIY maintenance be a thing of the past?

    It will only be a thing of the past because the 4T Stella won’t need any DIY maintenance. Four-stroke engines just run. Change the oil & filter, change the spark plug. Y’know, like a lawn mower. Hand most Americans a wrench or a screwdriver and they would have no clue what to do with it. This will be good.

    I was rather surprised to see the LML Star 4 125cc engine has a Kehin carburetor (sez LML’s French Web site), not fuel injection. Since you’re not pumping 2-stroke oil through it, the carb probably won’t need cleaning anywhere near as often, though to pass CARB it’s probably completely sealed anyway.

    Surely someone will come up with a noisy pipe, for those who want that…

  3. Orin, good points, but that’s when they’re new, I’ve got a Honda CB350 that’s ten years newer than my Vespa 150 VBB and neither of them run, but I’d have a fair shot at making the VBB work again without professional help.

    People opine about how a new Stella’s better than a old P-series. That may be true, but the old P-series was certainly better made, and will probably retain it’s value better. It’ll be interesting to see how they fit into scootering history and collectability. My guess is that the 2-stroke Stellas will probably be around for ages and someday be considered a second-rate but respectable vintage scooter, while the 4-stroke ones will tend to be more disposable, especially if they don’t last long and parts are hard to get (like the Bajaj 4T Chetaks, which are about worthless if the engine blows out).

    Genuine is probably hoping that the 4T Stella will start the (what wave are we on) of mod-style-scootering and remain popular for generations. And it might. We’ll see.

  4. Bryan, of course regular maintenance is important for the longevity of any vehicle, but as Brock Yates once said, “they don’t make them like they used to, they make them much, much better.” Yeah, change the oil/filter and spark plug, do the other stuff the book says to do (most importantly, don’t abuse it!), and you’ll have a Stella 4 with 50K miles on the clock that runs like a new one.

    When I was in high school, people said, oh God, nobody cares about those muscle cars, nobody’s gonna want to collect them. Seen the Barrett-Jackson auction on SPEED? See all those Mustangs and Camaros and GTOs going for six-figure prices? Vehicle collecting is about recapturing lost youth. In the year 2040, there are going to be people who are wistful about the Stella 4 they bought in high school or college with the money from a summer job. Or about the road trip they took on their Burgman…

  5. Wish they’d make something bigger than a 150. I’d buy one in a heartbeat if it was a 200 or better and use it as my daily rider.

  6. The people that took a road trip on their Burgman will be dead.

    I don’t know anyone who ever said that no body cares about muscle cars. That said, clearly you’ve never visited a Bajaj service center. Great scoots, but they just break for different reasons than the razor thin margin for overheating that taxes two strokes. A wise man once said, “If it’s got tits or wheels, it will give you heartache”. Well, he may not have been wise. Though surely crass, likely drunk and probably wearing a Peterbilt hat, he wasn’t entirely wrong.

  7. You can have both!–a “green”, two-stroke, direct-injected scooter that is the Aprilia SR50, and it’s available in all 50 states right now! You might say, well, it doesn’t have the look of the Stella, or the Vespa P; but when you’re riding it, you can’t see that anyway:) Or, you might say, oh, it’s only a 50cc and that’s where you haven’t kept up with the recent home-grown development in performance upgrades. The scooter world has a very stubborn sentimental side to it, it’s very nice and I understand. I first sat on my dad’s PGO Vespa 180cc in the 70’s, and that’s how I developed a love for the smell and the sound of the two-stroke. However today I prefer to look ahead into the future. The great technological wonder that is the Aprilia SR50 does not get much written about in the scooter press, and that is a down right shame.

  8. There’s no doubt it will be an all-out race to see who can produce the first 4t performance exhaust/parts for the Stella 4T – My hope is it’s Prima. With their manufacturing connections and prototyping ability it would be a no-brainer to have a performance pipe in no time flat. The question isn’t IF there will be performance parts, the question is WHEN.

    Oh, and the more fluid version of the quote is “If it has Tits or Tires, you’ll have troubles”.

    The Chetak 4T’s were supremely reliable – until recently…which is weird. We saw guys who put 20,000 miles on in their first 3 years with no problem whatsoever. Now we’re seeing a few problems cropping up. I still think it’s an excellent design, if a bit underpowered.

    The P Series was a tank, but it wasn’t exactly “maintenance free” either. Top Ends routinely need a rebore around 10,000 miles. Most of the ones we’re seeing these days need flywheels remagged, flyside seals last around 3 years, insulation on the wiring was never any good. CDI’s have much too short of a lifespan etc.

    Anyone else have input for this off-the-top-of-my-head listing?

    Stella Phase 1 – 2002 – Turbo Cushions / Black tail light housing
    Stella Phase 2 – 2002 – Turbo Cushion sticker gone / Chrome Tail light housing
    Stella Phase 3 – 2005? – Neutral Light / Stop Light / Gabriel Chrome Shocks
    Stella Phase 4 – 2007/8 – Relocated Coil / Halogen Headlamp
    Stella Phase 5 – 2010 – 4T

  9. Rakuchina (will you be at Amerivespa BTW!?)

    Re: the SR50, I think the price is too high for what you get, especially with upgrades, but it’s indisputably still one of the most high-tech scooters around, several years after it came out.

    You’re absolutely right about sentimentality being a main factor behind collectability, but I think the extra layer of nostalgia might throw it off… People (even young people) buy Stellas now out of a sense of nostalgia for the early days of Vespa, or the Mod scene, or whatever. I think in 30 years, they’ll either want to remember the 90s/00s with a vehicle they ASPIRED TO (I bet most muscle car buyers are little brothers of people who had one!) or, having the money, they’ll track down the real thing (a Vespa, vintage or modern.) That said, Stellas will retain value much better than most other contemporary scooters.

    I think (Thanks to scooterworks) that the Buddy’s going to be the real winner in the nostalgia wars, though. There’s an emotional attachment between buddies and their owners that can’t be matched.

  10. Also, “collectible” is the worst thing you could say to make someone believe it’ll be worth a lot in the future. Things that are worth good money in the future are the things nobody thought to save. If everybody who had a Vespa in the fifties and sixties thought “oh, man, this is going to be worth a SCHLOAD some day!” and babied them for 50 years, they’d be worth nothing these days because there’d still be tons around.

    I’m not saying Stellas are the Beanie Babies of scootering, but just like with muscle cars, the ‘collectible’ cars of the future are guaranteed to surprise you. Kids who grew up in the 90s will be paying a quarter of a million for a cherry Pontiac Aztek. or a Honda Odyssey minivan (I’m betting on the Element, actually, I can see an Element rally in 2045)

    The new minis, new beetles, new vespas, new everythings, are never going to be worth that much, because they’re overvalued to begin with, ha. And all those muscle cars and vintage Vespas probably aren’t even beating inflation as far as value, except in rare cases. A vehicle is NEVER an “investment”

  11. Sho’nuff! I will be riding this time. Would 2SB be in San Antonio for the big shindig as well?

    You’re correct that the price for a new SR is just outta sight (many repeat buyers have complained). But there are quite a few mildly-ridden pre-own’s out there whose price tags are easier to swallow. This SR is a special scooter with many first’s, sure you know them.

    Gotta give it to Stella for bringing the 4T, great effort! But I say buy it because you wanna ride it; not just to dress up head-to-toe in Ben Sherman looking cool (these may be the same people who confuse “is sexy” with “looking sexual). The true nostalgia (not manufactured) can only be relived properly by people who were once in the midst of the movement; not by some well-heeled twenty-something hipsters who weren’t even born back then. Imo, it would be as ridiculous as for me to celebrate the 60’s (even though I was born then); because I really did most of my growing-up in the 70’s and 80’s (and still a work-in-progress today).

    Lastly, I hope the Aztek will never, ever make a “come back”. Never, ever, ever! To quote a local musician, that would just “drive me to drink”, AGAIN!

  12. Cert. says “148cc” for displacement, so, not 150cc, & ergo not freeway legal in CA. [No comment on freeway *sensibility*, just legality… ;)] Still just an urban scoot. Pity…

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