News Bits, Jan 8, 2007

We’re still catching up on news reports from our holiday break. This should bring us up to date:

  • Authorities have banned the Segway from public streets and sidewalks in the Netherlands, citing their lack of a mechanical brake as a safety hazard. It’s easy to make jokes, and we should, because Segways are ridiculously stupid, but this does pose an interesting question about how governments will react to the many alternate-fuel vehicles coming to market, especially those that don’t conform to standard vehicle categories. Few companies can afford the luxury of developing and marketing a product that may likely be banned on streets, just one more reason why huge companies already armed with lobbyists and lawyers will probably continue to dominate the market. In other words, good luck getting licence plates for your new Vectrix electric motorscooter (what’s the displacement, sonny?), and welcome to 2007.
  • New Honda Metropolitan rider tells the Arizona Daily Star how much she loves her scooter.
  • “At one point I was going to lease a BMW to try to meet women,” Jeff Schultz tells the Louisville Courier-Journal. Luckily, he came to his senses and bought a Kymco People 250. We assert that scooters’ environmental impact is notable, yet generally overstated, so we found both comments pretty funny.
  • Kymco has expanded its relationship with ARI to improve customer relations by streamlining warranty claims and product registration.
  • Following up the results of an earlier report, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries confirms that scooter sales are kicking ass in Australia. While several Australian companies, notably Bolwell, have been importing rebadged scooters from Asian makers, Vmoto has gone a step farther and bought their Chinese supplier, Freedmoto, outright. (That’s ONE way to ensure decent quality control from a Chinese company.)
  • reports on a 112-horsepower Italian racing scooter built by Team Cristofolini Racing. The custom-made aluminium 4-cylinder 350cc engine is mounted in what used to be a Malaguti F12 frame.

Kymco at EICMA 2006

Kymco Super8 125cc, Photo courtesy Kymco

In all our rambling about the Piaggio Group’s EICMA offerings, we forgot to mention that there were 600 or so other manufacturers there. For instance, Kymco had several new bikes on display, including the Xciting 500 they’ve been teasing us with for a year (still not shipping). The new Super 8 (above), is a 50 or 125cc, 4-stroke, 14″-wheeled update of the handsome-but-underpowered Super9. The Grand Dink 125 (Grand Vista in the U.S.) somehow sired a family of “New Dinks” with 50, 125, and 200cc engines. Also on display was the new MovieXL125 scooter and some new motorcycles, including the Quannon 125 entry-level sportbike. Two bikes listed as motorcycles may be of interest to scooterists, the 5-speed Straight 125 looks rather like a modernized Honda Passport, while the 4-Speed ActivSR (50 or 125cc) appears to be the offspring of a Gilera Runner and a moped from the eighties. Neither is terribly attractive, but don’t let it be said there are no manual-transmission scooters out there. No word from KymcoUSA if any of these beasts will come to our shores, other than the Xciting500, which they’re already advertising.

Taiwan: Taiwan kicks ass

The Taiwanese scooter industry is totally freaking awesome, according to a statement issued by the Taiwanese scooter industry. The report namechecked SYM, Kymco, and Maxxis, ignoring PGO, who was presumably too busy making scooters to attend the conference. Joking aside, Taiwan *is* a scooter success story, with US$500 million in exports and a good reputation worldwide. The industryis focusing on further distinguishing their products from those of mainland China and positioning Taiwanese scooters as being competive with Japanese scooters. Kymco, at least, is well on their way in the U.S.

Kymco gears up for export market

The Taiwan Economic News reports that Kymco plans to export 10% more scooters and ATVs worldwide next year, about 290,000 units, including the world’s first 700cc scooter. Upscale products for more affluent markets will continue to be manufactured in Taiwan, while secondary markets will be served with products made in mainland China. 2sb prediction: by this time next year, KymcoUSA will be fighting a PR battle against cheaper illegally-imported Chinese-made Kymcos. Safety recall: 2006 Kymco Agility 50cc scooters were accidentally shipped without an engine kill switch. A voluntary recall is in effect, Kymco dealers can inspect and fix the scooters at no cost.

Kymco giving away Amerivespa trips

Amerivespa 2006 is, happily, shaping up to be quite the pan-scooter event. Starting life as the national Vespa rally combined with Denver’s legendary Mile High Mayhem rally, it also now encompasses this year’s Lambretta Jamboree and Stellabration. Main sponsor Kymco is giving away vacation packages to the Rally to ten lucky winners.