Monday, July 21, 2008

From our good friends at Scooter Maxi

Beyond the Scooter Craze

Unless of course you have been hibernating for the past half year, you surely have seen, heard and read about the scooter craze.

Beyond what’s very obvious today, we want to take a peek at what the future holds for scootering in the U.S.

The knee-jerk answer is a rosy outlook for as far into the future as we can see. The reality is that the scooter market in this country has proven somewhat fickle, and Americans have tended to accept gas price hikes more readily than change their ingrained habits. So, next year scooter importers face some very difficult decisions about how much ramping up of inventory will be appropriate. From our perspective, we expect to see a middling approach. Sharp growth in sales should continue because more people are seeing scooters purchased by the neighbors and on the streets; we are finally reaching critical mass in the U.S. Riding a scooter seen as economical transportation is now almost viewed as mainstream. At the same time, it would be unrealistic to expect anywhere near the 2008 sales growth rate as the heavy media exposure wanes and the public adjusts to higher fuel prices.

At ScooterMaxi, we have been impressed with the intelligent and reasoned conversations we’ve read on various forums regarding the craze. Even more impressive are the very reasonable and honest business principles exhibited by so many dealers who are not gouging customers despite shortages in the availability of popular models. Their admirable actions now will surely serve these dealers well in the long run.

Market Changes in the Middleweight Maxis

If you had predicted two years ago that gas would top $4 a gallon and Japanese motor companies would stop sending 250cc class scooters to the U.S., a properly trained analyst probably would have suggested sending you away for a long rest. Keep in mind that a 250cc Middleweight Maxi is a great way to get around the city and spend some time on winding country roads while sipping gas at double the MPG of your typical Prius. So, what happened? The answer is complicated, but it appears likely that a combination of import quotas related to pollution limits, stiff pricing competition and mega-dealership preferences have all played significant roles.

As far as we know, no one at Kymco, Piaggio Group or SYM is complaining. Those would be the folks who provided most of the strong pricing competition. And while we are on the subject of Middleweights, we should be looking out for 300cc units on the way to the U.S. – sooner or later. First to arrive is the SYM Citycom 300i in the coming weeks, but we expect to be seeing more models Stateside soon.

How about those slower freeway speeds?

What is making Middleweight Maxis more appealing than ever is not only their excellent gas mileage, but their enhanced ability to keep up with the traffic flow on the freeway. No, scooters aren’t going faster, but have you noticed that far fewer folks in cars and trucks are zooming by at 80 mph? The lower speeds are good news for scooterists who are finding they fit in more smoothly with the more-consistent, slower traffic flow.

Remember the old 55 mph National Speed Limit? Well, that’s not likely coming back - no matter how much of a fuel crisis we might encounter. Speed studies showed that the old 55 limit on interstates resulted in some motorists obeying the law while others preferred 70 or 75 – and that big differential clearly resulted in more serious collisions and higher fatality rates. But what would happen if we lowered the 75 maximum to 65 mph? The American Trucking Association estimates that dropping the speed limit by just 10 mph would lower fuel consumption by an impressive 27 percent. The truckers support going to a 65 mph National Speed Limit, and we agree. Not only will the slightly reduced speed save considerable fuel, but more scooterists on Middleweight Maxis would find their freeway travels accommodating and safe.

Folks are watching their fuel consumption more closely than ever, and is getting a lot more feedback from readers on this topic. A handful of readers challenge our scooter mileage estimates, and we review our calculations regularly. Of course, the folks who keep the closest tabs tend to be riders with conserving fuel in mind. Our estimates try to take into account all kinds of riding styles, various weather conditions, and correction for odometer error (which varies widely by make and model).

All kinds go cross country and beyond

We have some interesting cross-country tourers this year, coming from unusual perspectives. A great deal of publicity has been generated by Piaggio as sponsor of Buddy and Bob (Bernard Rosenbaum and Bob Chase) on their just-completed Lincoln Highway travels from California to NYC. The 70-something MP3 500 riders have nicely chronicled their U.S. tour at The message Piaggio wants to get across is pretty darn unmistakable: you might be getting a little too old to tour on a heavy cruiser, but don’t overlook the smart, cutting-edge alternatives.

A very different tour is chronicled by Alix Bryan at, now better than one year into her 20,000 mile journey. Sponsored in large part by Genuine Scooter Company on a Buddy 125, she was inspired by the words of Jimmy Carter. Her message is far more civic-minded than political. Her play on P.E.A.C.E. is A Patriot’s Exhibition Advancing Community and Environmentalism, on a scooter. By chance, I met her at Scooterville in Minneapolis as she was heading east toward the finish line, and came away impressed with her thoughtfulness, inclusive attitude, and gutsiness. As you might expect given the length of this grueling tour on a scooter not really designed for it, the journey has had its share of mechanical and personal challenges. Alix has an inspiring take on life.

ScooterMaxi evolves

Although we are less than a year into our existence, you probably have started noticing some changes at ScooterMaxi. Thank you goes out to the folks at August Publications for their invaluable assistance in the development of the website. In recent weeks, ScooterMaxi has gone independent, allowing more time devoted to providing quality content. You probably have noticed that Kymco is our first advertiser, with banner buys in June and July. Thank you, Rick Pawelka, for your support! New to the advertising side of it, we really needed to get on the ball with organizing the marketing of the website. Thanks for the kick in the pants, Rick.

So many industry folks have been very encouraging to us. Among them, we want to thank Glenn Hansen of Suzuki, Suzanne McIntosh of Carter Bros. (SYM), Joel Martin (who appears to be everywhere at all times) of Martin Racing Performance, Kevin Andrews of Piaggio/Vespa, and Elke Martin of Brandware Group (Piaggio). I’m sure I have missed some of you who have been helpful – please excuse me.

So many readers, riders and enthusiasts also have given us positive feedback. Thank you! Please continue contacting us with your suggestions and comments. Email:

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