STATE OF THE SCOOTER SCENE 2016 - PART TWO
BMW BEATS YAMAHA, HONDA FOR 2016 SCOOTER OF THE YEAR
Readers Pick: BMW C 650 Sport Is 2016’s Best New Scooter
Coverage of BMW scooters was added to this site after BMW introduced their set of C series maxiscooters (2013), so the revised 2016 C 650 Sport was the first model from BMW to go head to head against other new and revised models in the readers choice poll. It’s clear that people like what they see, as the C650 Sport handily took first place with nearly one third of the votes (31%), making it the 2016 Motor Scooter Guide Reader’s Pick.
Rounding out the top three models were Yamaha’s new Zuma 125 which took an unchallenged second place (23%), followed by Honda’s updated Metropolitan in third (15%). With a third place finish, 2016 is the first time Honda hasn’t won the award since it began for 2013.
Garnering the least enthusiasm was Genuine’s new Chinese built and ultra low cost Venture 50 along with the 2016 Armani edition of Vespa’s ultra pricey 946.
2015 Scooter Market Sales
Another year of scooter sales data is in and with it more confirmation that mediocre sales are here to stay. Before the 2008 recession USA scooters were a 50,000+ unit market, with highs some years approaching 100,000 (2004). Since the recession the market has been flat at 28-35,000 units and there are no clear catalysts for a recovery. Exact 2015 sales aren’t yet available from MIC but sales were down 10% year over year after the first 3 quarters and thus likely came in very close to 30k.
The situation in Canada is similar. With a population one-tenth the size of the USA, scooter sales in Canada were also one tenth with sales of 3452 units in 2015 per the MMIC. Canada looked like it was going to take less of a post-recession drop than the USA with okay 2009-2010 sales, but in 2011 sales shifted to today’s norm of ~3500 units.
Scooter sales today are in a similar pattern as we’ve seen once before in history. Following the 80’s boom, sales were low for the entire 90’s before picking up steam in the early 2000’s.
Perhaps the biggest threat to scooter sales today are e-Bikes, which appeal for all the same reasons scooters historically have: low cost and less regulation. eBikes lack the power of even a 50cc scooter, but with a super low purchase price and often no registration, licence or insurance required, it’s not hard to see why they’ve become the vehicle of choice amongst the frugal (and DUI limited).
I see three possible solutions to the doldrums that scooter sales are now in. First, new regulations might make eBikes less appealing. If eBike owners are required to have a licence, registration and insurance like many areas require for scooters, then buyers might choose to pay a bit more for a more capable and higher quality scooter. However, there’s not much indication this is going to change.
Secondly, scooters could benefit from some unexpected cultural shift, like a hit movie, that makes scooters cool again. In the past two movies have done this (Roman Holiday, Quadrophenia) and something similar could happen again. In North America scooters have always been practical enough and it’s been the “broke motorcyclist” stigma that’s prevented far higher sales.
Thirdly, and preferably, scooter makers could release interesting new models that genuinely pique customers interests. Right now there are too many models on the market that are either boring or aging. The market needs another icon like the Vespa or Honda Ruckus to give it a boost.
An appealing and capable electric scooter could be what’s needed to make scooters cool again and boost the market. Unfortunately Gogoro doesn’t have plans to bring this to the USA and the other manufacturers seem content to slowly sell the same old models. Maybe Honda will get serious about their EV-Cub.
STATE OF THE SCOOTER SCENE 2016 - PART ONE
9 NEW OR IMPROVED MODELS ARRIVING IN SHOWROOMS
With 2016 models mostly in showrooms, it’s time to review all the new and improved models. Please take a second to vote for your favorite. If you’re not familiar with the choices, read on!
As usual, complete details for each manufacturers lineup and specific models are found their respective pages here on MSG. A full report on 2015 scooter sales will be released in Part 2 of MSG’s State of the Scooter Scene, along with the winner of the poll. With just one entrant, it’ll be interesting to see if Honda can make 2016 their 4th straight win.
New 2016 Scooters
Genuine Buddy Kick
Genuine Venture 50
Updated 2016 Scooters
BMW C 650 Sport
Piaggio MP3 500 Sport
Vespa Primavera Tourer
Vespa Sprint Sport
Vespa 946 EA
Yamaha Zuma 125
Kymco MyRoad 700i
New scooters are sparse for 2016, comprising just two models from Genuine. These new models consist of a nice addition to the Buddy lineup called the Buddy Kick, and the low cost 50cc Venture. Thankfully quite a few more models received major updates.
For 2016 BMW resumed sales of their C Sport model, now calling it the C 650 Sport. It still uses the same 647cc motor so the new name just corrects the earlier non-sense of calling it the C 600 Sport. The 2016 upgrades include freshened styling, traction control and tweaks to the suspension, CVT and exhaust. Honda took 2016 as an opportunity to heavily overhaul their popular Metropolitan with a new liquid cooled motor, revised styling, new glovebox, 12V port, rims and an in floor fuel tank to increase underseat storage. The Zuma 125 from Yamaha is also less recognizable, with all new style, instruments, more room and improved brakes and suspension.
The Italians haven’t been sitting idle either. Piaggio surprisingly resurrected their MP3 in North America after several years in the grave (although it was on sale overseas). The new MP3 is called the 500 Sport but rather than resembling prior Sport models, it’s actually the softer original MP3 styling but with a new grill, rims and Piaggio’s larger 492cc motor. Vespa reworked three of their models for 2016, adding Tourer and S variations to the Primavera and Sprint models respectively. The Sprint S receives fairly mild styling tweaks while the Primavera Tourer gets the full set of Vespa racks and accessories similar to the LXV of years past. Last is the 2016 edition of the 946, called the Emporio Armani edition. This EA edition gets pretty neat green/grey paint but otherwise is similar to past 946 editions in style, function and price ($10g).
Also gone but not nearly as iconic is Kymco’s MyRoad 700i, which was only offered for two years in the USA and never saw much sales success against the big maxiscooters from the Japanese.
In total there are 52 scooter models being offered from the 9 major manufacturers covered on this site. That’s down 2 from last year but up quite a bit from 45 models 5 years ago.
GENUINE GOES CHINESE
2016 LINE INCLUDES MACHINES FROM PGO, LML AND CHINA
Genuine Scooters, a great little company, tends to be less than upfront about what they actually do as “America’s Favorite Scooter Company”. As opposed to most scooter companies that actually make scooters, Genuine imports batches of scooters from other manufacturers that otherwise don’t sell in the USA. These machines are then marketed under the Genuine brand. It’s not a bad strategy since building scooters is expensive and there are already nice machines built and sold overseas that aren’t offered in the USA. It’s similar to the business model of most distributers except Genuine goes a step further by trying to improve upon the often poor branding and support.
However Genuine has never been very upfront with their status as an importer/distributer, leaving people to assume they are a manufacturer. A few years back I actually had a potential advertising deal with Genuine for this website, which went south when Genuine asked me to remove the information on where their scooters come from. This is something I try to shed a light on here because people should know what they’re buying and where they can get OEM and aftermarket parts. Genuine generally imports pretty good scooters but readers still need to know this.
The first overseas maker Genuine struck a deal with was LML, who for years had manufactured the PX series for Vespa and thus was capable of making perfect clones for Genuine when Vespa’s patents ran out. These machines are imported as the Stella and are generally great scooters considering they’re a 30 year old design.
Since LML is limited in what scooters they make, Genuine next struck a deal with PGO Scooters of Taiwan, who make reasonably good scooters in the same vein as Kymco and SYM. Starting in 2006 and continuing today, Genuine imports most of their line from PGO such as the Buddy, Roughhouse and the new for 2016 Buddy Kick (left in silver), whereas PGO sells these scooters under the PGO name up in Canada (but still through a distributer) and elsewhere.
The big news for 2016 is the addition of a new, undisclosed Chinese manufacturer for their new Venture 50 scooter (top). The Venture 50 is impressively low priced ($1599) for a machine with pretty good specs (3-valve motor, front and rear disc brakes) other than top speed (30mph) and slightly better than average looks for a Chinese machine. Whether it’s any good or not remains to be seen but most likely it’s okay commuter material.
The 50cc market segment is really price sensitive, so it’s not surprising that Genuine decided to market a lower cost scooter, especially after the 2013 boardroom shakeup where founder, CEO and enthusiast Philip McCaleb was pushed out. The interesting question is whether Genuine can do this without hurting the rest of their brand, or maybe they plan to slowly switch to a mostly Chinese line? Hopefully Genuine has good quality control they can avoid a situation that hurts their reputation.
USA MODELS: Stella, Roughhouse, Venture, Buddy Kick, Buddy 50 / 125 / 170i, Hooligan 170, Blur 220