By Guido Ebert
The Scooter Market 101
“Scooter” is a commonly used term for motorized two-wheeled vehicles that can be registered either as mopeds or motorcycles. It’s a moped if it 1) has an engine size of 50cc or less, 2) develops no more than 2 hp, and 3) is capable of no more than 30 mph on a flat surface.
Many new entrants into scootering seek simple surface street transportation, are unwilling to become licensed, and thus are often relegated to small-sized 50cc models. With that said, however, the medium-sized market has grown over past years as existing motorcycle license-holders increasingly purchase these more powerful mid-range models that are priced fairly closely to their more diminutive brethren yet supply greater surface street security due to greater get-up-and-go.
Nowadays, you’ll find scooters ranging from relatively simple 30 mph neighborhood travelers to plush 100 mph models that are as comfortable as an easy chair and worthy of long stretches on the interstate. In fact I have been the maxi-scooterist on the receiving end of a retracted two-finger salute by a FJ1300 rider.
Scooter sales are more directly related to fuel prices than any other motorized two-wheeler. As it happens, fuel prices generally begin to rise in March and last through May. Generally. Obviously things are different this year.
For many, the lure toward scooters comes from their ease of use and fuel efficiency. Most scoots feature simple automatic belt-driven CVT transmissions and rely only on a twist-and-go throttle with left and right brake levers similar to a bicycle, and many achieve between a claimed 60 and 100 mpg of fuel. The step-through design often also serves as a benefit for commuters.
Where industry reporting is concerned, the U.S. Scooter Market can be split into two segments: Traditional Brand Scooters, supplied by long-established manufacturers; and Non-Traditional Brand Scooters, bikes supplied by relative newcomers to the market.
Both segments experienced a bump in sales in 2012, with gains occurring earlier in the year on the specter of high fuel prices and rebounding again later in the year on what may have been blowout pricing on non-currents.
Maxi scoots and the generally more expensive Euro brands benefited from well-heeled buyers while other common suppliers of small and medium-sized twist-and-go scooters may have scored on general product availability and the lure of new models.
Aprilia’s three-model line-up for 2013 features the air-cooled & carbed SR Motard 50 ($1,999) and liquid-cooled & fuel-injected SR 50 ($3,199) and SR 50 R Replica SBK ($3,199). You also likely be able to find the Sportcity 50/125, Scarabeo 100, Scarabeo 200, Sportcity 250 and Scarabeo 500 ie.
Most sought-after models in Aprilia’s range include the Sportcity 250, Scarabeo 200 and Scarabeo 100.
Arguably the biggest news to come from BMW in 2012 was the introduction of the company’s new scooter product, the C 650 GT ($9,990) and C 600 Sport ($9,590) – developed in cooperation with KYMCO from Taiwan. The German company has said it anticipates attracting current BMW brand automobile and motorcycle owners to the niche, which would no doubt massively increase sales in coming years.
Genuine’s eight-model line-up features the 50cc two-stroke Roughhouse ($1,999) at home in the gravel as much as it is on paved streets, 50cc air-cooled two-stroke Lil Internationals ($2,199) available in “Pamplona” and “Italia” color combinations, two-stroke Buddy 50 ($1,999), four-stroke Buddy 125 ($2,799), the retro-modern Buddy 170i ($3,349), modern and sporty Blur SS220i ($3,999), and the classically styled steel-bodied 150cc Stella ($3,699) that remains a four-speed shifter but now is available only in a four-stroke version.
The Buddy 125, for its price point and output, remains Genuine’s bestseller, followed by the Buddy 50s, 170 and Roughhouses. Of course, the Stella remains the brand’s most recognizable model.
Honda’s six-model line-up for 2013 features the 49cc four-stroke Metropolitan ($1,999) and Ruckus ($2,649), 108cc Elite ($2,999), modern runabout PCX150 ($3,449), big wheel SH150i ($4,499) and 600-class Silver Wing ABS ($9,270).
Highlights in the line include the best-selling four-stroke Ruckus 50 that has become a popular skeleton for modification, and the PCX150 with enough power, style and amenities to serve as an excellent urban commuter.
KYMCO’s 15-model line-up features the fuel efficient Agility 50 ($1,499), Super 8 50 2T ($2,199), Like 50 ($2,199) and Like 50 LX ($2,299), as well as the classic looking Compagno 110i ($2,999), Agility 125 ($1,899), modern mid-size Movie 150 ($3,199), Super 8 150 ($2,499), Like 200i ($2,699), Like 200i LX ($2,799), People GT 200i ($4,899) & People GT 300i ($5,399), Downtown 200i ($5,199) & Downtown 300i ($5,599) and newly designed Xciting 500 Ri ABS ($6,899).
Because all of KYMCO’s 50cc models are considered mopeds in Minnesota, the company’s best-selling scoots here include the Agility 50, Super 8 50 2T and Like 50.
KYMCO dealers are currently in the process of receiving deliveries of the Compagno 50i ($2,599), and KYMCO USA plans to reveal some new products (possibly a 700cc scoot?) later this month.
Piaggio’s eight-model line-up features the air-cooled 49cc Typhoon 50 ($1,899) and 49.9cc Fly 50 4V ($2,199), Typhoon 125 ($2,699), Fly 150 ($2,899), and executive style BV 350 ($5,699), as well as the three-wheeled MP3 250 ($7,199), MP3 400 ($8,699) and MP3 500 ($8,899).
Moving most briskly are the Fly 150 & 50, as well as the BV 350, but the MP3 range continues to serve as the brand ambassador for its unique front-end geometry. Try it. At the very least, you’ll come away with an appreciation for the engineering.
Taiwan’s SYM is the third most prolific brand in its home country, behind #1 KYMCO and #2 Yamaha. The brand experienced a rough introduction to the U.S. market with its initial distributor, but those kinks have been worked out and the brand’s six models of scooter are gaining adherents stateside.
Offerings include the diminutive Mio 50 ($1,999), the Symba 100 ($2,399) offering the timeless step-through look of Southeast Asia, classic style Fiddle II 125 ($2,299), the big wheel HD 200 EVO ($3,499), 15hp RV 200 EVO ($3,699) and top of the range Citycom 300i ($4,699).
Vespa’s 10-model line-up for 2013 features the sporty S 50 4V ($3,299), S 50/150 Sport SE ($3,399/$4,599), S 150 IE ($4,499) and GTS 300 IE Super ($6,199), as well as the classic LX 50 4V ($3,399), LX 150 IE ($4,599), GTS 300 IE ($6,199) and GTS 300 Super Sport SE ($6,399), and LXV 150 IE ($5,499) and GTV 300 IE ($6,999) with a wealth of factory accessories.
Best-sellers for this upmarket brand include the LX150 IE, GTS 300 IE and LX50 4V.
Yamaha’s top three best-selling two-wheelers in the U.S. in 2012 included the Zuma 50F. The OEM’s four-model scooter line-up for 2013 features the 49cc Vino Classic ($2,290) and Zuma 50F ($2,590), sporty Zuma 125 ($3,390) and 400-class Majesty ($6,850).
It’s difficult to pinpoint a highlight in the Yamaha line as the OEM has made sure that each model serves a distinct market segment. The strategy has worked, with the Zuma 50F and 125 becoming bestsellers, and the Vino and Majesty both strong category entrants.
Sadly, we here in the U.S. no longer enjoy the privilege of being able to purchase a new Yamaha TMAX, the 499cc parallel twin scoot lauded by reviewers around the world.
Be for You?
Think you may have an interest in utilizing a scooter this summer but don’t have much experience on anything other than a bicycle?
Scooter operators are required to have a motorcycle permit or motorcycle license endorsement, and Bill Shaffer, State Program Administrator, Motorcycle & Roadway Safety Programs, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, says “there is a fair amount of confusion” about the differences between mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles when it comes to licensing and registration.
Every two- or three-wheeled vehicle in Minnesota requires a motorcycle endorsement or permit to ride unless it meets all three of these conditions: 1) engine size of 50cc or less, 2) no more than 2 hp, and 3) capable of no more than 30 mph on a flat surface.
A two-wheeled vehicle that exceeds any one of these conditions must be registered as a motorcycle, which requires a driver’s license and motorcycle endorsement or motorcycle instruction permit to ride. A two-wheeled vehicle that meets all of these conditions can be registered as a moped and will display a Moped license plate. Operators are required to have a driver’s license or a motorized bicycle operator’s permit.
Here’s the rub, though: Many scooters that are 50cc or less do not meet the horsepower and mph requirements and thus are required to be registered as motorcycles.
The Twin Cities-based Rider Academy offers student riders specially designed coursework, as well as the use of scooters to offer range experience that is directly applicable to what is or may be in the garage at home.
As for training via the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC), if a scooter is registered as a motorcycle, operators may ride their scooter in the Basic Rider Course (BRC) and take the skills test with it providing they show proof of insurance, their scooter is street legal with an engine displacement of 500cc or less and the model has an unladen weight of 400 pounds or less. For further training, any size scooter is welcome in BRC2.
Visit www.RiderAcademy.com and www.motorcyclesafety.org for more details.