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Running on Fumes

Scooter Sales Boom & Bust with Gas Price

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The summer of 2008 will be remembered for a couple things: First there was that whole presidential election – yeah, that was last year! There was also $140/barrel oil driving gas prices up to $4 a gallon. If you’re like me, you almost blotted out the memory of $4 gas after prices later plummeted – slashing almost in half.

Vespa 250 GTV
Will US scooter dealers enjoy the unprecedented boom they experienced in 2008?
One consequence of the high 2008 gas prices was a huge spike in scooter sales, as consumers rushed to purchase more fuel efficient transportation. In fact, according to the MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council) “scooter sales last year reached their highest annual level ever, currently estimated at 222,000.” The high-flying scooter sales actually quelled the overall 3.3% decline of motorcycle purchases. While overall the two-wheeled market stumbled, scooter dealers couldn’t get enough units to meet demand.

The sales figures for the 2009 first quarter, however, showed how flighty the market can be. Again, sourcing MIC numbers “among the major brands, scooter sales through the first quarter of 2009 were down 36.7% compared to the first three months of 2008.”

Those are the hard numbers from the MIC, anecdotally it seems like used scooters sporting “For Sale” signs are all over the place. It would seem logical that many of those scooters are being sold by riders who made impulsive purchases based more on $4 gas than cool-headed common sense, and regret the decision – in particular once gas prices dropped closer to 2$ than $4 (for an evaluation of the economic benefit of scooter ownership check out our Scooting thru Vespanomics 101 feature).

Now with summer again upon us, and the numbers at the pump creeping upward… how will the scooter market respond?
Post Tags: scooter sales, high gas prices
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Comments
Mike -Just a consumer January 29, 2010 03:32 AM
I live in the southern US, and I've seen scooter sales decline dramatically. Your article is on the mark: Yesterday's scooter buyers - who a year ago waited patiently for a sales person in crowded showrooms to order scooters at top dollar prices and with delayed delivery - are now dumping them at far below what they paid. A friend who was eyeing a $3300 scooter at the dealer went to Craigslist and bought the same slightly used model with a few hundred miles and a factory warranty for virtually half of what the original owner paid six months ago. Gas prices are inching up again, but it seems that American buyers who thought they could live with the scooter lifestyle to save a few bucks on gas, are rushing back to the safety and comfort of automobiles. I'm wondering if in part, the decline in the US scooter culture is the huge number of junk mainland Chinese scooters dumped on the US market. Perhaps buyers who went for the pretty thousand dollar models were so disillusioned with the experience that they were turned off scootering forever. In art, a thing of beauty may be a joy forever. But in scooters, "pretty" fades very fast the first time it won't start. The bad word-of-mouth, coupled with the glut of used models on the market, will lead to a lot of showroom shut-downs this year. If scooter dealers reposition their products as "second vehicles" rather than as replacements for cars, they may be able to turn this trend around.