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Scooter sales skyrocketing; dealers can’t meet demand

Rob Sabo

Rising fuel prices have increased demand for fuel-efficient scooters to the point where some Reno-area suppliers are having trouble meeting consumer demand and the demographic of those buyers is changing as well.

Craig Knapp, general manager for Freedom Cycle on South Virginia Street, says customers are flocking to his shop to purchase scooters, many of which top more than 60 miles to the gallon. Knapp says sales of larger-model scooters have skyrocketed in recent months.

“It has been pretty dramatic really,” Knapp says. “I think everyone thought the gas situation was just bad dream, but now that it is a reality there is a rush to find a solution, and for people not into motorcycles a scooter seems to be a logical alternative.”

Knapp estimates Freedom Cycle in the past month has sold close to 30 Italian-made Vespa and Piaggio scooters, severely pinching inventories. And most customers aren’t snapping up the less-expensive and smaller run-about-town 50 cubic centimeter models.

“Past sales are always good for the spring and summer, but this is kind of special,” Knapp says. “We are seeing a real increase in mid-displacement scooters. Last year seemed like everyone wanted 50cc models.

We are madly trying go get more (large models) in stock and do the best we can to be stocked for this summer. Sales have been very brisk, and I think supply may thin out a little as we get toward the end of summer.”

Scooters in the 50cc range typically top out at 35 mph and don’t require a driver’s license, while higher-priced 250cc scooters are highway legal and require a motorcycle license.

David Kirkwood of Dirt Works ATV on Mill Street says scooter sales are up at least 60 percent on the year, and about 40 percent of the phone calls he receives are from customers interested in scooters. But Bill

Hermant, owner of Reno Cycles and Gear on Kietzke Lane, says he hasn’t seen a spike in sales mostly because he can’t procure enough inventory from his supplier, Genuine Scooter Company of Chicago, to match customer demand.

“We can’t get enough,” Hermant says. “There has been probably a 200-percent increase in inquires from people wanting us to call them when (shipments) come in.”

Hermant says he’s got a waiting list that runs 20 deep of people hoping to buy a scooter and it’s not just teenagers or others who can’t get a driver’s license who are buying.

“Now we are seeing doctors, laywers and businessmen,” Hermant says. “The spectrum of the customer has changed completely.”

Dirk Westegard, sales manager at Big Valley Honda, says procurement isn’t a problem for BVH because it is considered a “powerhouse” dealership and can secure more inventory when needed.

“Unlike most dealerships that have to guess at beginning of the year what quantity to order, we get replacements,” he says. “If it weren’t for that we would be completely sold out right now.”

Westergard says at the end of June last year BVH had sold 54 scooters. To date the dealership has sold more than 60, including six in the past week.

Sales of mopeds, which have 49cc or smaller engines and are factory-regulated to max out at 30 mph, also have seen a large increase in demand.

Diana Cranston, owner of DC Motor Sports in Carson City, says sales have quadrupled over the past year. She says she fields dozens of calls per day from people looking to purchase a moped, but she’s also unable

to meet consumer demand.

“The line I carry, what the dealers have is what they have,” Cranston says. “They have some on the way, but most are already presold. It may be August before they are available.

“Our cities need to look at being more moped and bicycle friendly,” she adds. “That is what keeps most customers from going that way they don’t feel safe. The routes I have available for me to go to work I can’t use because both are under construction. One is shut down, and one is not safe for me to ride.”


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