Associated Press - May 15, 2008
PIERRE, S.D. - Joan Kohler is not a typical new scooter customer.
But the 51-year-old restaurant owner bought a candy-apple red Honda last week as worries about the price of gas overrode any trepidation about learning to drive it.
With the average price of gas closing in on $4 a gallon, many cash-strapped motorists are turning to fuel-stingy motor scooters and smaller motorcycles. Dealers across the nation report brisk sales this spring, particularly for those that get from 75-120 miles per gallon.
"Ninety-five percent of those who come in... mention high gas prices," said Lonnie Trujillo, sales manager for Vespa of California at Sherman Oaks, Calif. "Even though we're in southern California and have year-round riding weather, April sales were phenomenal," he added.
Sales of name-brand scooters such as Honda, Yamaha, Vespa and Suzuki rose 24 percent in the first quarter of the year, said Mike Mount, spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Council trade group — noting that it's not exactly a hot sales period because of cool weather in much of the nation.
Many lesser-known scooters from China, Taiwan and South Korea also are sold in the U.S., but Mount said those sales figures are not readily available.
"We believe, anecdotally, that fuel prices are definitely having an effect on scooter sales," he said. "It seems likely that that's playing into scooter sales this quarter, as well."
The lowest-priced scooters such as the Chinese imports cost about $800, while name-brand bikes cost $2,000 to $3,000 and top-of-the-line models can go for $6,000 to $8,000...