Posts Tagged ‘scooter’

The next customer boom

April 1, 2011

At the time of this writing, oil prices were uncomfortably hovering a hair above $100 a barrel, and premium gas on the West Coast had settled in at about $4 a gallon.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East (isn’t that redundant at this point?) assuredly means that these prices would likely go up before they’d go down, or so says the analysts.

In fact, federal energy officials say there’s a 25 percent chance those gas prices will average $4 a gallon or more throughout the summer driving season.

Smells a bit like 2008, the last time oil prices were this high. Another flashback moment? How about some of the news headlines starting to pop up across the Internet. This one could have been ripped straight from a 2008 newspaper: “As Gas Prices Rise, So Do Scooter Sales.”

If you’ll remember, scooter sales that year jumped 66 percent the first half of 2008 and eventually settled in at 41 percent higher than 2007. Many OEMs had to play catch-up to meet the demand of all the new two-wheeler commuters. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that dealers just plain sold out of certain models.

That was the year many first-time riders got a taste of two-wheels. Piaggio alone reported that its sales were up about 75 percent the first quarter of 2008. Former CEO Paolo Timoni would later report that many of these new riders had no interest in riding motorcycles, that they were fine on their Vespas and Piaggios.

Of course, with every boom there is a bust, and we all know what happened after the scooter market crashed. One could make a good guess that there’s a metric boatload of noncurrent scooters — from all OEMs, even the new Asian entries — sitting in storage waiting for gas prices to drive people back out of their cars and onto the seats of those waiting machines.

Well, it’s been a long strange two years since the oil and gas spike and attendant scooter rush, but here’s something to think about: If you were one of those dealers who catered to that huge bloom of new riders, what did you do to keep them coming back into your store? Did you convert them into regular customers or did they travel back out the door they came in, and back into their cars after gas prices dropped down to partially ridiculous levels?

So, if the analysts are correct and gas prices continue to inflict pain on most drivers at the pump, there’s a good chance many of those folks will make the switch to two wheels. And not just scooters. High gas prices could likely get people out on motorcycles as well. (It’s odd wishing for high gas prices, isn’t it?)

The question is, if sales do take a jump and more people start riding, are you prepared to service those new customers? What will you do — this time — to keep them coming back into your store? And how do you reach out to potential customers to let them know you’ve got something that can help ease their petrol pain?

It’s conventional wisdom that getting new customers through the front door is one of the most difficult tasks of running a business. Now, with gas prices giving them a little nudge, it’s your chance to welcome them into the powersports family.
Let us know if you were one of those dealers who converted those 2008 scooter riders into loyal customers. Also, drop us a line if you’re cooking up plans to win over the next group of new riders. Send your comments to editors@dealernews.com.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief
dennis.johnson@dealernews.com

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.

Major Management Changes at CFMOTO

October 8, 2010

CFMOTO, the Chinese powersports company, has made several top level management changes to its U.S. subsidiary based in suburban Minneapolis, according to sources close to the company. The changes include beefing up the management team with outside professionals and a shift in responsibility for Lev Mirman, the former president of the U.S. operation, CFMOTO Powersports.

Mirman retains his equity position with about a 10% ownership of the U.S. operation. Under the new setup, Mirman will focus on legal and regulatory concerns involving CARB, DOT and EPA.

The company declined to discuss the changes in any detail when I contacted the CFMOTO office today.

The new management team is designed to increase efficiencies, and help the company expand its product portfolio into new areas beyond its ATV, scooter and motorcycle products, sources told me. CFMOTO has about 200 U.S. dealers, down from a high of about 215, but it has been adding dealers this year, the company said.

CFMOTO is one of the few Chinese manufacturers that has established its own subsidiary in the U.S., similar to the Japanese models in which the manufacture manages its own brand through its own manufacturing and distribution channel.  Most other Chinese and Taiwanese companies simply hire independent importer/distributor companies to handle their products in this market.

CFMOTO’s parent company,  ChunFeng Holding Group, Ltd., was established in 1989. The group has eight wholly-owned subsidiaries engaged in manufacturing of liquid cooled engines, scooters, motorcycles, vehicle parts and accessories, and investments. The largest engine it manufactures is a 500cc unit, and the smallest is 50cc. JD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas at
jdelmont@dealernews.com or 952/893-6876.

Officials: Importer Used Fake CARB Certificates

March 15, 2010

One of Largest U.S. Importers of Chinese Machines Is Charged

Two top executives of one of the largest importers of Chinese and Taiwanese powersports equipment in the U.S. have been charged by California authorities with selling vehicles that did not meet that state’s emission standards, according to the complaint obtained by Dealernews.

Kening N. Ma, president and owner, and Shirley Hyunae Ji, vice president, of Goldenvale, Inc., were charged last week in a 70-count complaint. The complaint, filed in San Bernardino, Calif., Superior Court, charges the two executives and “another person or persons” with selling motor vehicles that had not been certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to consumers and dealers in California.

The complaint charges the executives with multiple felony counts of grand theft of personal property (more than $400), possession of false certificates, and money laundering involving more than $448,000.

The complaint said that Ma had, and used, certificates known to be “false, altered, forged, and counterfeited.”

According to industry estimates, Goldenvale was one of the top two or three importers and retailers of Chinese and Taiwanese powersports equipment during the last several years.

Goldenvale is a diversified importer that operates facilities in Ontario, Calif, and Dallas, Texas. It imports several powersports machines, including ATVs, dirtbikes, scooters and karts. The powersports units were sold online and through a network of dealers under the Roketa brand.

The company also imported many other items, ranging from artwork and blankets, to  toys and cooking utensils.

Specific sales figures are not available from the closely held company, but import data and industry analysts believe that Goldenvale imported nearly 80,000 units in 2008. But that number dropped off sharply to only about 2,000 units last year as the company attempted to deal with a large unsold inventory of machines.

The company had big years in 2006, according to industry estimates, when it retailed nearly 50,000 ATVs, and again in 2008 when it retailed almost 50,000 scooters. Those numbers put Goldenvale in the top three importers/distributors of Chinese/Taiwanese ATVs in 2006 and scooters in 2008.

Last week’s arrests were the result of an investigation that took several years, dating back as far as 2005, according to court records. The investigation was a joint effort of CARB and the San Bernardino’s district attorney’s office.  JD

Contact me with story ideas and news tips at 952/893-6876 or
at jdelmont@dealernews.com.

Importers of Chinese Motorcycles, ATVs Arrested

March 14, 2010

Pair Charged With 70 Felonies; Certification Violations

Two top executives at Goldenvale Inc., a diversified California importer of powersports products, have been arrested and charged with illegally importing motorcycles, ATVs and other vehicles from China and selling the units in California without proper state certification.

Goldenvale president and owner Kening N. Ma and vice president Shirley Hyunae Ji were charged in a 70-count criminal complaint that includes conspiracy to commit theft, grand theft, and money laundering.

The pair were arrested last week, according to a published report in the San Bernardinto Sun newspaper.

The powersports products sold under the Roketa brand also include scooters, go-karts and other gas and electric-powered vehicles.  The company, which operates facilities in Ontario, Calif., and Dallas, Texas, also imports items ranging from artwork and blankets to toys and cooking utensils. The company imported fewer than 2,000 powersports units last year, according to industry estimates.

The powersports units were sold on-line and through a national dealer network.

Prosecutors said dozens of victims purchased vehicles from Goldenvale that were not certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the newspaper reported. The amount paid by victims ranged from several hundred dollars up to $4,000 for each vehicle, prosecutors said.

The vehicles are illegal to operate in California if they do not have CARB certification.

Ma and Ji are named in a complaint filed in San Bernardino Superior Court. Ma faces one count of conspiracy, 33 counts of grand theft, 30 counts of possessing a false or blank vehicle registration and six counts of money laundering, according to court records.

Ji is named in the counts alleging conspiracy, grand theft and money laundering.

The certificates of origin allow consumers to register their vehicles with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

In this case, the certificates of origin show a manufacturer name that did not manufacture the vehicles, according to the newspaper. The vehicles also were never certified by CAB, according to the newspaper report.

These arrests culminated a multi-year investigation of illegal activities, according to one CARB official.  JD

Contact me with story ideas or news tips. You may reach me at
952/893-6876 or jdelmont@dealernews.com

CFMOTO Offers New Z6 600cc EFI Rec UTV

February 13, 2010

News From 2010 International Dealer Expo

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Feb. 13, 2010)—CFMOTO reduced its Dealer Expo commitment this year but that doesn’t mean it’s backing off its marketing efforts. The Minneapolis company is introducing two EFI products at the Expo— a hot 600cc recreational UTV and a 250cc scooter—, it’s offering 30% show special discounts on 2009 scooters and motorcycles, and it’s planning to increase its dealer network by 75 dealers, a jump of nearly 40% this year.

The company ran a large 60 x 70 foot booth in a premium spot in Lucas Oil Stadium and augmented it with advertising and promotion efforts throughout last year’s show. It was a huge—and very successful— push by a small, relatively unknown company. But this year is different: a 30 x 40 foot booth (#2201) and limited promotions.

CFMOTO sports its UTV lineup, led by its new 600cc EFI Z6. It also shows off its new JetMax 250cc EFI scooter.

“Last year was definitely worth the expense,” says Lev Mirman, president of CFMOTO Powersports, Inc. “The show was absolutely great for us. If it weren’t for the economy… We’re just basically saving money and downsizing because this recession isn’t over.”

CFMOTO has a lower profile at Dealer Expo this year, but it new Z6 sport UTV and its Jetmax scooter are worth a look.

The Z6 bears a striking resemblance to the very hot Polaris RZR, but it sells for a lot less— MSRP is $7,999. “However, dealers will be able to give discounts off MSRP,” says Mirman. “Pricing includes significant margin so they can entice customers with a lower price or accessories. That’s up to the dealer.”

Mirman said units will be available in dealerships May 1. The initial shipment will be 200 units. “We’ll check response; the factory is ready to ship a lot of units, but they’re being very careful.” The Z6 power plant has been in development for more than three years, so the bugs have been worked out, he says.

The JetMax was showed here last year as a carbureted version but that model wasn’t brought to market. The EFI version has an MSRP of $3,999 and will be available in April.

CFMOTO has about 200 dealers, some 140 of whom are active. Mirman plans to add 75 dealers this year, mostly in areas west of Colorado, including Hawaii and Alaska. Ivan Escalante (ivan@cfmoto-us.com) is responsible for signing up western dealers.  JD

Contact me with news and story tips at 952/893-6876
or joe@powersportsupdate.com.

The Old Throw-Yourself-Downhill-Gear-Test: We Like It

January 20, 2010

Short of purposefully having a get-off on your motorcycle, what better way to test a new brand of riding gear than to throw yourself down a hill in (what looks like) the Silverlake area of Los Angeles? Arlene Battishill, the brains behind GoGo Gear and Scooter Girls, does in this little video she posted to YouTube.

 
I talked to her the day after she did this and she was still pretty shaken up by it, but I can’t help but find this endlessly entertaining. From what I’ve been able to surmise, Arlene is a pretty unique woman — who else is going to attempt to create a line of high-fashion riding gear for women from the ground up with no motorcycle industry experience whatsoever? So, if you ever get the good fortune of meeting her you’ll think, ‘Of course she threw herself down a hill to test that gear.’

Piaggio Cuts Sales and Marketing Staff

January 19, 2010

No Reduction in Dealer Services Planned

Reduced unit sales of scooters in 2009 forced Piaggio USA to cut several top level managers in its sales operation and flatten out its sales staff, Paolo Timoni, president and CEO of Piaggio’s US operations, told me.

Noting that industry-wide U.S. scooter sales were down about 65% last year, Timoni said that steps had to be taken to balance revenue and costs. “We don’t expect 2010 sales to go back to 2008 numbers,” said Timoni. So, it was cut either sales or dealer services.

“Given our priorities for 2010 and 2011,” Timoni said, “ we concluded it was a priority for us to maintain our service capabilities (to dealers) as much as possible, because we think this is what dealers need. Probably, we could get with a smaller sales organization, since there wouldn’t be that much sales, right? Therefore, we basically reduced the size of our sales organization.”

The position of vice president of sales and marketing has been eliminated and the former head of sales and marketing, Gary Pietruszewski, has been let go. The marketing management functions now will be handled by three managers, who report to Timoni. “It’s a much flatter management structure,” he says.

Melissa MacCall is responsible for marketing, Internet activities, promotions and co-marketing activities. Karen Andrews is brand manager for Piaggio and Vespa, and Rick Panettieri is brand manager for Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.

At the same, the number of regional sales directors was cut from three to two, and three regional sales directors were dropped, reducing the number of sales directors from 10 to seven.

“We have great opportunity here,” says Timoni. “You notice we didn’t touch our service organization. We thought that would be the best investment we could make now, and we hope dealers appreciate that basically all the infrastructure and organization to support and service them has been untouched. That’s our strategy.”

No other changes are planned for the time being. “That’s all there is,” says Timoni.  JD

Call me with your story ideas and news tips at 952/893-6876.
Or email me at joe@powersportsupdate.com.

Can You Make Money Selling Electrics?

December 2, 2009

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews December 2009 issue. 

When Polaris Industries introduced its electric golf cart a few months ago, the move took many in the powersports industry by surprise. Electric power in a combustion engine business? Not likely, many said.

Even Polaris managers say that its electric Breeze vehicle won’t be sold initially through powersports dealers. The company is looking at a different market, one made up largely of nonpowersports riders living in southern retirement communities.

“We’re going aggressively at new markets,” Polaris CEO Scott Wine told a reporter, “but we’re also using this as a test-and-learn type of trial.” Analysts and others in the powersports industry haven’t been too excited about Polaris’ plans in this segment, Wine continued.

That’s understandable, because the appeal and the customer are very different from what powersports dealers are used to working with. But the margins — close to 25 percent on many machines — can be a lot more attractive than what dealers normally get on combustion-powered machines.

Mike Tomberlin, head of the Augusta, Ga.-based Tomberlin Automotive Group, is one of the most aggressive of many small companies developing electric on-road vehicles. A powersports dealer himself, Tomberlin also produces and distributes a line of combustion-powered ATVs, motorcycles and scooters through his diversified dealer network. He knows the difference between marketing gas and electric (more…)

Race Replica Scoots We’re Not Getting

September 27, 2009

File this under cool stuff we’re not getting in the U.S.: Three 50cc scooters wrapped in race livery that are sure to be a hit with sportbike enthusiasts looking for alternative surface street transportation.

Inspired by Valentino Rossi and the Fiat Yamaha MotoGP racing team, the Aerox Team Yamaha Race Replica (top), powered by a liquid-cooled two-stroke 50cc engine, is wrapped in the new-for-2009 paint and graphics to match the racing livery of the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike.

The Gilera Runner Marco Simoncelli Replica (middle) is powered by a 50cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engine delivering 5.4hp and features livery similar to that of the 250cc MotoGP World Champion’s factory racebike.

The Malaguti Phantom F12R Ducati Corse Superbike (bottom), available in 50cc liquid or air-cooled two-stroke versions, is the latest in a line of scoots made available via a licensing agreement between Ducati and Malaguti. Also available: the Phantom F12R Bayliss Limited Edition and the Phantom F12R Ducati Team version.

I saw all three of these units during a recent trip to the Nuerburgring in Germany. The bikes depicted in the photos were for sale at motorcycle dealerships adjacent to the world-famous racetrack.
Yamaha_ScooterGilera_ScooterDucati_Adenau-copy

Scooterists Assemble in Twin Cities for ‘Rattle My Bones’ Rally

August 16, 2009

Hundreds of scooterists from all over the Midwest assembled in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul Aug. 13-16 for the 2009 Rattle My Bones scooter rally.

RattleMyBones2The four-day event started with a meet-and-greet and scavenger hunt on the evening of Aug. 13; had participants assembling Aug. 14 for five ride possibilities, a “historic sites” ride and one ride each for geared scoots, automatic scoots, vintage scoots and for scooterists who have never been on a group ride before; continued Aug. 15 with a 70-mile, large group ride followed by dinner, a gymkhana, bike show and music; and wrapped up Aug. 16 with an organized breakfast, raffle prize giveaway, awards presentation and a final ride.

Sponsors included dealerships Scooterville, Blue Cat Motors and Leo’s South; as well as CF Moto; Scooterworks USA; Binetto/Shad; Aerostich; Bell Helmets; Corazzo; Scorpion EXO and Scoot! Magazine, among others.

As the logo suggests, the Rattle My Bones rally was named after a song by the defunct Twin Cities band The Suburbs.

As the logo suggests, the Rattle My Bones rally was named after a song by the defunct Twin Cities band The Suburbs.