May 01, 2016
BMW BEATS YAMAHA, HONDA FOR 2016 SCOOTER OF THE YEAR
Readers Pick: BMW C 650 Sport Is 2016’s Best New Scooter
Coverage of BMW scooters was added to this site after BMW introduced their set of C series maxiscooters (2013), so the revised 2016 C 650 Sport was the first model from BMW to go head to head against other new and revised models in the readers choice poll. It’s clear that people like what they see, as the C650 Sport handily took first place with nearly one third of the votes (31%), making it the 2016 Motor Scooter Guide Reader’s Pick.
Rounding out the top three models were Yamaha’s new Zuma 125 which took an unchallenged second place (23%), followed by Honda’s updated Metropolitan in third (15%). With a third place finish, 2016 is the first time Honda hasn’t won the award since it began for 2013.
Garnering the least enthusiasm was Genuine’s new Chinese built and ultra low cost Venture 50 along with the 2016 Armani edition of Vespa’s ultra pricey 946.
2015 Scooter Market Sales
Another year of scooter sales data is in and with it more confirmation that mediocre sales are here to stay. Before the 2008 recession USA scooters were a 50,000+ unit market, with highs some years approaching 100,000 (2004). Since the recession the market has been flat at 28-35,000 units and there are no clear catalysts for a recovery. Exact 2015 sales aren’t yet available from MIC but sales were down 10% year over year after the first 3 quarters and thus likely came in very close to 30k.
The situation in Canada is similar. With a population one-tenth the size of the USA, scooter sales in Canada were also one tenth with sales of 3452 units in 2015 per the MMIC. Canada looked like it was going to take less of a post-recession drop than the USA with okay 2009-2010 sales, but in 2011 sales shifted to today’s norm of ~3500 units.
Scooter sales today are in a similar pattern as we’ve seen once before in history. Following the 80’s boom, sales were low for the entire 90’s before picking up steam in the early 2000’s.
Perhaps the biggest threat to scooter sales today are e-Bikes, which appeal for all the same reasons scooters historically have: low cost and less regulation. eBikes lack the power of even a 50cc scooter, but with a super low purchase price and often no registration, licence or insurance required, it’s not hard to see why they’ve become the vehicle of choice amongst the frugal (and DUI limited).
I see three possible solutions to the doldrums that scooter sales are now in. First, new regulations might make eBikes less appealing. If eBike owners are required to have a licence, registration and insurance like many areas require for scooters, then buyers might choose to pay a bit more for a more capable and higher quality scooter. However, there’s not much indication this is going to change.
Secondly, scooters could benefit from some unexpected cultural shift, like a hit movie, that makes scooters cool again. In the past two movies have done this (Roman Holiday, Quadrophenia) and something similar could happen again. In North America scooters have always been practical enough and it’s been the “broke motorcyclist” stigma that’s prevented far higher sales.
Thirdly, and preferably, scooter makers could release interesting new models that genuinely pique customers interests. Right now there are too many models on the market that are either boring or aging. The market needs another icon like the Vespa or Honda Ruckus to give it a boost.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity here is with a well done electric scooter. Manufacturers have been toying with the idea, as I described previously, but no one has gotten serious about providing a capable electric scooter that latches on to Tesla’s momentum. I think Gogoro might be on to something with their new design, but I’d rather buy a battery and charge at home then be tied to a swap network.
An appealing and capable electric scooter could be what’s needed to make scooters cool again and boost the market. Unfortunately Gogoro doesn’t have plans to bring this to the USA and the other manufacturers seem content to slowly sell the same old models. Maybe Honda will get serious about their EV-Cub.