Friday, July 06, 2007

News from Genuine Scooter Co.

(note: the title link should only work for July of 2007)

In a recent discussion on Stella Speed (registration required) about the rumoured resurrection of Genuine's Stella, the illustrious PJ Chmiel pointed out the title linked article from Wisconsin's Scene Newspaper. The article, which could ahve been a standard gas-prices-are-high-so-scooters-are-selling-like-condoms-on-prom-night, is actually a nice piece of journalism, scooping the scooter bloggers with some tasty quotes about the future of the Stella:

...Philip McCaleb, founder and president of the Chicago-based Genuine Scooter Co.(, the company that introduced the manual transmission Stella and automatic transmission Buddy to America.
“Buddy is just so darn accessible to so many people,” he said. “It’s so easy to ride and own. Low maintenance. Incredibly clean environmentally. I think people are finally starting to figure out, they’re not just toys. They’re fun, they’re practical. They can be viewed as near year-round transportation, irrespective of weather. There are hardcore riders in the Midwest who ride them year round.”
McCaleb is no latecomer to the potential of scooters.
“I started with the Stella.” ...
“I kind of found them and said, hey, ... let’s be partners and I’ll figure out a way to get your products into the U.S. and brand them myself and get them approved and up to date for EPA and DOT ... And we did it.”
Stella caught on immediately, despite criticism that it was nothing but a low-cost alternative to industry pioneer Vespa. ...
Unfortunately, a strike and lockout, combined with management and financial issues, at the LML plant in Kanpur, India, shut down production of Stella in 2005, which led Genuine to introduce the Taiwanese-produced Buddy in 2006.
“The Buddy became an instant homerun,” McCaleb said. “It’s much more commercial in its appeal than Stella. I think the branding is spot on. The end user following is just unbelievable. Go to It’s pretty amazing.
“For ’08, I’ve got huge plans for Buddy,” he said. “The branding works so well and it’s got such a mass appeal that we’re going to do a spoof on Benetton, the big international clothing company, United Colors of Benetton. We’re doing Buddytown. It’s going to be the United Colors of Buddytown. We’re going to do an international series of Buddys. It’s going to key with the Series Italia. We’ve got one that’s going to be called the St. Tropez, and the other’s going to be the Barcelona. So we’re working with a lot of imagery of creating products that look like they came from somewhere else, and kind of do it in an androgynous, non-offensive way that appeals to both sexes equally. All of our standard colors, we’re going to scrap them for next year and go super bright – tangerine, mint green, fire engine red and black, that’s it. That’s all the colors I used to use on Stella.”
And as for Stella, LML is back in production.
“Stella’s coming back on Labor Day,” McCaleb said. “I’m going to do a whole different lineup of Stella, starting out with an old Army-green-avocado bike with whitewalls. It’s very much in the mode of the early ’50s Vespa, kind of an old drab green, and it will be called The Revival.”
(There is a long discussion about the gas-crunch surge of scooter sales)

All of which McCaleb sees as payoff for his longtime belief in the viability of scooters in America.
“I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it’s going to be, and it’s been going on long enough now to where it’s not going to be one of those blips that happened in the late ’70s/early ’80s when gas was high and a couple companies decided they were going to pitch scooters here,” he said. “Now the reality is, how do guys in a quality business with a cool product fend off the negative aspects of a Chinese invasion?
“I’ve got three home run hitters in my lineup this year that are all really unique,” he said. “My strategy is that I want three divergent, different styles of bikes and markets that are neither easy to copy and that are original ideas, not following somebody else. In this kind of economy, especially with the Chinese, the thing you have to realize, if you have something good, you’re going to get copied on the product side. But when you focus on the quality and the people side, they’ll never beat you on that.”

So I guess that settles that.

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