Monday, March 03, 2008

Scooter Rumors

2Stroke Buzz is also reporting that LML, the former Vespa licensee and manufacturer of Genuine's Stella, is going to be producing a four-stroke, manual-shift, P-series clone. Even better the scoot will be available in displacements up to 250cc!
No word yet, if Genuine will be importing them stateside.
I've also heard some rumors that Piaggio is at work on a similar project. I don't recall a link, off the top of my head, and am a little dubious about this one. Right now, I rank it up there with the perennial rumors that Apple is about to release an OS X based Newton. It's definitely something that should happen, just like Fox should bring back Firefly.

Some other Vespa rumors, which have a little more weight behind them:
There has been some buzz in Europe that Piaggio will be coming out with a GTV and an LXV "Navy." These scoots will have the distinctive retro-inspired bodies of their V-series older siblings, but will come in Midnight Blue, (which is currently one of my favorite of the standard Vespa paint colors) and their split-saddles will be vinyl instead of leather. The Navy versions will have stock wheels instead of chrome, and may lack the rear-rack that comes standard with their predecessors. They will also sell at a lower price point than the GTV and LXV. That's pretty exciting, and though there is some speculation as to whether or not these bikes will make to this side of the pond, I'm gonna bet they will. Piaggio makes a bunch of dumb moves in the American market, but I'm pretty sure they know when it comes to 2-wheelers here, retro-appearance is king, and I think they know the only reason the current GTVs and LXVs aren't flying outta the showrooms is the significant markup on the already luxury-priced marque.

Yet another Vespa rumor is that there will soon be a GTS Sport. This rumor is a little more solid than the one about a Vespa four-stroke P-series, but not as solid as the Navy ones. But there is some interesting speculation going on. Some folks believe the GTS-S will sport a 300cc engine that Piaggio has developed. More conventional wisdom holds that for many reasons, such as small wheel size and the constraits of the GTS body, 250cc's is as large as they will ever get.
Along these lines, the more believable rumors are that the GTS-S will be akin to the LXS: it will feature some physical changes which recall the Sport models of the 60s and 70s, but will be mechanically the same as the previous GTS. Still I find this pretty exciting, as my main complaints with the modern automatic Vespas and the seats which are sculpted to a single riding position and don't allow a single rider to slide into the most comfortable angle for them, and the gloveboxes which intrude so far down into the footboards as too significantly reduce the rider's ability to stretch their legs out.
Having said that, I'd like to direct a couple points directly to Piaggio. First is that the above mentioned adjustability of a rider's position is one of the things which initially hooked me on scooters as opposed to motorcycles. I have long and restless legs, they like to be able to change position every few minutes. Though I deeply desire to move up to a larger, touring capable scooter, my next purchase will probably be an LXS, because my sweetee needs and automatic to learn on, and I'd like a scoot with old school leg-room. I expect you will find that a lot of the old -school 2-stroke scooter kids will make their first entry into modern Vespas with the LXS for similar reasons. If you are considering a GTS-S, that would be something to keep in mind.
On a related note, I'd hope that Piaggio would consider making a larger, touring retro-styled scooter, something in the 500cc range. You have already shown great responsiveness and insight into the American scooter market by rebadging the Gilera Fuoco, and bringing it here. Thanks again for that.
But we Americans are hopeless addicts to the bigger-is better-mindset. Touring for us means thousands, not hundreds of miles. I know you will never make a 300 or 500 cc Vespa. But what about resurrecting the Moto Guzzi Galleto? You could keep the big wheels a scooter of that displacement would need, while still having the aura of retro chic. Properly handled, a 500cc Guzzi Galleto could dominate a certain niche of the American maxi-scooter market, putting a serious hurting on Honda, Suzuki, and even Kymco. Heck, I can even direct you to an industrial designer for the project. Oh, but if you are going to do that, please improve your support for dealers on this side of the pond. The Vespa nuts aren't defecting yet, but your Guzzi sales are definitely hurting because of shoddy dealer support.

Oh, and Piaggio, I'm available as a freelance consultant on the American scooter market.

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