Steve over at The Scooter Scoop recently conducted a survey which polled scooterists on what they would like in a dream scooter. (Though I participated in the survey, I didn't link to it, because The Scooter Scoop wasn't displaying in my browser for several days.)
The results of the polling are pretty interesting. Though no brands are mentioned, the statistics give a pretty good idea of why Vespas rule in the North American market.
So, out of Price, Performance, Handling, Comfort, Appearance, Build Quality, Brand Reputation, Reliability and Storage capabilities, "Reliability" came out on top, followed closely by "Build Quality", then "Handling" and "Performance (speed)". Most found Storage and Brand Reputation to be of least importance.
These findings pretty much eliminate the no-name Chinese imports, as well as to a lesser extent Korean and Tiawanese scoots. Japanese and Italian products both score well on these features.
When it came to body-styling though, the classic Italian design was the strong leader among American Scooterists. This tips the scales toward Vespas, in my opinion significantly, because while Honda has the Metro, and Yamaha the Vinos, both of these models look a little too much like imitators of the style. But when we get to question #4:
Question #4 asked for your prefered engine size or displacement. Answers ranged from the petite little 50cc all the way up to the monstrous 400+cc class. Looking at the answers it was a pretty close call with "Large (200-300cc) just edging out "Medium (150-180cc)" at second place and "Extra Large (400cc+)" taking third. Again, if you want a closer look, just click on the image. 50cc came in last with just 4.8% of the vote.
Now we can see why Vespa continues to dominate the desires of the American scooterist. When you look at all that data as a whole, it seems that we yanks want scooters like Vespa's GTS 250, GT 200, and LX 150. We don't want maxi-scoots for the most part, and 50cc bikes are sadly too underpowered for most American roads. When you throw in Reliability, Build Quality, Handling, and Performance, you pretty much come up with a Vespa. The Japanese just aren't importing scoots that we want. (Except perhaps the Vino 125.)
Some random thoughts about this survey: Manual versus Automatic wasn't included in the questions, neither was 2-stroke versus 4-stroke, I assume because the conventional wisdom is that manual and 2-stroke machines are headed the way of the dinosaur. Still if a major manufacturer were to come out with a classic bodied, manual 250 cc, even in a 4-stroke, I think they would find a lot of buyers. (Are you listening, Piaggio?)
And to throw some pointed comments to the Japanese: What the Frak are y'all thinking? You all have some great 50cc designs, such as the Metro, the Ruckus, the Vino and C3, but these bikes are useless for most American commuters. You offer us little to nothing in the most desirable ranges of 150cc-300cc, and what you do offer us is only what a small niche of American Scooterists want. Most of us do not want a step-through version of a GoldWing! Yamaha, for instance should bring back the Riva 200, perhaps in a Vino-styled body. Sure, many of the old school scooter-boys would laugh, but they'd be doing it as they were rebuilding carbs, or waiting for essential parts for their GTS.
I also think it is interesting that 200cc to 300cc catergory came out ahead of 150cc to 180cc. I wonder if this would have been the case 5 to 10 years ago. It is my suspicion that the arrival of the Vespa GT and GTS, introduced a lot of scooterists to the idea that they could have a machine that came in the styling they wanted, was freeway capable, and was still nimble in an urban environment.
Anyway, Good Work Steve! Are we gonna see something that incorporates these findings from Italjet?