The Vectrix, an electric scooter from Poland, offers a zero-emission, low-noise alternative for inner-city transportation and can be recharged using a standard outlet.
Sales rev up as economical, trendy vehicles catch on in Canada
Last Updated September 14, 2007
When Rumiana Cormack turns on her MP3, she’s grinning from ear to ear. It’s not an inspirational piece of downloaded music that lifts the spirits of this vivacious 50-year-old Grade 8 teacher from Toronto. Her MP3 is actually a new three-wheeled scooter from Piaggio — one of several hot little numbers that are taking the industry by storm.
Rumiana Cormack aboard her MP3, a three-wheeled scooter from Piaggio that was introduced in Canada this year.
"Having a scooter has opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know," said Cormack, who has been taking her MP3 with her wherever she goes since buying it in June.
She’s even looking into some winter accessories like heated handlebars or an extra windshield and apron so she can enjoy the experience year round. "It’s like your kids — you love them more every day."
Cormack is one of a growing number of people discovering the joy of the scooter. For some, it’s a practical and inexpensive way to navigate urban streets while reducing their impact on the environment. For others, it’s a fashion statement or handy accessory. There are even scooter clubs and rallies where fans can get together and share their experiences.
Talk to dealers and industry observers, and they’ll tell you it’s also a phenomenon that knows no demographic boundaries.
The MMIC (Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council) groups scooter purchasers into five categories: Quebec youth, urban commuters, trendy/fun urbanites, practical users, and the graduated motorcyclist (someone who is older but who still wants a two-wheel vehicle). A possible sixth type has emerged, too: the environmentally conscious secondary vehicle buyer.
"Whether you’re 18 or 85, scooters appeal to different people for different reasons," said Morey Chaplick, managing partner of Canadian Scooter Corp. in Toronto, exclusive importers and distributors of Piaggio brands in Canada. (The Piaggio line includes the Vespa — the scooter that was immortalized in the film Roman Holiday.)
A self-confessed "Vespa guy," Chaplick said the inspiration for bringing the brand to Canada came in 2001 when he was holidaying in Italy with his wife.
"People may say they buy them because they’re ecologically friendly or they can park for free or because they take up one-eighth the space of a car. But ultimately, they buy them for the fun and the freedom."
— Canadian Scooter Corp.'s Morey Chaplick
"I saw a gentleman in an immaculate grey business suit, crisp white shirt and red Prada tie glide by me on a Vespa with two Louis Vuitton saddlebags over the rear," he says. "It looked so cool. When my wife agreed, I knew it was a good idea to bring them here." Chaplick started his new scooter sales business in 2004 with one Vespa model, six dealers and a few hundred vehicles in stock. Today he carries 13 Vespa, Piaggio, Derbi and Aprilia branded models and sells "many thousands" of scooters annually through 45 dealerships across Canada. Sales continue to grow at a rate of 30 per cent for these collectors’ items, whose latest colour offerings include Ferrari Yellow, Daring Plum and Spring Green.
Brian Bentley, assistant sales manager at Carter Motorsports in Coquitlam, B.C., said Honda scooter sales have also grown by 30 per cent a year for the company's dealerships. "Our Granville Island location sells a scooter a day. It’s not only an affordable option for commuters, you don’t need a licence for scooters under 50ccs [cubic centimetres, a measurement of engine size] and they’re environmentally friendly."
Honda has five scooter models ranging in size from the Silverwing at 600 cubic centimetres to the 250 cubic centimetre Reflex and Big Ruckus, to the 50 cubic centimetre Jazz and Ruckus. When asked about the profile of buyers, Bentley noted, "It’s pretty much 50-50 men and women. Retirees like the freedom of having a scooter to go shopping or to the movies. We see them on the back of RVs. A lot of college students are also picking them up."
People can even dress up their scooters. There are lots of accessories, ranging from practical items like storage boxes, windshields, snow tires, and aprons and heated handlebars to keep you warm; to frivolous accoutrements such as chrome trim, wicker baskets and designer saddlebags.
"One woman completely covered her scooter in purple velvet," said Chaplick.
The Piaggio MP3 leans in corners or can be locked upright while stationary, allowing feet-up operation, and its 250cc engine is able to cruise at highway speeds. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)
However, scooters are also attractive to the many budget-conscious riders out there, partly due to the fact that one can get by spending only about $150 a year on gas for a 50 cubic centimetre scooter. (Prices for these little guys start as low as $2,500). Not to mention the fact that in some urban areas, parking is free. Toronto has led the way in this area by being one of the first cities in North America to offer free parking for scooters in designated areas.
Environmentally conscious scooter-loving purists will have even more choices once the new Vectrix makes it way to the sales lot later this year or early 2008. This electric scooter from Poland offers a zero-emission, low-noise alternative for inner-city transportation and can be recharged using a standard outlet.
Chaplick contends that while environmental issues and cost savings play a big role in the appetite for scooters, "It really boils down to a personal statement about style and choice. People may say they buy them because they’re ecologically friendly or they can park for free or because they take up one-eighth the space of a car. But ultimately, they buy them for the fun and the freedom."
For Cormack, nothing could be closer to the truth. While practical issues did come into play, she is so thrilled about her MP3 that she is planning to take it on the road to visit her three kids in B.C., as well as to drum up some publicity for the scooter cause and raise funds for charity along the way.
"I love it so much I just want to share the experience," she says.
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