Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Piaggio Takes it Public...

We've all been saying it for as long as we can remember, but Piaggio is now taking some big steps that should have been part of every scooter manufacturer's plan all along: getting in America's face (politely, of course) about the fuel economy of scooters. Piaggio has taken out a full-page ad in the NY Times with an open letter to US Mayors. I'll include it here:

"Open letter to all U.S. mayors concerned with America's oil consumption

To attain the ambitious goal of breaking America's "addiction to oil," the President has recently focused on the need to invest in alternative fuel technologies. However, there is also a behavioral approach that could greatly reduce this nation's energy consumption, while helping to preserve our environment and reduce traffic congestion.

The use of motor scooters - a daily behavior of millions of people across Europe and Asia - is only marginally embraced in the United States. Everyday in this country, millions of individuals drive their cars in locations and situations where motor scooters would be perfectly appropriate and convenient. Instead, if they were to utilize one of the latest eco-friendly motor scooters available in the market today - those compliant with the most stringent European and American regulations on gas emissions - they would, on average, reduce their fuel consumption by 58%, their emissions of carbon monoxide by 90%, and their emissions of carbon dioxide by 80%.

With the launch of the first Vespa in 1946, our company started a movement that has substantively improved transportation in countries around the world. Consistent with the President's energy utilization goals, we believe the time has come to expand the range of transportation solutions also in the United States.

We encourage you to broaden the dialogue about energy self-sufficiency to include both technological solutions and behavioral ones, fostering acceptance of alternative transportation, such as scootering. With your support - as well as that of other federal, state and local government leaders - scootering would bring immediate and substantial economic and environmental benefits to Americans and the communities in which they live.

We remain at your disposal should you wish to discuss this opportunity further.

Paolo Timoni
President and CEO
Piaggio Group Americas"

The idea that scooters are a fun, easy-caring way to move through life is a valid one, but us American's have sometimes simple triggers in our brains, thus at the Indy Dealer show, guys were lining up to get signed posters from girls in tight fitting clothes who were essentially nobodies with pretty faces and slim figures. Thus, saying "scooters will save you money on the gas that you were cursing last year" will hit home.

When Piaggio first came back to the US, I was expecting some TV advertisements. I had the perfect one visulized in my brain:

A gas station attendant leans against a gas pump while a nondescript soccermom or regular joe guy pumps gas into his/her SUV. The pump make that old style click sound which indicated how much gas he is getting. A smartly and appropriately dressed scooterist pulls in to the pump near the SUV and jumps off, uses ATM card, and fills his/her tank. Meanwhile SUV person is still pumping away. The scooterists gets back on the scooter and waves to the attendant and says, "see you next week!" leaving the attendant and the SUV as they were when the commercial started.

The overwhelming message of my commercial idea is stated simply: save time and money and be the envy of the road. I think those ads would make some serious inroads in getting America to wake up to the realities of our gas addiction. They could also back it up with abother commercial containing real testimonials from riders who see the benefits of scootering. Small print ads showing people having fun only go so far. The scootering industry needs to pound the message into the american mind (with a potpourri scented velvet hammer of course!) if they exepect to make soem serious inroads into the transportation market. They are trying, and Piaggio's current step (which includes a similar letter sent to George Dubbya) will benefit the whole industry.

On a a side note, I did spend the whole president's day weekend (and then some) at the Indy Dealer show, but I'll blog that throughout the upcoming week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Scoot! is Out There...

Whew! We have just got the new issue to the post office & what a chore it was! Unless you've dealt with the post office and their periodical mailing permit requirements, you have no idea what hell it can be for a small publication such as ours. We just moved into a new office in the same building so that we could have more room for the hours of sorting, tagging, stuffing and sacking that is needed to get subscriber mail out.

All this rigmorale is necessary because we get much better shipping rates from the post office by doing it. AND it ships much faster then regular bulk mail, which was taking up to 5 weeks to get to certain parts of the country. By going with this method were were able to reduce the subscription price by nearly $8, which is something I think our subscribers appreciate! :)

But for now, I'm going to lick my wounds, band-aid my paper cuts, ice my sore shoulder and pack my suitcase for tomorrow's flight to Indianapolis for the Dealer Expo. Hope to see some of you there! OH... and if you're going to Las Vegas for the High Roller weekend, say HI to Mike who is the sole Scoot! representative. Look for the tallest guy wearing a new Scoot! Hoodie or Track Jacket!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The New Lambretta...

When I heard that CMSI was looking to create a new scooter under the Lambretta name I thought, "They've got to be kidding!" It seemed like one crazy idea. Out of all the scooter communities, I find that Lambretta owners can be the most loyal, picky, sometimes snobby, and truly committed to maintaining the integrity of their scooters. I say that not to be catty, but to illustrate what an uphill battle a company encounters when attempting to create a new version of said scooter. Compound that by the fact that the Lambretta name is owned by another company, and you've got to wonder about the planning behind it.

Well, on the International Scooter BBS, Phil Waters from Pride of Cleveland has posted some news which I thought would originally get the board all fired up. See it here But I was surprised that not many comments were logged. Maybe this is because the whole Lambretta scooter thing has been circling around since 2003 and scooterists may be tired of it. Maybe its because most scooter bbs people log on from work! :)

Regardless, the announcement that there will be another brand name for the forthcoming (?) Lambretta-style scooter probably makes scooter fans feel as if the project is even less likely to happen. Although it seems to me that this should have been done from the beginning. Sure, Lambretta fans would have bitched..."Hey, they've stolen the Lambretta look!" but at least the project wouldn't have been hampered by the name ownership. I am no trademark lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I doubt that the man who owns the Lambretta name also owns the rights to the design elements of the Innocenti Lambrettta scooter. Even so, the realities of changing technology since Lambretta closed its doors decades ago makes it impossible to make a bike like they used to. Thus, a new Piaggio engine, liquid cooling, emissions controls, etc. The bike would need to be changed & updated to work in today's world. And that is where that overpaid & sneaky trademark lawyer comes in. :)

At Scoot!, we've been stonewalled for news about the Lambretta project. CMSI wouldn't give us news, said they weren't ready and then Scootering (bless their hearts) would get coverage of the new English developments. Even as "news" was coming, I felt that most of it (prototypes with blatantly repurposed parts that would never be DOT compliant) was too unreliable to count as real news. My gut feeling is that we weren't seeing something that was going to be a reality. Now, I don't mean that this project would never come to fruition,but what we were seeing seemed too unfinished and up in the air to dedicate our limited space to, especially when I was sure that much of it might be changed by the time our issue hit the stands.

Well, what do you think about all of this? I'd love to hear what readers think. Do vintage scooterists care about a new scooter "in the spirit of" Lambreta? Do new scooterists (the fastest growing segment of scootering) even care? If you were CMSI what would you do?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Still Waiting...

Well, our printer called us Friday to say we would receive the shipment of the Spring issue. Josh waited around well until after their 3pm delivery deadline & no mag. Hrumph!

Apparently the magazine will now be delivered on Monday, which is kind of a bummer as we could have used all weekend to pack & ship the magazine. Ah well! It's not the first time one of us has hung around the office waiting for the delivery, and it probably won't be the last. SInce we all work other day jobs, these deliveries are inconvenient since we rarely get more than a few hours notice and there is no real delivery window. As much as I want to go to 6 issues a year, I can honestly say that the delivery & packing of the magazine makes me dread doing it more frequently! :) BUT that doesn't stop me from trying to get us on track for 6 issues.

Next weekend, we'll be in Indianapolis for the motorcycle dealer show. If any of you are there, please stop by our corner of the KYMCO boooth to say hi! We've got some great new promotional options for dealers, which I think will make Scoot! an integral part of any dealer's comprehensive scooter sales/service plan.

In our upcoming issue we advise scooter buyers to build good relationships with local shops in order to keep them in business and serving the consumer's needs, but I also think that shops need to put the capital "S" in Service and show customers how mush they appreciate their business. One cool idea I heard of the dealer hosting an occasional "customer appreciation" events such as a wine/cheese tasting or a barbecue. Invite past customers to come & meet other scooterists and feel part of a larger group. I think the customers will love it & it will go a long way towards firming the dealer/customer relationship. Also, it will generate excitement that is contagioius. Perhaps that customer brings along a friend and that experience earns the dealer a new customer. Maybe you end up selling a bunch of lifestyle products during the event. Or, maybe the customers meet other scooterists who invite them to rides and get them on their scooters more. Whatever the reason, dealer events such as that can go along way in garnering loyal and long-term customers.

Enough of my preaching. It's almost 70-degrees here in San Jose. I should go for a ride!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Scoot! Swap Meet 2/26 8am-4pm

Last year we held a scooter swap meet @ our warehouse which was mildy successful considering we barely promoted it. This year, we're partnering with Vespa Club Los Gatos (who is really doing all the work!) and hosting it again at our warehouse. It's a great opportunity to bring out your old scooter parts, vintage clothes, and scooter-related lifestyle items to sell. A good place to get some deals. I'll be selling some spare parts and some cool scooter crafts that I made.

Our warehouse is located at 190 Martha Street, San Josed, CA 95112. The event will be held in the parkinglot/courtyard. I suggest that buyers park on the street & come in. Vendors can bring in their vehicles and pull up a piece of pavement. No tables/chairs will be provided to bring your own. Also, the coourtyard can get warm, so consider a tent or cover.

Scoot!'s new ofice willbe open for visitors. A great time to stock up on back issues!

See you @ the swap!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Scoot! Spring issue @ printers

Just viewed the Spring issue proofs & sent them off to the printers. We anticipate getting the issue back in about a week. We'll need to turn it around & ship it quickly because Josh & I will be in Indianapolis for the Intl. Motorcycle show the weekend of the 18th. Mike will be in Vegas for the big High Roller's Weekend rally the same weekend. Scoot! is out & about with the public!

This new issue features our Buyer's Guide, highlighting the new scooters available in the US. We review the Piaggio BV 500 and the TnG Baja. This issue was challenging as there are 99 new bikes in the Guide! We had to cut some content because the guide was large. The situation renews my interest in going to 6 issues a year. However, we'll need to grow our revenue more before we can do that: it will require us to quit our day jobs and re-structure our advertising program which is a lot of work. I am hopefull that 2006 will position us for that in 2007.

Other highlights of the Spring issue include our results for our "Rust or Restore" contest, which asked readers to submit photos of their project bikes which needed help; a beautiful Lambretta LD Reader's Ride; a great Scooter Collector column, tips on how to buy a new scooter; several rally reports; Mike's report on his trip to Taiwan for a tour of the KYMCO factory; and loads more.

The good thing about the Spring issue being stuffed to the gills, is that I'll have ready-to-go content for the Summer issue! We'll have a men's riding fashion spread; an article debunking scooter misconceptions; more bike reviews. I'm working hard on the issue as we speak.

As far as scooters go, bothof mine are throwing tantrums. The P200 electrical system is kaput. The VBB now has a flivkering headlight and idles very high. I think that my neglect over the winter is causing them to act out! :) Well, winter is for projects isn't it? Time to get back into the cold garage I suspect.