Hell freezes over
There have been rumors predicting something like this for quite a long time. I get asked about it regularly and often. Well, it finally happened.
“Mondial Preview. The Star that there wasn’t, now there is” will greet you when you go to LML Italia’s Web site. Okay, that phrase probably came out of Bing Translate, but it is accompanied by a slide show featuring views of the bike from every angle.
No details beyond the mention of 125cc displacement and 45 km/liter fuel consumption (which works out to 2.22 liters/100 km or ~106 mpg) are offered. Neither is a price, or on-sale date, though that information would seem likely to be made public at EICMA, which happens in less than a month.
There are several pictures of an actual Star Automatic on parts seller Tasso UK’s Facebook page. As you can see, the engine is now on the scooter’s left side, and there are lots more louvers in the cowls.
In a post on Scooterfile, Eric mentions speculation about a new 4-stroke fuel-injected CVT Vespa PX to follow closely on the heels of the auto Star. Keep in mind, the rumor mill said there’d be a 4-stroke PX any day following the intro of the 4-stroke Stella, and that hasn’t happened yet.
Of course, this development will result in much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in certain circles. And the irony of Indians selling Vespas to Italians is rather profound. But really, from a business standpoint an auto Star makes a whole lot of sense.
Fewer and fewer people know how (or want) to work a manual transmission, and not just in the U.S. General Motors got as big as it is by making cars easier to use (e.g., self-starters, automatic transmissions); personal computers became ubiquitous thanks to graphical user interfaces on Macs and PCs. In the U.S. especially, it’s not fear of injury that keeps people off motorcycles, it’s having to stir a manual gearbox.
In the part of the world where people buy scooters to use as everyday transportation (i.e., not the U.S.), ease of use and minimal maintenance requirements are major selling points. Changing the belt on a CVT is a helluva lot easer than replacing a cruciform. People like the look of old-skool scooters, and most potential Star Auto buyers really won’t care about a lack of “authenticity.”
Personally, what I like best about P’s, Stellas and the like is how mechanical they are. I know how to work a manual transmission (the Fourth Estate has one), and I like to. Riding an old-skool scoot is engaging in a way a modern scooter can never be. (Don’t get me started on electrics…) But that’s me, and as I said, I’m in a minority.
As for the question of U.S. sales, well, it’s still very early days. I would urge anyone who wants a Stella Auto to get in touch with Genuine and make your desire known.