Opinion: If I were Scomadi…
On the heels of U.K. scooter maker Scomadi announcing the beginning of production (in China) of the 50cc version of its Lambretta-inspired scooter comes word that dealers have been appointed in the United Kingdom.
Needless to say, this has the international scooter universe buzzing about when sales might begin in continental Europe and the U.S. While the company has not announced what plans it might have along this line, I’ve had some thoughts about what I’d do if I were Scomadi, which you can see after the jump.
First and foremost, Scomadi is to be commended for its deliberate approach to this whole endeavor. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and other attempts to bring a Bertone Lambretta-inspired scooter to market have been fraught, to say the least. Getting it right out of the blocks is crucial to Scomadi’s long-term success.
Likewise, the bikes’ design makes sense for the second decade of the 21st Century. I will say yet again, had plastics as we know them today existed in the late 1940s, Lambrettas (and Vespas) would’ve had plastic body panels. Plastics are far easier (therefore cheaper) to manufacture, and can be molded in color, which eliminates the need for painting. The Scomadi’s panels are made of the same kind of plastic as LEGO bricks, which seem to last quite a long time and are quite resistant to damage. Remember, those plastic panels are attached to a tubular steel frame. You know, like the original Lambrettas had? 😉
So does using modern engines, and in the case of the 300, buying them from Piaggio. Using existing engines can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the process necessary for emissions certification. That process can be lengthy, and expensive. Remember, modern CVT scooter engines employ the linear layout the original Lambrettas had.
Being a U.K. company, it makes sense for the first Scomadi dealers to be located there (likewise, the British are the most fond of Lambrettas, so Scomadis should prove most popular in the U.K.). Continental Europe would be the next logical step for dealer expansion.
But what about the U.S. and Canada?
I won’t presume to speak for them, but if I were Mr. Scomadi, I would be talking to Genuine Scooter Company about a distribution deal. Why?
For one thing, Genuine is a distributor, not a manufacturer. For another, the company is all about small volumes. And most importantly, the TL 300 would give them an entry at a price point they don’t presently occupy.
At the rate of exchange in effect as I’m writing this, the TL 300’s “in the region of” £4,495 MSRP appearing on Scomadi’s website works out to $7,140 U.S. That undercuts the Vespa GTS by a few hundred bucks, though I’m inclined to believe likely buyers will care more about the TL 300’s styling and exclusivity. Scomadi doesn’t seem likely to be cranking them out by the millions.
More importantly, Genuine has a well-established dealer network. Starting one from scratch can be difficult, not to mention expensive. Especially if you want to do it right and thoroughly vet potential dealers. We’ve already seen what happens when hardware stores and places that sell burner phones and do money transfers to Central America take on scooters.
As for Scomadi’s 50 and 125cc models, I would say forget about them for North America. Those market segments are extremely price-sensitive; the Scomadis’ “in the region of” prices may work in Europe, but not Murka. And even if they could meet the $2K price point for the former and under-$3K for the latter, there are too many other choices. Like the Buddy, which is Genuine’s bread and butter. Leave those for the U.K. and Europe.
For as long as I’ve been attending scooter rallies, at every one I’ve had at least one conversation with a non-scooterist passer-by admiring a Lambretta. “This is nice, what is it?” and “Do they still make them?” are the FAQs. These are the people most likely to write a check for a Scomadi TL 300. The scooter biz needs to attract new riders (as does the motorcycle biz, but that’s a different discussion), but since nobody seems inclined to consider the Walmart Wasp idea posited previously in this space, a Lambretta tribute would be the next best thing. Especially one that’s easy for a newbie to ride and nearly maintenance-free.