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2015 Vespa GTS 300 Super ABS: Scooterfile review

May 11, 2015
2015 Vespa GTS 300 Super

2015 Vespa GTS 300 Super (Piaggio Group)

I do not presume to think this here blog is your only source for scooter news and views (though I like to think you’re getting a perspective here that is unlike anything else in the scooter blogosphere). There are many others worthy of you time and attention. Scooterfile is one of them. And Nathaniel Salzman’s review of the 2015 Vespa GTS 300 Super ABS is especially so.

The GTS has been around for almost 10 years (it replaced the Granturismo in Vespa’s U.S. product lineup). After a rocky start that saw pricey component failures and reliability issues, the big fuel-injected Vespa has evolved into a solid, reliable scooter that is one of the few that can claim to be a credible replacement for a car. It’s easy to ride, comfy, spacious and fast enough to ride on any road in North America. On that, Mr. Salzman and I are in complete agreement.

For 2015 the GTS has gained the Super moniker, along with a revised front suspension, a USB port for charging mobile devices, and the Primavera/Sprint’s futuristic instrument cluster.

It has also acquired Piaggio’s ABS/ASR (aka traction control) system, which debuted in the Vespa 946.

Salzman says the ASR “saps all the hooligan right out of this scooter.” Hooligan? Say what?

I’m having some difficulty thinking of anyone who has almost $7,000 to spend on a scooter as a “hooligan.” The GTS buyer is often someone who won’t ride it in the rain because they’re afraid it might get dirty. ABS, I kind of get… the amount of oil and coolant that can end up on the street is enhanced in its slipperiness by rainfall. It would certainly be easy under those circumstances to lock up the wheels in a sudden stop.

Something to keep in mind: traction control is ABS in reverse. ABS employs sensors connected to a control unit that measure how fast each wheel is turning; if there’s a disparity (meaning, one or both wheels is locked up), the control unit modulates the brakes to prevent a lockup, which can result in a skid. And a fall.

Traction control employs the same components, but comes into play under acceleration; if the control unit determines there’s a disparity in the speed the wheels are turning, it will either inhibit the engine or modulate the brake. The hardware is the same; some extra computer code is resident in the control unit.

Bottom line, having ABS and traction control is not as complicated as it might sound. Both technologies have been employed in cars and trucks (and for that matter, motorcycles) for decades. Initially, it was hella expensive, but as with all things electronic, over the years the price dropped and the capabilities increased.

In this case, it means Piaggio can add something perceived as value by their most likely customers, at a price that’s nowhere near what it actually costs them. Especially if the value-add has to do with safety, because as everyone in the U.S. knows, SCOOTERS ARE DANGEROUS!!!

Why would Piaggio do something like this? Well, Piaggio & C. S.p.A. is a publicly-traded company that is not immune to the present drumbeat for shareholder value über alles. The company’s strategy in light of declining sales in nearly all of its major markets has been to increase margins, and put more emphasis on Aprilia and Moto Guzzi, which are more profitable.

That’s easy, for sure. The results are apparent in the current quarter. But a much better (and ultimately much more profitable) strategy would be to grow the U.S. scooter market, which would not be hard to do in light of the fact that said market accounted for about 37,000 unit sales in 2014, according to Piaggio’s Annual Report.

That would take time, however. And long-term investments in marketing, a solid dealer network and (forgive me if I sound like a broken record) selling the idea of owning and riding a scooter. As Steve Jobs said, Apple was all about making products people didn’t know they wanted until they saw them. Lots of Americans would probably want a scooter if they got to see one up close, sit on it, maybe even ride one around a parking lot in a controlled environment. The Big 4 Japanese motorcycle companies let people do just that, back in the 1970s.

It didn’t take long at all for Vespa USA to start offering lowball financing and cash off the MSRP (one major-market dealer was knocking $900 off) once everyone who wanted to be first on their block with a new Primavera or Sprint had one. And Vespa’s Indian factory is still running well below capacity in spite of the addition of a localized Vespa S 125 to scooter production.

But I digress. With regard to the GTS 300 Super, I would say if the price is too rich for your blood, be patient. The market will come to you.

(Opinions expressed in this space are mine, and mine alone.) Favicon

The details

MSRP: $6,599
Built in: Italy
Construction: Pressed steel monocoque
Dry weight:  326 lbs (147.9 kg)
Length: 75.9 in (1930 mm)
Width: 29.7 in (755 mm)
Wheelbase: 53.9 in (1370 mm)
Seat height: 31.1 in (790 mm)
Front susp: Single trailing link with coil spring and hinged telescopic damper
Rear susp: Swingarm w/dual adjustable coil springs & telescopic dampers
Front brake: 8.66 in (220 mm) single hydraulic disc with ABS
Rear brake: 8.66 in (220 mm) single hydraulic disc with ABS
Front tire: 120/70-12
Rear tire: 130/70-12
Engine: 278cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 4-valve w/EFI and electronic ignition
Transmission:  CVT with centrifugal dry clutch
Power/torque: 21.1 hp (15.8 kw) @ 7500 rpm/16.4 lb-ft (22.3 Nm) @ 6500 rpm
  1. May 11, 2015 10:05 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Orin.

    The crew I run with here in Chicago are definitely hooligan scooter riders. Me not so much. These are guys who also run around on much more expensive motorcycles, so while the price tag on the GTS seems high compared to cheaper asian offerings, it’s still cheap in the motorcycle world. So there’s plenty of tail wagging and sliding stops going on. With all the power now coming out of the 300-class engine, one could do wheelies were one so inclined. Not my bag, but I get it.

  2. May 11, 2015 8:43 pm

    Interesting that Piaggio sales are slowing down, an economic barometer if ever there was one. Incidentally I loved my unreliable GTS, very comfortable and fast. I’d love to have another if I had that much money to spare for another go at a machine that let me down badly.

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