In July 5 issue, Russell County NewsBy Greg WellsManaging Edit
ELI - “We’ve got 20 coming and 17 are already sold,” said Dennis Justice. “We haven’t been able to keep one on the floor for more than a day or two all year.”
Don Smith said he has a standing order for six a week and, “We sell about all we can get.”
The hot item this year is the simple motor scooter.
Justice, who has been selling the diminutive motorized cycles for years, said business picked up some last year, but since gasoline started reaching toward the $4 a gallon mark he hasn’t been able to get them in fast enough.
That’s because the Kymco factory’s production of 3,000 a day isn’t enough to keep up with demand.
Smith, who said he has been in business 28 years at the same location on U.S. 127, had never sold the Roketa brand or any other moped or scooter before but demand has been too high to ignore.
Justice said he has been allotted 20 a month since January and is going to have to refuse to sell one of the next batch just to have something other than a brochure to show customers.
But not seeing one in person and having to wait for an order to arrive doesn’t seem to bother the customers.
“I ordered a blue one,” Paul Bernard said. “When it came in I went to get it and Dennis asked if I’d ever ridden one of them before and I said ‘no.’”
The 65-year-old said he just climbed on and road it home.
“Its easier to ride than a bicycle,” Bernard said. “Its safer than a car.”
He said when driving a car there is the radio, cell phone and other things to distract a driver but on the scooter he said all his attention is on the road and other drivers.
“My family all said ‘you’re gonna get killed,” Bernard said. He added that since he’s had his at least one of those family members has purchased a scooter.
“I’ve got 1,800 miles on mine,” Bernard said. “I guess at about 100 miles to the gallon that means I’ve used about 18 gallons.
So even at $3.99 a gallon he is getting over 25 miles per dollar, or paying .0039 cents per mile.
That would be the actual cost, other than oil change and tune ups since there is no license needed, insurance or property tax assessed on a scooter under 50 cc’s like Bernard has.
Justice pointed out that the scooter or moped must be powered by a less-than 50cc displacement engine to avoid the same regulations as those for motorcycles. Even then every rider must have a valid driver’s license.
He stressed that police agencies are beginning to crack down on those riders who purchase larger scooters and attempt to ride them without license or insurance.
Companies sell scooters with engines as large as 500cc.
Justice said many of the companies which manufacture the two-wheeled vehicles got together and asked the dealers to really stress that riders must be licensed and the bigger scooters are just the same as motorcycles under the law.
Prices for the little gas-sippers range from around $1,000 to more than twice that depending on manufacturer and options.
Justice said the little machines have been popular in most of the rest of the world since World War II, but have only caught on in the US during the gas crunch of the ‘70s and the latest season of sky-rocketing fuel prices.