Schenectady County

2-wheel mileage attracts riders

Record-high gasoline prices are sending an increasing number of New Yorkers off on two wheels, and C
Scooter Central Sales Manager Justin Edmonson shows some of the models of used scooters carried by the shop in Colonie on Monday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Scooter Central Sales Manager Justin Edmonson shows some of the models of used scooters carried by the shop in Colonie on Monday.

Record-high gasoline prices are sending an increasing number of New Yorkers off on two wheels, and Capital Region motorcycle and scooter businesses report boom times despite the stagnant economy.

Justin Edmonson, sales manager for Scooter Central on Central Avenue in Schenectady, said scooter sales are up 50 percent from a year ago.

“With the gas prices being what they are and these [scooters] getting 101 miles to the gallon, you can’t beat it,” Edmonson said.

Scooter Central sells scooters built by the Texas-based SunL Group. Scooters differ from motorcycles in that they have automatic transmissions and don’t require a special driver’s license unless they can reach top speeds of more than 30 mph.

Edmonson said his smaller-engine scooters can reach speeds of 30 to 35 mph, with fuel economy of 101 miles per gallon, and his bigger-engine models can get up to about 80 mph with a dip in fuel economy down to 70 miles per gallon. He said gas mileage and cheap prices for new models, ranging from $1,699 to $2,999, have stimulated motorists to consider scooters.

From April through June, 29,972 new motorcycle licenses were issued, up 19 percent from those months in 2007, when there were 24,155, according to the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles. New registration for motorcycles from April to June totaled 187,595, up 11 percent from that period last year, when there were 167,002. Statistics for new scooter registrations, classified by the state as mopeds, were not available Monday.

Ronald Griffin, owner of Griffin Motorsports Inc. in Schenectady, said his dealership sells motorcycles made by Suzuki and American IronHorse. He said recent sales for models priced under $7,000 have been “unbelievable.”

“Usually we would have at least one-year-old leftover motorcycles and some [unsold] two-year-old motorcycles. That’s all done. Everything that we have we’re sold out of. Everything that’s on the way is sold, not with deposits, paid for,” Griffin said. “[What] we didn’t sell yet are the larger motorcycles . . . that get 45 to 50 miles to the gallon. That stuff is selling but it isn’t going out the door as fast as the [smaller, more fuel-efficient models].”

Dean Splittgerber, owner of Spitzies Harley-Davidson in Albany, said Harley sales have not yet taken off, probably because Harleys are too expensive to provide a big savings. A bike that gets about 60 miles per gallon starts at $6,800.

“Although, as the price [for gasoline] keeps climbing, I think that hurdle is going to cease because a lot of people are scrambling right now. I think if it stabilizes at $5 per gallon, I firmly believe motorcycle sales are going to boom,” Splittgerber said.

Joe Caschera, co-owner of the new Vespa Schenectady dealership on Erie Boulevard, said when he first applied to obtain ownership for a Vespa franchise three years ago, gas prices were not a part of the equation. He said he’s now convinced he’s lucked into a sales boom.

“A whole new demographic of people have been coming in to buy Vespas because of the gas prices,” Caschera said. “Vespas are usually a luxury item, for more wealthy people, but now people just want inexpensive motor transport to get better gas mileage. Those are the type of people who are coming in now.”

Vespa Schenectady reports its top selling Vespa over its first month of sales has been its LX 150 model, which sells for about $4,300, seats two, can reach a top speed of 65 mph and gets about 80 miles per gallon.

“We’ve only been open a few weeks and we’ve sold quite a few bikes,” Caschera said.

Dealers with inventory geared more toward faster, more expensive motorcycles with bigger engines and lower fuel economy have not done as well. Bill Lavender, sales manager for Herba Motor Co. in Amsterdam, said sales of his bigger motorcycles, manufactured by Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, are all down 15 to 25 percent compared with last year.

“There’ve been a lot of years when you’ve had a lot better sales than you’ve had this year. I think the high gas prices have screwed up the economy before the bikes even came in [this year],” he said.

Lavender said sales of smaller motorcycles at Herba Motor Co. are at an even pace with last year, but used motorcycle sales are up.

Dan Marshall, co-owner of motorcycle service and repair shop Marshall’s Motorsports, located in Ballston Spa, said his business sometimes sells used motorcycles, but the recent market has been so hot it’s difficult to keep them in stock. He said his motorcycle repair business is booming in response to owners digging out their old machines and putting them on the road. Business is the best it has ever been in his operations’s eight-year history.

“I’ve got about a month’s waiting list of people looking to get their bikes fixed,” he said.

Marshall said he’s also seen a change in the speed at which customers want motorcycles repaired. He said in the past repair shops like his weren’t under pressure to turn jobs around quickly, but now they are.

“Customers aren’t saying, ‘Get to it whenever you can’ anymore. They’re saying, ‘I want it back right away because it’s costing me too much money to drive my truck,’ ” he said. “It’s not just a recreational thing anymore. [Customers say they] plan on driving them to work.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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