There's been a lot of discussion the past few weeks about gas prices and the effect they're having on vehicle sales. One the one hand, we've seen studies indicating that fuel efficiency is now the leading factor in new car purchases -- data that jibes pretty well with the increased popularity of fuel-efficient cars during the 2008 gas spike.
On the other hand, we've seen slightly contradictory data showing that shoppers pay more attention to a vehicle's pricetag than its efficiency (or eco-friendliness, for that matter). So really, which is most important now: mpgs or price? A third set of data says...well, it's both.
The data comes by way of the Motorcycle Industry Council, and it shows that sales of motorcycles and scooters have increased in direct correlation to gas prices. Sales during the first quarter of 2011 were up 50% over 2010 (which could partially be attributed to the improving vehicle market, but not entirely). Furthermore, replacement tire sales are up 30%, meaning that more people are riding their two-wheeled vehicles.
Why the sales boom? The study doesn't go into detail, but we know that motorcycles and scooters are both fuel-efficient and (generally) less expensive than their four-wheeled kin. Many models are eco-friendly, too. All three of those factors are attractive to consumers.
So what's the big deal?
Should you consider purchasing a scooter yourself? And what impact is the popularity of scooters and motorcycles likely to have on you, your commute, and the planet?
Well, as we mentioned the other day, scooters can be a fun, fuel-efficient way to get around town. Those that use gas require far less of it to operate, and newer models have fairly low CO2 emissions, too. (Other models, however, can be big polluters.) And let's not forget, they're significantly cheaper to insure.
Unfortunately, scooters and motorcycles are also more dangerous -- not just for owners, but also for those in the cars alongside them. Auto drivers aren't always looking for motorcycles in their side-view mirrors when they change lanes, and many new scooter drivers lack the experience they need to make them safe fellow commuters.
Will scooters and motorcycles become a significant presence on America's roads? As fuel prices rise, we'll see more of them around (though some experts think gas prices have peaked, which could mean that current sales of two-wheelers will start slipping). And over the long haul, as more of the planet's population moves to urban environments, scooters and motorcycles will likely become more popular modes of transit. But they're still not great fits for every lifestyle, especially for anyone with a family to cart around.
Bottom line: expect to see more of them on the roadways, but not as many as you'd see in other parts of the world. Not yet, anyway.