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Vespa Says Ditch the SUV, But Will You Listen, America?

May 23, 2006
The self-serving press release of the day award goes to Piaggio Group, maker and marketer of the Vespa. According to the Italian company, 30 percent of U.S. consumers would be extremely or somewhat likely to consider using a motor scooter for their everyday transportation needs. That is based on a national survey. According to the survey conducted in the first week of May of 2006, these individuals indicated a willingness to transfer 35 percent of their weekly mileage to a scooter.

The first thing to point out is the typo in the release that actually said, “According to the survey conducted in the first week of May of 2006, these individuals indicted a willingness to transfer 35 percent of their weekly mileage to a scooter.” Is the indictment for a guy named Will Ingness?

Despite the self-serving nature of the release, it would be great if Americans were the kind to actually go down this road. How many times do we see people driving H2s, Ford Explorers, Chevy Tahoes to the corner store with one occupant because that’s the vehicle they own? By many estimates, most SUV owners actually need the space and hauling capacity of the SUV they own less than ten percent of the time.

Comparing the results of the survey to Department of Energy national averages for fuel consumption and emissions, the survey findings establish that if Americans were to utilize a scooter they could, in aggregate, reduce national fuel consumption by 14 million gallons of gasoline per day and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 324 million pounds per day. “Scooters” were defined in the survey as two-wheel vehicles that can reach 40-100 mph, whose average cost is $2000 or above. The survey was fielded by ICR on behalf of Piaggio Group Americas.

At that cost, it would be well worth most suburban households to stock a scooter as an alternate to a car. Let’s face it, though, the number of Americans who would adopt this lifestyle is roughly the number who watch the Bravo channel on a nightly basis. Too bad.

Scooter sales have increased tremendously over the past two years. U.S. sales of all Piaggio brand scooters through its dealer network increased by an impressive 15 percent in 2005. Piaggio, which re-entered the U.S. market in 2000, now has dealerships in over 100 locations. —Jim Burt

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