By on September 10, 2010

If you exist outside the fast-paced world of the automotive branding community, you might believe that the point of car brands is to sell cars. Needless to say, you’d be wrong. The big buzzword around car brands, particularly the more niche and eco-friendly brands is “mobility.” As in “we must leverage our brand values to provide a broad-based mobility strategy for the cities of the future.” Or, to put it into layman’s terms, “screw cars, we gotta start building scooters.”

We’d heard that Smart was headed in this direction, and given that Mercedes is moving into its traditional brand space with ever-smaller, cheaper FWD cars, we reckoned scooters were as logical a direction for the brand as any other. But MINI? Granted, BMW is cannibalizing its small car sub-brand with as much abandon as Mercedes, but MINIs are cars. Not Chinese Vespa knock-offs with MINI branding. If this trend isn’t nipped on the bud quick-smart, the Aston Martin Cygnet is going to end up being the most prophetic car of the decade. [via Autocar]

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14 Comments on “The Future Of Car Brands: Scooters...”

  • avatar

    Maybe this is a way to meet stricter fuel economy standards? Make a scooter and classify it as a truck!
    BMW already makes motorcycles and scooters (c1), so I don’t see why this is such a big deal. Heck, Honda has been making scooters for ages too. I’ve owned 2 of them. BMW, Mercedes, Honda and other car makers have even produced rebadged bicycles.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    In the North American market you can count the number of intelligent brand extensions for scooters on one hand.
    1) Honda (separate dealers)
    2) Smart (would have to be a joint venture with an established scooter company due to lack of economies of scale)
    3) Suzuki (I’ve long argued that combining their powersport vehicles with the auto dealerships would be an interesting alternative to the common dealership. Unfortunately Suzuki does not sell traditional scooters in the US (only a maxi-scoot) and their motorcycle/atv/watercraft vehicles would be far more appealing.
    This isn’t about ‘scooters’ so much as ‘lifestyle’. What else may your prospective customer want to purchase? A Trek bike? A Vespa? A Harley?

  • avatar

    Scooters are great for heavliy congested areas, but parking them is still the problem. Cities where they would do the most good (NYC, San Francisco, Chicago) don’t allow them to be parked on sidewalks. Paying for parking eliminates any transportation cost savings.

    • 0 avatar

      I know next to my work city (touching the nothern border of Chicago), about 5 blocks from downtown there is street parking and even when it’s PACKED you can usually find a spot for a scooter/motorcycle.

      In my wife’s city, there are tons of dedicated motorcycle/scooter spots & a lot less for cars.
      There is a trade-off however:  Gear.
      If I drive in to work on my bike I usually have ~ 20+ pounds of items I have to drag around with me.

  • avatar

    VW already has a Scooter.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’ve got a 2008 Roketa (Chinese) Lamda 150cc scooter, over 1500 miles on it.  Engine is a blantant rip off of the old Honda GY6 design.  It’s been good to me, very solid mechanically, and so bone simple I do all my own maint.  If the EPA would let manufactures count scooter sales toward CAFE, my 70mpg (±5) would be a big help.
    I’ve always wondered too why Suzuki didn’t combine operations under one roof for motorcycle and vehicle sales.  “Well Mr. Johnson, now that we’ve completed the paper work on your ATV, maybe you’d like an Equator to haul it around with?  We’ve got some great rebates on them right now.”

  • avatar

    You don’t want a scooter unless you have a death wish. Car drivers don’t see you and even when they do see you they DON’T respect you. Nothing between you and 5,000 pounds of Hummer. Damn stupid legislators (at least in HNL) keep trying to dumb down the horsepower even though you the scooter rider is already a rolling chicane due to HP limitations. How dare I try to keep up with traffic and not get in anyone’s way.

    It was great as a way to get to/from college and (at the time) 25 cents to fill up the tank was fantastic, but otherwise no thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      “You don’t want a scooter unless you have a death wish. Car drivers don’t see you and even when they do see you they DON’T respect you.”

      It depends more so on the city than anything else.  I live in a college town where drivers are very familiar with scooters zipping along the streets.  As a result we have very few scooter accidents (most due to winter weather driving) and students feel fairly safe riding one amongst cars/trucks.  I myself commute daily from downtown/campus to neighboring cities/suburbs (10-15miles) on a Zuma 50cc (6000 miles and strong) safely and with ease all the while enjoying my 85 mpg. Parking on sidewalks is an added bonus!

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on the scooter.  I got to talk to the owner of a burgman 650 not too long ago and he seemed quite happy with it and can out-accelerate many (not all) cars.

  • avatar

    How about a Caddy scooter

  • avatar

    Recall reading somewhere that renowned Italian scootereteria Piaggio is buying or is going to buy some Italian automobile manufacturer. Can’t find the right search string in the google. So it swings both ways. Piaggio also used to and maybe still does make cute little 3-wheeled pickup trucks. Ecco:

  • avatar
    slow kills

    The Asian brand names of many modern scooters come off as generic and cheap.  Who the hell knows what a Kymco or a Roketa is?  Well, obviously a real enthusiast would, but that’s a stagnant niche market.
    Dilettantes need identifiable brands that they can latch onto.  Spare them the trouble of researching to find out which scooter is for meant for quirky tweens, clueless yuppies, or doddering retirees.  Slap the corresponding automotive brand on it and ease the matchmaking.

  • avatar

    One of the best branding ads I’ve ever seen was Honda’s with all their products being used by a couple. Very impressive and I’ve always wondered why they are almost the only manufacturer that seems to extend their brand to logical ends, no patio furniture, no mortgages!

  • avatar

    Peugeot also manufactures scooters.
    This mobility thing reminds me the “change” of oil companies to energy companies.

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