Schwinn Motor Sports, a relative newcomer to the scooter market, reports a rapidly growing dealer network, meaning the company best known for its bicycles has been able to overcome its powersports stigma: its place of origin.
The company’s range of low-displacement scooters are built and assembled in China.
“We’ve put dealers’ minds at ease that they have a company they know,” George Simone, vice president of Schwinn Motor Sports, said in an interview with Powersports Business. “We’re not a small company that’s under capitalized.”
In fact, Schwinn is part of Pacific Cycle, a division of Dorel Industries, a Canadian company that’s publicly sold on NASDAQ and reported $1.8 billion in sales in 2005.
Perhaps because of that financial backing, Schwinn has not had a problem with building its U.S. dealer base, which has grown from 40 earlier this year to 250. The previous year saw a much slower dealer buildup as the company focused on obtaining state licensing.
This year, Simone said Schwinn has been able to concentrate on sales. They currently have sales managers in the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and are looking for a fifth sales manager for the Northeast.
As a result, the company’s unit sales have risen rapidly, now topping more than 2,500 per year.
The rapid growth is expected to continue in the new year. Simone said the company’s goal is to reach 500 U.S. dealers and 5,000 new unit sales in 2007.
“We’re really trying to focus on quality dealerships that really see the need for having a product like ours,” he said.
With model names like “Campus”, “Collegiate” and “Graduate”, it’s not difficult to see what kind of demographic Schwinn is trying to entice with its 50cc and 150cc scooters: parents of college-bound children. Simone, who knows the high cost of college education only too well, said “sending kids to school with automobiles could be cost-prohibitive for a number of reasons.”
Nationally, the scooter market has slowed, according to the most recent Motorcycle Industry Council figures, compared to last year as gas prices have dipped. Could that affect the future growth of Schwinn, which advertises 117 mpg for its four-stroke scooters?
Simone didn’t think so, noting scooters often are now “lifestyle purchases” as much as economical ones. “People are buying them because they’re fun and they’re more accessible now,” he said.
The Schwinn scooters certainly are as dealers seemingly are overcoming their initial skepticism with handling a Chinese product. To combat that issue, Simone said Schwinn reps are making sure dealers know the company has invested in not only four sales managers, but customer service representatives, obtaining EPA certification and “we’re working with our suppliers to improve product all the time.”
Plus, Simone points out another plus: “when consumer comes into the store, most of them know the Schwinn brand.”
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business