FIVE QUESTIONS: How Florida retailer is building Chinese import biz

Publish Date: 
Aug 26, 2012

THE EMAIL STARTED SIMPLY ENOUGH — a new brand of scooters, imported from China, was interested in recruiting dealers in the United States and could Dealernews get the word out. (Yawn. We had seen this before.) But there was an interesting turn to this one: The importer was an established retailer — Road Rat Motors in Gainesville, Fla.

Dealers who jumped on the first import wave back in 2005 and 2006 found themselves stuck. They were full of inventory and out of luck when the manufacturers turned their attention elsewhere, the importers went bust, and parts never materialized to fix all those shall-we-say-inexpensively-made scooters and ATVs. These days, retailers must pose strong questions to every new vehicle importer — and “just say no” when the answers are not satisfactory or appropriate for their particular business goals.

The new Bintelli brand imports mainly 49cc scooters along with one 150cc model at present, and the owners pledge commitment to parts availability and future floorplanning, essential for any retailer signing up with a new brand. Bintelli and Road Rat Motors president Justin Jackrel will find himself answering tough questions from a wiser retail body. We asked him five questions to get started. -- Mary Slepicka

What prompted the decision for Road Rat Motors, as a retail business, to pursue wholesale distribution of imported units?
Over the last 12 years we have ordered scooters from virtually every Chinese distributor and factory. We have been wanting to open a wholesale division for a few years now but haven’t found the right fit. Instead of forcing the issue, we continued to research and visit various factories until we found one that fit.

Over the last 12 years, we have spoken with hundreds of dealerships around the country, all who have complaints about their current suppliers. Whether it’s parts support, technical support, subpar manuals, or quality issues, it always seems there is a complaint. Most Chinese scooters are imported as cheap as possible, with as many fitting in a container as possible. This has led Chinese scooters to get a bad rep in the industry.

Sure, there are plenty of terrible Chinese scooters, but there are also plenty of great ones as well. We have taken a product that we believe is the highest-quality Chinese scooter produced, and then fully load it with many upgrades such as NGK spark plugs, Motobatt batteries, Gates belts, Duro tires, halogen lights, stainless-steel hardware and more. All scooters are shipped fully assembled in cardboard packaging so our dealers do not have to spend hours assembling and fixing a brand-new scooter, because a disassembled scooter in a steel frame will only lead to issues.
Who’s the original manufacturer?
They are produced by Taizhou Zhongneng Motorcycles, known as Znen around the industry. We have an employee that lives full time in China to oversee the production at our factories.

Are the same models being sold under different brand names either in the U.S. or elsewhere? This seemed to be a prevalent practice during the first wave of Chinese-manufactured scooters a few years ago.
Znen offers such a wide variety of models that their various distributors in North America do not have much overlap in models. Additionally, as our models are made to our specific specifications and designs with upgrades that we have personally selected, there is no other scooter in the country that will resemble a Bintelli scooter, both inside and out. (continued)