SIKESTON, Mo. – A U.S.-based manufacturing group is planning to bring new life to the Benelli brand here -- with an ATV and scooter assembly plant in the Midwest and a new dealer network.
“We’ve decided to revive the Benelli Motor Sports brand in the United States,” said operations manager Roger Strong, who once ran a dealership selling Chinese scooters and ATVs.
The Italian Benelli brand, regarded as the oldest European motorcycle company, is in the hands of Chinese company Group Qianjiang and continues to produce and sell motorcycles in Europe. But that company allowed the U.S. trademark to lapse, so the U.S.-based firm captured the trademark and logo to launch the new line here.
Ownership of the trademark bars other businesses from importing or selling motorcycles to the U.S. under the Benelli name.
The new Benelli Motor Sports will offer 50cc scooters priced around $995 and 250cc ATVs priced at about $2,495.
Benelli will import components from Taiwan and assemble the vehicles here for sale in the United States. In all, the company proposes to make about 25 products. The plans also include small boat motors, which the company plans to display at boat shows early next year in Atlanta, Ga., and Miami, Fla.
“There is a big difference in the quality of Taiwanese products vs. Chinese makes," Strong said. “It’s the fit and finish.”
To eliminate one drawback of some foreign makes, the company said it will only import models with a required number of accompanying spare parts -- that way, Strong said, dealers will be able to get parts if the units need repairs. “We’ll have guaranteed parts with 24-hour shipping,” he notedd. “Our dealer service and parts network will set us apart.”
James Best, of Sikeston, is the U.S. company’s CEO. Strong said some of the company’s executives are also executives of The Lock Co., which will have a co-located factory with Benelli; and Red Wasp Ammunition, an Illinois company that makes practice rounds for law enforcement.
The company said it is working on a 50,000 sq. ft. industrial space in Sikeston for the assembly plant, which is expected to employ about 100 people at full buildout. The facility will include an on-site showroom. Hiring is expected to begin in December and January.
The scooters and ATVs are not expected to be in showrooms for another year, but that isn’t stopping the company from building its dealer network. The company said it has distributors in seven states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Nebraska, South Carolina and Tennessee), and is eager to sign up dealers to sell the new line, either to add to a existing dealership or as a stand-alone brand. The company is also looking for a national sales manager. Interested dealers should call Strong at 618-475-7123.