GEORGE SIMONE has a nice situation. He's a corporate VP selling Chinese-made scooters that carry the iconic American Schwinn brand. It's a combination that is giving Simone, and Schwinn, a competitive advantage in North America.
Simone helped launch the scooter line at the 2005 Dealer Expo. "That was our proof-of-concept show," he says. "We received a lot of positive feedback at the show, so we decided to pull the trigger on it."
Initial (albeit modest) shipments began a few months after the 2005 show, but sales that year remained light as the company struggled to get EPA certification. "We didn't realize the complexities of getting licensed to sell in all 50 states," Simone recalls."
Today, Schwinn sells nine models in two displacement sizes: 49cc and 150cc. It also plans to bring out a 400cc unit this year, and is working on a 250cc unit that may be introduced in mid-2009. "Our intention is to get into large displacements," Simone says. "As more people turn to [using scooters for] commuting, they want something with more speed for the freeways."
John Havell, co-owner of Action Jet Sports, Bradenton, Fla., has been selling Schwinn scooters for about two years. "We wanted a name brand, ìhe says, and Schwinn provides that. ìIt's an American company, and you can talk to someone in this country if you have a question." Havell reportedly sells about two dozen 49cc and 150cc units a year out of his dealership.
"The quality is good; we haven't had any crazy mechanical issues." Havell says it's nice to be able to deal with price shoppers by offering Schwinn's U.S. heritage and median MSRP. "Their prices aren't the lowest, but they're not the highest, either."
Schwinn, is based in Madison, Wis., but also operates a large warehouse (more than 1 million square feet) in neighboring Illinois where it does some minor assembly and conducts quality checks on scooters and bicycles.
Dealer Development Important
Schwinn closed out 2007 with nearly 400 dealers, adding 100 dealers in the last year alone. Simone's aggressive plan is to add another 100 dealers in 2008. "Dealer development is important for us, because we're not at a point yet where we do a lot of consumer marketing," he says. "By adding strong dealers, we create awareness in that market."
Schwinn reportedly plans to expand its dealer network in the Northeast and in California, where it just received CARB approval to sell its 150cc machine. More than 95 percent of Schwinn dealers are true powersports dealers; however, the marque also sells through a number of auto and implement retailers, most of whom are in areas not supported by a strong Powersports store, Simone asserts. (Continued)