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SRD: Riders get their fill for $5
Saturday 3 May 2008, 07:21
Filed under: Uncategorized

The price to top off a scooter’s gas tank is enough for some drivers to trade in their guzzler

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Even as gasoline prices soar, the car is still king and fuel-stingy scooters are not threatening to dethrone it.

And though the demand for scooters is growing, it remains a niche market, said Roy Gattinella, co-owner of Revolution Moto in Santa Rosa.

“If anything will tip them into the mainstream, it will be gas prices,” Gattinella said.

The average price of gas is $3.90 in Sonoma County, with some stations hitting $4, according to the California State Automobile Association.

Those high prices are fueling a surge in scooter sales, Gattinella said.

In the first quarter of this year, scooter sales climbed 24 percent over last year, said Mike Mount, a spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Council in Irvine. “I don’t have numbers to prove it, but I suspect it is gas prices,” Mount said.

Gattinella said the surge is playing out at his store.

“The last two weeks have been crazy; we have people waiting at the door when we open,” Gattinella said. “In the last couple of weeks, we have been selling three to five a day.”

Scooter owners will tell you how much fun they are, but at 65 miles per gallon, they also tout the savings.

“The Wine Country is beautiful on a scooter,” said Jennifer DeBello of Santa Rosa, who rides a Vespa. “And it takes $5 to fill the gas tank. That’s refreshing.”

Derek Ruetsch, a private jet pilot from Windsor who bought a Vespa two years ago, said the difference in gasoline costs can be staggering.

“I was filling up with gas and someone was next to me in a large SUV,” Ruetsch said. “It took me $5.83 to fill up; they said it cost them $76.”

Although he bought his Vespa for the savings, it has become his everyday transportation. “Unless I have to haul something from Home Depot, my car stays in the garage,” Ruetsch said.

Scooters long have been popular for the masses in Europe, Asia and South America. Riders can zip through street traffic, some more powerful models can use the freeway and they typically get two to three times the mileage of even the most fuel-efficient sedans.

Prices can start at $1,500 and go up to $10,000.

Revolution Moto has the Taiwan-made Genuine Scooter Buddy for $2,595, an Italian-made Aprilia for $2,799, and its best seller, a popular Vespa, for $4,299.

North Bay Motorsports and Marine in Santa Rosa has Hondas and the South Korean-made Hyosung scooters, costing $1,500 to $8,500.

Despite the fuel economy, scooters have not caught on in the United States.

“It’s America and we are not in Europe,” said Rodney Frost, general manager of North Bay Motorsports and Marine, who said scooter sales are up 20 percent but still lag behind motorcycles.

Gattinella said some people have safety concerns, and others just like the comfort of a car.

Still, scooters are more mainstream now than when he started the shop five years ago, when gas was $1.69 a gallon.

“Now it’s a cross-section of the North Bay . . . carpenters, policemen, doctors, nurses, pilots, school teachers, a lot of blue-collar workers,” Gattinella said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com

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