We all know that in any struggling economy business opportunities still exist, if not abound. And the past is full of examples of new ventures whose successes have been amplified during recession times.
I remember that in October 2009 just before I reported for the 1st time in my Blog on the new California Scooter Company, I called its owner Steve Seidner (also President of Pro One Performance Manufacturing) to tell him that I strongly believed in the success of his small motorcycles inspired by the legendary American Mustang Scooter.
I had good reasons to feel this way. An affordable discretionary motorcycle purchase (and not so discretionary for those looking for an efficient daily work ride.) For young riders, the hip and fun factor. For the oldest, a motorcycle with direct filiation to the Mustang that they have ridden or at least belonging to their past. For women, a friendly non intimidating 2-wheeler that they can easily handle and that is always family approved (by both life partners who are big bike riders and teenager children who want to share the riding experience.) For all, enough performance to feel like riding a true motorcycle, a fuel efficiency at about 98 mpg to add some “green feels good” factor, rare and easy maintenance duties, a wide range of options and indefinite possibilities of customization to make it yours, a la MINI. For motorcycle dealers, a new exciting and complementary product requiring a light investment, creating family traffic to the showroom, with service limited to a minimum but multiple opportunities to provide customization work.
During Daytona Bike Week, intrigued by the California Motorcycle Co. launch, I went to check their display set up inside the Convention Center. No surprise there. Visitors are (I exaggerate somewhat) from 7 to 77 years old, both sexes. The surprising part, listening to conversations, is that most place right away a “personalized” or “customized” order. Either from the after-market parts already offered by California Scooter (wheels, handlebars, mirrors, tires, seats, chrome parts, exhaust pipes, etc.), or mixing and matching parts from the 3 main models (body, wheel and bar colors), or going right away for the total custom job including the one-off paint job that the company can handle in house.
I also learned that California Scooter is developing performance options working closely with Oregon-based Raceway Services’ Jim Pettiti (the guru of small engine performance upgrades): both a big bore and a stroker kit, ignition modules, performance carbs, and other competition options. Hopping up a 150cc motorcycle might seem to be an unusual move, but the original Mustang (with its short wheelbase and small diameter wheels) was the hot ticket in the 1950s. Walt Fulton nearly won the Catalina Grand Prix on a Mustang in 1951. He did so well in his first Catalina appearance that race organizers outlawed his bike under pressure from the other manufacturers!
Interesting to mention, California Scooter is actively targeting the youth market by sponsoring design competitions among nearby Cal Poly Pomona engineering students. This is the way the next models will be decided. In addition, the company also make intensive use of Social Medias and Blogs to spread brand awareness among potential new young bikers. Of course, listening to President Steve Seidner describing his plans, I wonder what would have happened to Harley if 10 years ago the Milwaukee company had started creating their own retro-styled, scooter-sized street motorcycles for the youg crowd… During this time California Motorcycle Company is redefining the US small motorcycle market.