Gas fuels moped sales-Locals find advantages to mopeds

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Gas fuels moped sales-Locals find advantages to mopeds

Postby Micronaut » Sun Sep 18, 2005 4:52 pm

Gas fuels moped sales/Locals find advantages to mopeds ... 60317/1079

By Heather McElvain
Iowa City

University of Iowa junior Chad Parker looks for a parking spot on campus.

Parker bought his moped two weeks ago and can fill it up with gas for about $2, compared with $40 to fill up his Ford Explorer.
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To University of Iowa junior Chad Parker, choosing to ride a moped to work and class was a no-brainer.

The 20-year-old Iowa City native bought a red, 1989 Honda Aero for $450 from a friend a few weeks ago. He said the vehicle was economical, easy to park and "just really fun to ride."

Parker is among a growing number of people nationwide choosing to drive fuel-efficient scooters as gas prices soar.

Gas prices climbed an average of 73 cents a gallon in the past year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Parker, whose other vehicle is a Ford Explorer, said filling up his moped with gas costs him about $2, considerably less than the $40 it takes to fill his sport utility vehicle.

"I just think it's a really good mode of transportation," he said.

The Motorcycle Industry Council reports that scooter sales in the U.S., estimated at 86,000 last year, have doubled from 2000.

There were 13,006 mopeds registered in Iowa in 2004, and 310 in Johnson County, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Tina Hargis, director of Vehicle Services at the DOT, said there likely are more scooters buzzing around Johnson County than registration numbers show.

"If you're looking at college students, they may be registered in their home county and not necessarily in Johnson County," she said.

Hargis said it's hard to discern if the number of mopeds registered to Iowans has increased or decreased in recent years because of a system change at the department. She said the new system "cleaned up" duplicate and outdated records that would have made statistics from 2002 and earlier inflated.

But Rod Holst, owner of Iowa City Motorsports at 155 Escort Lane, said he's sure moped sales have increased. He said his shop sold about 30 scooters last month alone.

"Scooter sales have been phenomenal," he said. "This year's probably our best scooter year ever."

Holst credits high gas prices and parking concerns in Iowa City with the sales.

"Everybody's thinking more about their dollar," he said.

And Holst said it's not just college kids stopping in.

"Everybody's purchasing scooters," he said, adding that he's sold scooters to doctors and nurses at the VA Iowa City Health Care System, where parking can be tough.

Michael Zeman, sales manager at Don's Honda, at 537 Highway 1 W., Iowa City, said scooter sales at his company are up as much as 75 percent as gas prices hit the roof.

Zeman said he sells the vehicles to college students, as well as UI faculty members, and even a man who commutes to Iowa City from Washington every day.

He said his best-selling model is the Elite 80, which can go 40 to 45 miles an hour, and gets 80 to 85 miles a gallon.

Holst said the Yamaha Zuma is his company's top-selling scooter because it's capable of hauling two people and still can get up to 100 miles a gallon. The scooter's tank holds 1.5 gallons.

Holst said new scooters start at about $1,800. High-end models can cost as much as $7,700, he said.

Parker said taking his scooter to class and to work at University Hospitals is a lot easier than driving around in his Explorer.

He used to drive the Explorer, park it near campus, walk to class, take the bus to work, take the bus back to campus and then walk back to his car.

Now Parker, who said several of his friends also have scooters, pays $42 a year to park his moped in any of UI's 29 motorcycle lots.

The UI Parking Services office reports that it has issued 20 more motorcycle and scooter parking permits this year than it had by the end of August last year.
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