Gas-sipping mopeds fly out dealers' doors (Canada)

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Gas-sipping mopeds fly out dealers' doors (Canada)

Postby Micronaut » Tue May 02, 2006 5:47 pm

Shannon Proudfoot, The Ottawa Citizen ... 8a2&k=3137

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Some attribute it to the rising price of gas, while others think it's the Euro-cool image of zipping in and out of traffic with hair flying in the wind. Whatever the reason, moped dealers in Canada agree that sales have gone through the roof recently.
Chris Corbett, a partner in Oakville-based Mr. Moped, estimates his sales have climbed 300 per cent this year and that explosive growth is on top of the 100-per-cent increase Canada's largest moped dealer has enjoyed for each of the last five years.
The perky vehicles -- which can reach speeds of 60 km/h -- must have workable pedals and engines smaller than 50 cc to be considered mopeds under Ontario law. They can't travel on highways, but mopeds are among the only vehicles still in production that offer 100 miles to the gallon in fuel efficiency.
But even with prices at the pumps making four-wheeled motorists weep, Mr. Corbett -- who owns "a bunch" of mopeds himself -- thinks there is more than economics at play in the diminutive vehicle's appeal.
"Fuel prices will get them in the door, but I don't think that's why people are buying mopeds. It's personal mobility, personal freedom, convenience," he says, adding that free moped parking in downtown Toronto is a big draw. Unfortunately, Ottawa has no such deal.
Mr. Corbett said the entire category of limited-speed motorcycles (LSMs) -- which includes scooters and Vespa-like vehicles -- has exploded in popularity, but it is a distinct sort of customer who rumbles off the lot on a moped. They cut across gender, age, class and career categories, but he thinks moped drivers tend to be mechanically inclined DIY-types who are attracted to the motorized bike's exposed parts, or independent minimalists who appreciate a machine that can do so much with so little.
Prior to November, no special permit was required to drive a moped, but now drivers must pass a written and road test in order to earn a special "M" endorsement on their licence, allowing them to drive LSMs.
Andre DeRouchie, who owns Derand Motorsport on Bank Street, ascribes his increasing moped sales mostly to the price of gas, but he says popular culture has also played a role.
"I don't know if it's because I sell the product, but I see a lot of movies with scooters and that type of thing. It's kind of trendy now," he says. Derand stocks half-a-dozen brand names of mopeds and ships them across the country, and the owner estimates their sales have doubled in the last year.
Mr. DeRouchie, 53, has even formed a "moped gang" with 10 friends and he drives his moped until the snow stops him in October.
"We go to the Market, we blast around from here to there. We've got to plan our roadways because we don't have the highways," he says.
He's not the only one getting together with fellow enthusiasts: last week, the Christian Science Monitor reported that as U.S. moped sales have risen 500 per cent since 1999, tongue-in-cheek moped gangs have taken root in cities across the country. The Moped Army of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was the subject of a documentary and runs a website, and they have 300 not-so-hardcore members who adhere to the motto, "Swarm and destroy."
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