PennDOT puts the brakes on Chinese Scoots!?

Tue, Nov 11, 2008


(PennDOT says “zhè zú gòu le, xiè xiè” to Chinese scooters. source: flickr/ironleg)

A recent article in the power sports industry trade mag, Dealer News, reports that Pennsylvania has put a hold on registering any scooter with a “L” VIN. It may be hard to imagine, but Pennsylvania may be just the first state to exercise a crackdown on Chinese bikes. Here’s a snippet from the original story:

Scooter sales are through the roof. But some dealers in Pennsylvania haven’t been able to deliver a single scooter for the past two months. There’s even been talk that at least one dealer has gone out of business. Is it a supply-and-demand problem? No. The dealers have plenty to sell, and people are willing to buy. It’s a registration problem.

In an online bulletin dated September, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation informed dealers that they could no longer issue temporary registrations and tags for any scooter or motorcycle with a VIN that begins with the letter “L,” the country code for China. Instead dealers must send these title applications to the department’s Special Services Unit in Harrisburg. The unit inspects the applications and decides if a title may be issued. The unit checks each VIN with an online database maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency to which importers submit their paperwork.

This is not only affecting the “fly by nighters” but also the more established brands like TNG, Lance, United Motors and QLink. Chinese distributors call it discrimination, some dealers say they can’t believe it, other say it’s about time. I just wonder what the impact will be if this really is just the first of many state crackdowns. You can click on the title link to read the whole story.

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14 Responses to “PennDOT puts the brakes on Chinese Scoots!?”

  1. .q Says:

    The comment in the story wondering if this is a plan/scheme by Japanese manufacturers will gain weight if VINs beginning LPR (Yamaha Taiwan) are exempt from the new measures.


  2. Pvino Says:

    An appropriate action in good faith for the protection of the consumer.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Good, Bic lighters with wheels have no place on the road.


  4. Enviromoto Says:

    You gotta be kidding me. This is the same rhetoric we had to deal with when Japan cars were getting a bad rep in the 80s.

    Chinese crap = What is keeping the US afloat.


  5. fat tony Says:

    I locw TNG/CMSI’s answer to the problem. It’s a classic shitty answer from a shitty company:

    Kuhns has tried to get answers from the government and his vendors. He says CMSI Inc., the importer of TNG scooters, ensured him that the scooters now being shipped from China will have correct numbers. “I replied, ‘What about the old ones that I have in inventory?’ And they don’t know. They said, ‘Maybe we can get a dealer from out of state to buy them.’

    “But I was told this thing was going to go to other states,” Kuhns adds.

    He also says CMSI told him that he could legally remove the invalid VIN tags from the scooters. Reportedly the importer said it could send him valid ones along with, Kuhns assumes, new manufacturer’s statements of origin, or MSOs. “The problem is the VIN numbers are also stamped into the frame,” he says. “So they say, ‘You can change that. You need to grind that off, and then you have to etch in the new number.’ And I don’t see how that would be legal.”


  6. Anonymous Says:

    It’s times like these when you see what the interest of the importer is to see a product or to sell a vehicle. When you sell a vehicle you need to have more than just the bottom dollar on your mind.

    Making consumers lives more difficult, selling scooters labeled 49cc when they are in fact 80 or 90cc these are things the Chinese managers just dont get.

    Both American business and Chinese factories put money in front of doing the right thing and its just another reflection of everything that is wrong with the world today in our small world of scooters.

    I’m glad Steve posted this.


  7. Tim Says:

    If they had imported a quality product in the first place they wouldn’t be in this situation.


  8. Leo Says:

    Could it be that the powers that be (most of whom made their fortunes off of energy) are in control of this? I find it rather odd that all of a sudden offshore drilling is OK and gas prices have dropped, thus fueling the need to buy more gas. Could it be that China (like Japan) has found a way to get their products en masse into the U.S. during this economic crisis for cheap and we’ve become so dependent on them that they are getting rich? If the government didn’t want people, jobs, or certain products here then we wouldn’t have them. For those of you who want to get sucked into brand names and countries origins in order to pay more and be snobs about it, be my guest. Just realize that the life of a product is dependent on how well it is taken care of. Personally, If I like it and I can afford it, then F— it. I will obtain it! I don’t care if it came from a crackhead’s backside!

    ‘Nuff said!


  9. Patch Adams Says:

    I drive a 150cc xtreme brand chinese scooter. Sure its a frequent visitor to the shop, but its mainly because I’m too mechanically retarded to fix it myself. I’d love to have a name brand scooter that is more reliable etc, but my scooter is reliable enough considering that it’s like half the price of an equivalent Japanese/European scooter, and probably more like 1/4th the price of a Vespa. I’d get a “real” scooter if i could afford it, but that’s the thing, I can’t. It’s either long bus trips here in Austin, or a cheap chinese scooter from craigslist. It’s not like I’m going to need the thing for more than a year or two anyway, as once I graduate and have a steady job I plan on getting a highway capable scooter from a reputable brand.


  10. Howard Says:

    I have over 25 years experience riding, maintaining, repairing, and selling atvs, motorcycles, and scooters. I started out as a technician, then became a salesman, and then a general manager for a motorcycle franchise. I am now a partner of a motorcycle/scooter franchise in south Florida.

    I have owned various Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, and said to be European brands of scooters. The fact of the matter is that all scooters, and their components originate from Asia. Higher end scooters such as Lambretta, Vespa, Genuine Scooter Company, TGB (Taiwan Golden Bee), etc. have chinese components on them, and are engineered the same as chinese scooters. Vespa scooters occasionally have repair issues on as chinese scooters do. The GY6 CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)patented and cloned technology is used on chinese scooters, and on higher end scooters such as Vespa/Piaggio. These European, and Japanese brands partner with building plants in China, and other portions of Asia to build their scooters so that they can keep their operating costs to a minimum. The only real difference you will notice on a Vespa/Piaggio vs. a typical chinese scooter is that the Vespa/Piaggio is a lot heavier. Hence the Piaggio/Vespa is composed of heavier and more durable materials not to mention a much more heavier price tag.

    Chinese scooters are a cost-effective and reliable alternative solution from purchasing expensive scooters. Not to change the subject, but you can always spend more money on say a Jaguar, a Saab or a Mazda; or you can spend less on a Ford and realize that these four brands are coming from the same place, and have the same components. Also, realize that nearly 60% of the items you buy on a day to day basis originate from China, or somewhere in Asia. Therefore, it can be construed to be rather assinine and hypocritcal to say that chinese brands of scooters are much more inferior to Japanese and European brands of scooters when all of them have the same technology, same components, and originate from the same place. Again, why spend thousands more on a Jaguar X Series sedan, when you can buy a nice Ford Tauras. If you didn’t notice, they are the same car; only the Jaguar is more glamorized, and modified to a certain extent.

    Now, compare the following scooters:


    Tank Classic 50cc, Viaggio 50/150
    TNG Venice 50cc, Milano 150cc
    Schwinn Laguna 50, Hope 50, Newport
    SunL SL150T-26 150cc



    Honda Metropolitan 50
    Yamaha Vino 50/125/150
    Piaggio FLY 50/150
    Vespa LX 50/150, LXV 150, S 50/150

    Same scooters but only have slightly different parts.


  11. Richard Says:

    I’ve been entertaining the thought of buying a big brand name scooter, or buying a less expensive korean, taiwanese, or chinese brand scooter for some time now.

    I test drove a Vespa scooter from some guy that was selling it off of craigslist since the Vespa dealers in the area would not let me test drive one. The scooter ran well, and handled nice. Although, I thought it ran rather sluggish, although it had only 300 miles on it, and was in mint condition.

    I then went to a nearby dealer that was selling chinese and taiwanese scooters. He let me test drive every one I considered. The chinese scooters suprisingly ran well with plenty of power, and speed. I didn’t really see much of a difference of how the Vespa ran, and handled in comparison to the chinese scooters I test drove. Yes, the chinese scooters I test drove did seem like a cheaper version of the Vespa I initially test drove. However, I noticed that the chinese brands have almost exactly the same components, and are to a “T” designed and engineered in the same fashion as a Vespa.

    I ended up buying one of these chinese brand scooters, “Lance” to be exact, for $1,400.00 plus tax, title, and registration. I’ve owned this scooter since September 2008, and ride it at least once a week if it is not raining, snowing, or is icy outside. I have not encountered one technical, or mechanical flaw with this scooter yet. It starts right up, and runs well all the time. I will say that it runs a lot better with premium gas, or gas with octane boosters in it.

    I did not have any problems obtaining my registration from PennDot. I received my registration within 4 weeks after purchasing the scooter. I know of two other people who purchased chinse brand scooters in Pittsburgh from local dealers, and they had no problems obtaining registration. Maybe, PennDot is just being bureacratic and picky towards a few brands or dealers selling chinese scooters.


  12. Orlando Says:

    When you buy a Vespa scooter, you are mainly just buying the name, “VESPA”. Just as if you bought a Coach purse for $450.00, when it only took less than $10.00 to make that purse. Yes, you got a nice purse with a popular brand name on it but was it really worth the $450.00?

    Vespa scooters are very overrated, and overpriced. Don’t get me wrong, they are a nice scooter and I wouldn’t mind having one if I had the money just as if I had a few million dollars to spend I would buy a Bentley, Mercedes, Aston Martin, BMW, Jagaur etc. However, the only reason they appear to be popular and superior to other brands is because they have been around since 1946 when Piaggio got their patent for the scooter. The reality is that they are not as reliable as people are led to believe. They have their bugs just as any other brand of scooters do. They are very expensive to maintain, and get parts for. Yes, they have a warranty but if the dealer decides that the warranty does not cover the repair you are in the hole for expensive parts just for an overpriced scooter.

    Dealers want consumers to believe that there is only one brand of scooter, and that is a “VESPA”. Anything other than a Vespa is a cheap “knock off” sold by some “Fly By Night” dealer. Factually false! Don’t be mislead by a desparate Vespa salesman who hasn’t sold a scooter in several weeks because the inventory is way overpriced.


  13. Ching Says:

    Hello, my name is Ching. I am a former Chief Plant Engineer of several scooter manufacturer plants in Shanghai, Taizhou City, Zhejiang, Taiwan, and Japan.

    Several of these big brand name motorcycle retailers such as Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Vespa/Lambretta/Piaggio, even Harley Davidson have contracts with manufacturing plants in China to produce motorcycles or scooters. China is one of the top leaders in low cost components, materials, and production which is why these big brand name motorcycle retailers utilize them for production. The quality control of production in these Chinese plants is not that of Japanese plants but is getting closer every year with steady improvement. The plants in Taiwan are coincidently worse than the plants in China in terms of quality control.

    The issue of scooter purchasers not getting registration for their scooter is because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA is very slow, takes their time, or sits on updating their database for vin decoding filings submitted from these scooter manufacturers. To summarize, since the NHTSA fails to update their database in a timely manner with vin number decoding submission filings sent to the NHTSA from these scooter manufacturers, people who buy a scooter cannot get registration because the decoding of the vin number of that particular purchased scooter is not recognized by the NHTSA, and then obviously not recognized by PennDot as a result. All because the NHTSA took their merry time to update their database with vin decoding submission filings submitted to them from these scooter manufacturers.

    PennDot works in connection with the NHTSA, and has to follow their standards. If the decoding of a vehichle’s vin number is not recognized by the NHTSA, then it is not recognized by PennDot. As a result PennDot cannot issue registration for the vehicle.


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