Scooter Underground

Scooter Underground - Brief History

 

Starting in 2017, Scooter Underground will be dedicated to being the best portal site for scooter entusiasts. We will be providing reviews and links to great products, great dealers, and great service locations. We will be objective.

History of Scooter Underground

Scooter Underground opened its first retail shop in Victoria, BC, Canada in the fall of 2007. Prior to that, there was nearly 3 years of planning and research. To make a long story short, the reatial shop closed after in 2010 but the desire to promote scooters and electric bikes as viable transportation modes has never waned.

The founder, Michael Stevulak, was no stranger to the transportation business, being a partner in Pacific Mazda in Victoria for 20 years.  Stevulak has always been a concerned environmentalist and was looking for more environmentally friendly and cost effective transportation modes.

Some local urban transportation problems and environmental issues were driving forces behind establishing Scooter Underground. While there was talk of mass transit in the Greater Victoria area for a long time, nothing seemed to be happening. The “Colwood crawl” was getting worse even though the highway had been widened. “One employee who takes the bus to work from the Western Communities said he counted 67 car this morning before he found one with more than one person in it. This is crazy and it is unsustainable – as we create urban sprawl, we must have cost-effective and environmentally sensitive ways of moving people.”

A few years earlier, Stevulak and his wife were on a vacation in Europe. They noticed that there were scooters everywhere. Most city blocks had reserved spots for free scooter and motorcycle parking and they were crammed full.  People embraced scooters as a cost-effective mode of urban transportation and they were having fun on their commute.

The seed of an “Urban Transportation Store” was germinated and efforts were focused on gas scooters, electric bikes, electric motorcycles, and electric cars. “We already saw a lot of great bicycle shops  and motorcycle shops who were serving that part of the market well and we did not want to step on their toes” says Stevulak.

A business partner of Stevulak, Jay Holliday, had spent a lot of his time travelling and backpacking around the world. (Jay was a founding partner of the website www.backpackerbucks.com) He claims to have ridden more different scooters in more countries than anyone else.  “While everyone tends to think of Honda, Yamaha, and Vespa, when you mention scooters, Jay knew there were many other great brands of scooters out there that had not made their way to Canada yet (because Canada is a relatively small market in the global scheme of things)” says Stevulak.

Over the period of a few years we tried to establish relationships with many of the other great scooter companies of the world such as KYMCO, PGO, SYM, TGB, Peugeot, -- we even tried to get into the business of importing scooters ourselves.  “We tried to import a really cool German scooter called the Sachs MadAss that was now being produced in China. We wanted to do everything properly by-the-book such as meeting all of the Transport Canada safety requirements -- a very long and expensive process. We had exclusive Canadian distribution rights and we have the Madass trademark. We were well along the road, doing everything properly and ethically, only to see the same scooters being sold by a company in Quebec. Even though we thought we had all our bases covered and had a good working relationship, our first experience with doing business with China was not a good one” says Stevulak.

Rather than getting bitter or tied up in legal wrangling that was likely to lead nowhere, Stevulak just views the whole process as an education “Doing Business in China 101”. We are well aware of how important it will be to do business with China and India in the years ahead and we want to continue to forge good relationships with quality companies in these countries.

 “ Taiwan is totally different” Stevulak says. “Great products, emphasis on quality control and customer satisfaction, -- great people to deal with. That is how we ended up carrying mostly Taiwanese brands. In scooters, when you think of Taiwan, these are the top-shelf products. Most Honda’s and Yamaha’s are made in Taiwan (not Japan), and Taiwanese companies also make key components such as the transmissions for Vespa scooters. “ Most of the companies we deal with were offshoots of associations with Honda, Yamaha, and Vespa.  “I would put KYMCO’s quality up against any scooter manufacturer in the business. They are the #1 scooter company in Taiwan and I can see why with the winning combination of quality and value that they offer” says Stevulak. KYMCO has been ivolved in joint ventures with BMW for some motorcycle and scooter engines - that is the level they are at.

The key to our business plan was that we wanted to be an Urban Transportation store and not a traditional Power Products store. This means that we did not want to carry the big motorcycles, dirt bikes, and ATV’s that most manufacturers have in their lines and require dealers to carry.

When we looked around us, we saw businesses who we thought were serving the motorcycle market fairly well. But they viewed the scooters as a bit of a pain in the ass – low profit margins, different servicing requirements etc. Most of those stores were also carrying the ATV’s. Scooter riders were being treated like second-class citizens.

“In our concept of an Urban Transportation store, it simply did not make sense to me to have some backs-woods-chewing-bambi-shooting  ATV sitting on the sales floor side-by-side with one of our eco-friendly electric bikes” says Stevulak. " The Taiwanese manufacturers and distributors seemed to be more open to giving our concept a chance – they let us cherry pick the products from their line that we thought were most appropriate for our target market.”

So who is the target market of Scooter Underground? Early on we recognized that scooter riders were different than motorcycle riders. Their basic needs are often different and they want a different identity and different accessories.

We guessed that the market would be at least 50/50 male/female and it is...it may even be skewed a little bit more to the female side. We also guessed that the demographic would be skewed towards a younger audience – on that one we were, happily, dead wrong. “We probably have as many customers over the age of 50 as we do under the age of 25” Stevulak says. “Many people with European backgrounds who are going back to their younger years and can use the excuse of higher gas prices for hopping back onto 2-wheeled transportation.”

To round out our product line on the electric bike and electric scooter side of things, we sought out people with expertise in these areas. We found a youg fellow named Todd Johnson who was very tapped into sustainable modes of two wheeled electric powered bikes and scooters.

“We’ve probably tested a hundred different types of electric bikes and scooters. The problem is that 99% of it is junk. Maybe not junk, but designed to carry a 125 pound Chinese rider over flat ground in warm, dry weather – not exactly what we have here in Canada and particularly on the West coast” according to Stevulak. “We finally narrowed our selection down to a couple of brands that we can sell and support. This is important technology and we are on top of it.”

Stevulak and Johnson partnered to form Quiet Revolutions Enterprises Inc. which focuses on importing and distributing electric bicycles and related products.

With regard to electric cars, we think they are important and exciting but still a little ways down the road. This is a very politically charged area right now and a regulatory nightmare. The technologies are getting better at lightning speed and when the pieces come together, we will be on top of it. Whether it’s ZENN cars or Project Better Place, or one of the major auto manufacturers adjusting to the new paradigm, the electrics are coming. How they will be sold, licensed, regulated, and insured, is still up in the air. Price will also be a major factor for several years as will the servicing requirements.

It has been a very interesting journey to this point and we are looking forward to a very positive and dynamic road ahead.

Scooter Underground is dedicated to constant improvement and the only way to do that is through a great motivated staff, great training, and constantly being on the lookout for opportunities.

Update

By 2017 , we will continue to provide excellent information to the scooter community and we will align ourselves with the best repair shops in the country to recommend to scooter enthusiasts and electric bike enthusiasts.

We may sell some products and accessories through affiliate sites. We will also be supported by advertisers be we are commited not to let this change our objective reviews and recommendations.

At the end of 2011, Scooter Underground made the decision to switch to an online business in 2012. The margins in new scooters became so small that it was simply not worthwhile to rent space and employ well-trained staff to inventory and sell scooters - the economics did not work for us... and we were one of the most successful scooter retailers in Canada.

 

Thank you for your support!

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