Why scooters are on a roll
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They offer the best mix of style and comfort
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India is the world’s largest two-wheeler market at over 16 million units sold annually.
Yet, their growth is not uniformly spread across segments with scooters having outpaced industry by more than two times. In 2010, scooter sales took up 16 per cent of domestic sales which has nearly doubled to 30 per cent. This translates into 25 per cent growth annually.
Historically, scooters have been associated with older people and women. In most cases, they played the role of the family machine used in daily errands. Motorcycles, on the other hand, were preferred for better fuel economy, longer journeys, better ride, handling and engine performance.
With bikes more suited to Indian road conditions together with an inherent appeal to the young, why are scooters gaining ground? When we seek to understand the reasons by examining the perspectives of over 19,000 two-wheeler owners across India, three key reasons emerge.
The first is the comfort factor. Scooters have seen technical advances in key attributes taking them closer to, and in some cases surpassing, motorcycle-like performance. For instance, scooter wheels have evolved from 8” to 10”, sometimes even 12”, with tubeless tyres as the de facto standard.
In addition, motorcycle-like telescopic suspension is now available in scooters providing longer travel and better shock absorbing characteristics. More scooters now offer front-disc brakes along with a system that coordinates brake application between the two wheels. This assures safer braking combined with shorter braking distances.
Most importantly, a scooter weighs on average eight per cent less than an average economy or executive segment motorcycle which is an important consideration factor for women riders. Scooters now offer ride, maneuverability and stability characteristics rivalling and at times better than a motorcycle.
The second key reason for the scooter wave is their versatility and contemporary features. They are traditionally designed with key features such as accommodative footboard, a protective front panel, large under-seat lockable storage that provide comfort, flexibility and ease of being driven especially for women wearing saris. Several contemporary add-ons have been included into scooter design such as an OE charging port valued by the connected generation.
Style quotient has also played a big role which appeal not only to a wider demographic range but also to young men who were never considered potential scooter buyers earlier. Styling features also double up as practical riding attributes as in the case of optimised seats which make it easy for a rider to plant both feet on the ground while seated; a centre stand designed for easy use; and a body design that helps in vehicle balance. Fuel economy is an important purchase reason in a price-sensitive market like India. Findings from JD Power syndicated studies show that scooter owners reported a fuel economy of 45 kmpl as compared to 55 kmpl in motorcycles.
Nearly 50 per cent of two-wheeler owners ride an average 500 km per month. Though fuel spend on a scooter (₹ 41,427) is 20 per cent higher than a motorcycle (₹33,747), it has not affected their popularity as scooter owners travel much less. Less than a quarter of them ride for relatively long distances (defined as more than 833 km per month) and are, therefore, not very sensitive to fuel costs.
The writer is Director, JD Power Asia Pacific. With inputs from Rajat Agarwal,Research Specialist.