The next three months will be crucial for London dealers suffering a scooter sales slump as a result of last year’s epidemic of machine theft, acid attacks and “moped-enabled crime”.
That combination, plus resultant spiralling insurance premiums, Brexit and Euro 4, hit registrations in the capital hard and has been described by the dealer who was attacked by an acid-throwing thug last July as “the perfect storm of shit”.
David Rosenberg, speaking after his 17-year-old attacker was jailed for 10.5 years on 12 March, said the events of last year had hit his company, Scootech, hard, and a repeat this year would put people out of business and leave him struggling to survive.
“2017 was a difficult year generally but London dealers had a dreadful time, the kind of year that will put people out of business if it is repeated … It was the perfect storm of shit, basically.
“Volumes shrank dramatically. It started with Brexit. That quickly led to increased prices, which is a disincentive, obviously, and then there was a reduced range of machines because of Euro 4. Most manufacturers cut back their ranges because they obviously hadn’t planned far enough ahead and a lot of bikes were not compliant.
“Then in the middle of 2017 you started to get this exponential growth in bike theft and also moped-enabled crime – phone thefts and so on.
“We were selling Vespa 300 GTSs, which was one of the bikes of choice for criminals. Everybody was getting them stolen and then buying another one, only for that to be stolen as well, and when it happened again they would just say ‘I’m not buying any more bikes’, which you can understand.
“If repeated this year, I would be struggling to survive, and if the market remains in the state it is at the moment it would be difficult.
“What happens in the next few months – from April to June – is crucial.”
Rosenberg said things had quietened down in terms of theft but fears that could be seasonal. “If the lull is maintained and there’s not too much bad publicity about scooters, people’s confidence may return. Insurance premiums are still really high – many are up by 50%, with excesses of £1000 on a £3000 bike not uncommon – and they may take a while to come down again, if they ever do, which is a problem.
“We are being cautious. We will just have to wait and see really. It’s a real ‘watch this space’ for the next three months.”