World's Most Popular Motorcycle Returns to America
By Ben Mack EmailApril 24, 2009 | 12:01:59 PMCategories: Motorcycles
The world's best-selling motorcycle is returning to the United States after a 26-year hiatus.
Sym, a former Honda subsidiary based in Taiwan, is bringing what it calls a new and improved version of the venerable Honda Cub to the United States. The 100-mpg Symba sports the Cub's timeless step-through design but updates the bike with a smoother transmission, improved suspension and other features.
Three hundred dealers have placed orders for the Symba, and U.S. distributor Carter Bros. says the motorcycle could roll into showrooms as early as next month.
"One thousand pre-ordered Symbas are currently in a cargo ship on the Pacific Ocean and bound for U.S. shores. They should be arriving in Long Beach in a couple of days," Pete McIntosh, director of marketing and sales told Wired.com "And that's just the beginning. You can bet more are soon to come. We anticipate a large demand."
With the economy in the dumps and auto sales languishing, Sym is confident there's a market for a cheap motorcycle. U.S. scooter sales hit an all-time high in 2008, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.
"If you look around the world you'll find that there are scooters everywhere," McIntosh said. "It's a reliable low cost form of transportation that's recession-proof."
The Cub is everything you need in basic transportation. It's cheap, it's efficient and it's damn near indestructible. Honda has sold more than 60 million of them in the past half-century. Sym knows better than to mess with success, so it's pretty much sticking to the formula Soichiro Honda created in 1958.
"Due to the following of the Cub, we intend not to replace but to advance its style to a new generation," McIntosh said. "This is why we're going with the ad slogan 'You can make new friends but keep the old ones on a Symba.'"
The slogan refers to the advertising campaign the Japanese company used to launch the Cub in America: "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." The Cub, and the campaign behind it, brought motorcycles to suburbia. Honda quit selling the Cub in the United States in the 1980s, when it was called the Passport. But they're still sold elsewhere in the world.
The Symba advances Honda's design by improving the front fork, adding an adjustable shock out back. The 101-cc engine produces 6.7 horsepower. The motorcycle also gets a semi-automatic four-speed transmission and will carry a $2,600 price tag. That's about $1,000 more than a Cub. Longtime Cub enthusiast Nathaniel Dahl, who writes the independent blog TeamSymba.com, says the Symba is worth the added cash because it's such a sweet little bike.
"Times have changed," he told Wired.com. "The fastest-growing segment of the motorcycle market in America is scooters. This sets the stage for the Symba to bring that classic look back to a market that is on the move and ready for something new and exciting."
We wonder how long it will be before actor, moto-geek and Ewan McGregor wingman Charley Boorman abuses a Symba like he abused a Cub in this classic vid: