Vespa Charlotte is now open on Independence Boulevard.
A friend of mine used to swear by her Vespa, so I drove down Independence to check out the new dealership and ride a scooter.
Vespa Charlotte is owned by Ken Lipack, who also owns Harley Davidson of Charlotte. Ken told me he hopes to sell 50-80 Vespas each year, which felt like a very achievable number to me.
The Vespa dealership is inside the Harley Davidson dealership, to the right.
Vespa Charlotte had about 15 scooters in the 2,000-square-foot showroom. Ken explained to me that there are three different models based on engine: 50cc, 150cc and 300cc.
- 50cc models cost about $4,200 and have a top speed of 40 mph.
- 150cc models (most popular) cost around $5,500, go 60 mph and get 98 miles per gallon.
- 300cc models cost about $7,500, go 73 mph and get 76 miles per gallon.
Honestly, I thought the scooters would look kind of dumb, but the design is retro cool. It’s full metal on the outside, not plastic. The scooter is super comfortable and you can store stuff in a glove compartment or in a storage area under the seat.
What are the Charlotte scooter laws, and do you have to register a Vespa?
For the 50cc model, you don’t need a driver’s license, but you have to register it as a moped and insure it.
Above 50cc you need a motorcycle license, registration and insurance.
Registration is about $100 and full coverage insurance is about $200-$300 a year (but liability insurance is all that’s required and is less).
I test drove a red 150cc Vespa and loved it. Vrooom!
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle and generally know very little about cars, let alone motorcycles. But Ken told me it was super easy. He was right.
You sit down. Hold the brake. Turn the key to start the engine. Let go of the brake, turn the handlebar for speed, and put your legs up. The scooter wasn’t particularly heavy or light; it felt manageable and sturdy. It couldn’t have be more simple to operate and working the parking kickstand thingy was also simple.
I rode the Vespa around the dealership parking lot. Given the circumstances, I was too scared to open it up and go top speed.
I’m interested to see how these Vespa scooters sell.
Starting at about $4,000, they’re not cheap — but they’re also not super expensive, especially for the young, urban, rich crowd in a neighborhood like South End.
Are they fun toys for the young rich?
Are they car alternatives for urban dwellers that need speed and flexibility?
Are they stylish scooters for the neighborhood suburbs?
Or are they a good-looking product without an addressable market?
Only time will tell, but my bet is that we’ll see more of these on the streets near Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.