While Chinese-based two-wheel and ATV manufacturer CFMOTO no longer offers scooters in the USA (at least, according to their website), those of us who went through the 2008 boom/bust cycle in the scooter market remember the brand all too well. CFMOTO was the one mainland Chinese brand that seemed to actually sell a real scooter. This even included a clone of the Honda Helix called the Fashion and a 250cc motorcycle with an automatic transmission.
Well CFMOTO got the business end of the EPA regulatory stick recently when they were levied a $725,000 fine (settlement) for selling more than 12,000 scooters, motorcycles and ATVs between 2007 and 2013 without getting them properly EPA certified. In particular, they were cited for not including proper fuel evaporation capture systems, and not correctly displaying emissions information.
In addition to the fine, CFMOTO will have to recall the effected vehicles and either replace their fuel tanks with units that include the correct evaporative capture measures, update emissions control labeling, or both.
In the past decade, one thing hurt the long-term viability of the scooter market more than anything else: a massive influx of cheap, inferior scooters from mainland China. They arrived by the container load and were sold by auto parts stores, fly-by-night operations and well-meaning retailers with no idea how to support them. These bikes suffered from poor design, poor manufacturing, no dealer support, terrible spare parts availability, and the list goes on. Unsuspecting buyers thought they were getting a bargain, but what they got was a machine that was unreliable at best, and dangerous at worst. In the end, it was a combination of EPA enforcement and state DOT de-registration of most of these terrible scooters that got them off the road. Now it looks like CFMOTO has been retroactively caught up in that same regulatory dragnet, even though they’ve since moved on from scooters.
In their defense, the machines sold under the CFMOTO label in those days seemed to be the exception to the crappy scooter trend in terms of mainland Chinese bikes. Yet it seems they still weren’t quite playing by the same rules as everybody else in the USA scooter market. That goes for any manufacturer. If Vespa has to put a catch can on their tanks, then so do you. If Genuine has to jump through a hundred hoops to get the Stella 4T EPA certified in California, then so do you.
Today, the scooter market has changed significantly. Brands like Bintelli are now working to legitimize scooters built in mainland China. It’s an uphill fight of perception for those of us who remember the market in 2007 and 2008. Yet their approach is promising. Bintelli is building a nationwide dealer network. They’re offering dedicated parts and service support. And according to their spokespeople, they’re overseeing the manufacturing and quality control of the bikes they import. They’re also adding the Adly brand from Taiwan to their lineup. So it would seem that it can be done. Hopefully the folks at Bintelli can take a lesson learned the hard way by CFMOTO and make sure all their paperwork is in order.