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Scooters Get Boost From High Gas Prices

Some retailers are having trouble keeping scooters in stock and are concerned about the future availability of the vehicle, some of which can get over 100 miles per gallon.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) -- Lately, the scooter business has been booming at Hanners Wholesale and Retail in Jackson.

Since March, the business has sold more of the small but economical vehicles than in all of last year. Owner Mike Hanners attributes the spike in sales to the sharp increase in gas prices.

''This is the biggest craze I've seen in the scooter business,'' Hanners said. ''This will continue as long as gas prices continue to rise.''

In fact, business has been so profitable that Hanners is having trouble keeping scooters in stock and is concerned about the future availability of the vehicle, some models of which can get more than 100 miles per gallon.

''Right now, demand is bigger than supply,'' Hanners said. ''The trouble I'm having is that my warehouse supplier could run out of scooters and that could cause a shortage of them for not only my business but others in this area.''

Hanners does not expect to receive the next shipment from his main supplier, Tank Sports Inc., until mid- to late June.

The increase in fuel costs has forced Tank Sports Inc. to increase the cost of each scooter by $100 to $130.

At Little Red Shed Repair in Perryville, which also is supplied by Tank Sports, owner Terry Wengert has had to increase his price for a scooter by $75 to $90. So far, Hanners has not increased the retail price of his scooters, but he said that could soon change.

''I'm holding on to where I'm at, but if I see any more increases from the manufacturer, I may have to raise the price,'' Hanners said. ''People will still buy them because it seems they are a popular method of transportation these days.''

Last year, more than 131,000 scooters were sold nationwide, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Irvine, Calif. Eleven years ago, the number was 12,000 scooters.

If history is any indication, scooter mania will not end anytime soon.

Wengert said most of his clients have been schoolteachers.

''It's simply amazing,'' Wengert said. ''They actually have chosen to ride the scooters back and forth to work instead of using a vehicle that is more costly fuelwise.''

While the scooter business is booming, the sale of new RVs is level.

Dan Hill, general manager for Youngblood's Capetown RV Supercenter in Cape Girardeau, said that while most potential first-time buyers are opting to not purchase the vehicles, current RV owners have been using his business' repair services on a regular basis.

He added that RV owners are still traveling but are vacationing closer to home because of rising fuel prices. While the price of gas has risen dramatically within the past few years, Hill said, RVs are still the cheapest method of travel considering the cost of a hotel room.

''Since 9/11, it doesn't seem like people travel abroad like they used to, which is good for the RV business,'' Hill said. ''Those people now are more apt to take trips like those family vacations, and some of them use RVs to get around.''

Kyle McDowell, owner of McDowell South in Jackson, said RV sales are ''right on track to where they were this time last year.''

Still, McDowell said his business is offering a variety of benefits with the purchase of an RV, such as gas coupons and a free night's stay at a Perryville campground.

''We know people enjoy camping, and an RV is the perfect way for families to enjoy that quality time together,'' McDowell said. ''This is our way of helping out people who are considering buying one.''

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