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Follow The LEAD

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Are you following Honda’s LEAD?  It’s coming to America (following the SH150i) in August this year, re-badged as the new 2010 Elite (let’s call it the Elite 110), sez Honda Powersports.  You can follow the LEAD here.

Well, you may argue that American Honda Co. had missed out on the “Scooter Boom of 2008″ and you maybe right; however, cautiously yet steadily, Honda has been expanding its scooter line-up here for the still-hungry American buyers.  First, there was the SH150i, introduced in June; and now resurrected and re-designed, the new Elite–all grown up with a larger-displacement PGM-FI engine, new suspension, new brakes, with 12″-front and 10”-rear, entirely shedding its ugly-duckling image of the old and arriving so stylishly at your local Honda showrooms in August.  At least that’s the plan.

Here are some excited praises from Honda’s PR:

Meet the 2010 Elite… Honda’s newest scooter.  Modern, sporty styling, comfortable seating with two -up capacity and strong, responsive performance in a sleek and highly economical scooter are the hallmarks of the new 2010 Elite. This stylish new scooter has it all. Featuring a new 108cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected four-stroke engine and a light-handling chassis, the new Elite provides all the comfort and quality of a Honda in an affordable around-town runabout that anybody can enjoy. Quick trips to the store and other errands are the Elite’s Specialty, thanks to a generous under-seat storage area that’s big enough to stow a full-face helmet and more.  (Available in Red or Black.)

First and foremost, the (base MSRP) price of US$2,999.  Pretty expensive you think for a 108-cc.  In Japan, it’s listed for ¥273,000 (about US$2,837), in UK £2,020 (approximately US$3,337), and in Italy it is selling for 2,150 Euro** (Wow, guess what, about US$3,000).

In the $3,000 range, the new Elite will have many competitors:  SYM HD125 $3,298, Vespa LX50 $3,299, Vespa S50 $3,199, and Piaggio Fly150 $2,899, just to name a few.  Cheaper than the Vespa’s, you say, and this, I believe, will explain why:

製造国/中国. 製造事業者/五羊-本田摩托(広州)有限公司. 輸入事業者/本田技研工業株式会社.

OK, so I will translate that excerpt from the Honda Japan site for you where it clearly states: “Made in China by Wuyang-Honda Motors (Guangzhou) Co., Ltd.  Imported by Honda Motor Co.” This apparent transparency (so Japanese), interestingly,  is repeated again on the Honda Italia site also, read “Costruita in Cina“.  You guessed it, “Made in China”.  Recalling the earlier official message from Honda PR:

…the new Elite provides all the comfort and quality of a Honda in an affordable around-town runabout that anybody can enjoy.

“I don’t care if it’s Made in China”, so you say, regardless of your political view; and perhaps “The Age of China” has finally arrived with this “recognition” or “endorsement” by Honda, the most trusted name in quality in motor history.  If Honda can trust the Italians to design it (I am guessing here)  and the Chinese to build it, so can you, right?  Remember those three Vespa and Piaggio scooters mentioned earlier?  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they were entirely made in China, or partially-assembled elsewhere (perhaps in Italy) with parts manufactured in China  (under Italian quality control, of course).  How else do you account for the prices of current Aprilia scooters being so competitive, huh?  I wonder if that also explains why the seats are so hard…?

Finally, the specs on the new Elite (or LEAD 110, as they are called in UK):

Engine
Engine Type Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 2-valve SOHC single
Engine Displacement 108cm3
Bore & Stroke 50 x 55mm
Compression Ratio 11: 1
Carburation PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Max. Power Output 6.6kW/7,500min-1 (95/1/EC)
Max. Torque 9.3Nm/6,250min-1 (95/1/EC)
Ignition Fully transistorised electronic
Starter Electric

Transmission
Gearbox Centrifugal; automatic
Final Drive V-belt

Dimensions and Weight
Length x Width x Height 1,835 x 665 x 1,125mm
Wheelbase 1,275mm
Seat Height 740mm
Ground Clearance 105mm
Fuel Capacity 6.5 litres
Dry Weight Kerb weight: 114kg (F: 48kg; R: 66kg)

Wheels, Suspension and Brakes
Wheels Front U-section 5-spoke cast aluminium
Wheels Rear U-section 5-spoke cast aluminium
Tyres Front 90/90-12M/C (44J)
Tyres Rear 100/90-10M/C (56J)
Suspension Front 33mm telescopic fork, 80mm axle travel
Suspension Rear Single-damper unit swingarm, 70mm axle travel
Brakes Front 190 x 3.5mm hydraulic disc with Combined dual-piston calliper, drilled rotor and resin mould pads
Brakes Rear 130mm Combined leading/trailing drum

A review of the Honda LEAD 100 scooter (yeah, it’s the predecessor of the 110, and much similar to the old Elite 80’s lack in mechanical sophistication) can be found at The Scooter Review, where in New Zealand you could buy one  for as little as 2,395-NZD (just over US$1,540.  What?!)

Thank you, Lindsay, for the dig.  See you in August, Elite 110.–Lorenzo

___________________________________________________________________

**I modelli contrassegnati con beneficiano dell’eco-incentivo governativo:  500 Euro di sconto in caso di acquisto con conseguente rottamazione di un veicolo EURO-0 od EURO-1 (350€ per i 50cc)–Basically (according to Google Translate) Honda Italia is telling you that “the models marked with”  are eligible for the eco-governmental incentive (Italian style bail-out):  500 Euro discount when you buy with consequent destruction (trade-in?) of a vehicle designated EURO-0 or EURO-1 (older emission standard?) (€ 350 for the 50-cc).

P.S.  found this on http://ww1.honda.co.uk/motorcycles/ :

Economy is hard everywhere you go; but apparently harder over there in UK.  Currently American Honda does not have such sweet deals.

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