Importer looks to take stigma out of Chinese scooters
Liz Hochstedler, Associate Editor
June 11, 2012
Filed under Features
Bintelli builds dealer network as scooters begin shipping in July
Justin Jackrel has heard all the complaints about Chinese scooters, and he’s experienced all the issues himself. Many scooters come unassembled, requiring hours of work to be showroom-ready; several are discovered to be damaged or inoperable; parts can be hard to find, and customer support is lacking.
But all Chinese manufacturers don’t fit into the same category, Jackrel said, and the right distributor can make all the difference. After years of importing subpar brands himself, Jackrel and his colleagues have decided to create their own brand, Bintelli.
Bintelli scooters are specially designed scooters from the Znen manufacturing facility in China. A few importers distribute the Znen brand, but Bintelli adds unique touches to its vehicles. Each Bintelli scooter engine is load tested and run on a dyno for 30 minutes, so it surpasses the traditional breaking point of unsatisfactory manufacturers. The scooters are then delivered to the Bintelli warehouse in Gainesville, Fla., where staff assembles the scooters and packages them in recyclable cardboard for safe delivery to dealers.
“What we’re doing is what the dealer wants,” Jackrel explained.
Though other Znen distributors report only two to three defective units being shipped per year, if a unit in need of repair is delivered on occasion, Bintelli will pay the dealer for any service.
“The dealers are getting compensated for major repairs that they have to do,” Jackrel said. “We don’t expect them to work for free.”
Jackrel visited a few factories in China before choosing Znen as Bintelli’s manufacturer. Bintelli has assured that each scooter features a MotoBatt battery, a Gates belt, NGK spark plugs, Duro tires, a Deni carburetor and all stainless steel hardware. Each scooter also comes with a limited two-year warranty.
“It’s not the cheapest Chinese scooter, but it’s the best Chinese scooter,” Jackrel said.
Not only did the quality of the scooters draw Jackrel to Znen, but the culture of the factory did as well. Each Znen employee enjoys working there, he observed. During a factory visit, Jackrel even watched as the employee in charge of valve adjustments stopped the whole line when he found an error; the line was restarted after a fix was made.
“Little things like that really come through,” Jackrel said.
Jackrel and his colleagues, who also run Road Rat Motors, Bintelli’s sister company, knew what they were looking for in a manufacturer because they have more than a decade of experience importing products from China. In 2000, Jackrel and one of his friends began importing stand-up gas-powered scooters from China. Though they no longer are in that business, Road Rat Motors has been importing and distributing go-karts and electric vehicles since the mid-2000s.
In an effort to bring scooters into its distribution mix, the company has worked with several Chinese manufacturers. Jackrel has 10-15 models from some of those OEMs still in his warehouse, waiting for parts that never came. But Jackrel said dealers shouldn’t harshly judge all Chinese manufacturers because they’ve had similarly bad experiences.
“It’s not up to the country; it’s up to the factory and how they train their employees,” Jackrel said.
In addition to superior scooters, Bintelli is offering customer service and parts support out of Florida. The company also re-wrote the 50-60 page user manuals for each of its models, so they’re all in understandable English.
Bintelli’s first shipment of scooters for distribution will be delivered to Florida on July 1, with the second coming a few weeks later. Bintelli is focusing mostly on 49cc scooters, though it has one 150cc model in its lineup.
“Unlike other companies out there who are starting with 20 models and can’t keep them in stock, we’re starting with five models,” Jackrel explained.
The company plans to have 7-10 models in its lineup by the end of its first year of distribution, but it’s careful about expanding.
“We’re trying to make sure that we’re doing it the right way and not just spreading ourselves too thin,” he said.
The models each carry an MSRP of $999-$1,500, and dealers will make a 45-65 percent margin on each sale.
“I think in the first year of selling, we’re hoping for 2,000-3,000 pieces sold,” Jackrel said, adding that the figure is equal to the average sales of other distributors.
In order to sell a few thousand scooters in its first year, Bintelli is seeking to build a high-quality dealer network. The company already has signed six dealers and is in negotiations with about two dozen others. In early May, prospective East Coast dealers received direct mail from Bintelli, and West Coast dealers were contacted later in the month. About 300 mailings were delivered.
Bintelli is looking for dealers who understand what the company is delivering above and beyond that of other distributors. It seeks dealers who understand the difference between a $699 scooter and a $1,299 scooter and can explain those differences to a customer. Dealers who carry five to six lines are sought over those who carry more, as Bintelli wants enough attention given to its brand and others in the dealership.
“We’re being kind of selective because you really only have one chance to do it right,” Jackrel explained.
Each dealer will be given a 15-30 mile territory, and each is required to order five scooters initially. Parts orders are not required, but Bintelli offers a list of recommended parts to stock. For dealers who don’t stock parts, they can be ordered from Bintelli’s expanding 14,000-square-foot facility, and shipments will be sent every day.
Dealers who are active in customer service, events and on Facebook are ideal, and the staff at Bintelli combs through Google Places reviews before giving dealers the OK.
“We like to just use the term ‘gets it,’ someone that gets what we’re going for and doesn’t just want the cheapest scooter out there,” Jackrel said. “We’re looking for someone who’s going to stand by their customer.”
With Bintelli based in Florida, it has been convenient for the company to focus on Florida dealers first. The Florida territories are almost all spoken for, with only four or five still open, but much of the rest of the country is still available.
“I would love to have 50 dealers by the end of the year, but to me, I’d also like to have 15 dealers that are pushing units and that are being taken care of,” Jackrel said.
The response to the new scooter brand has already been explosive. Bintelli had to open a fourth phone line in May because so many calls were coming in that staff couldn’t make calls out of the office. Even more traffic was expected after the West Coast dealers saw materials from the company.
Bintelli is focused now on distributing its first shipment — of which one-third to one-half is already pre-ordered — and building its dealer network. Marketing efforts have so far been focused online, but Bintelli plans to launch national marketing initiatives in the coming months, and it has already looked into exhibiting at upcoming trade shows.
Through his efforts, Jackrel will be working to convince dealers and customers that Chinese manufacturers can produce high-quality products and Bintelli is willing to stand by its scooters.