Road Ahead

Taiwanese Market: Car Vs. Scooter

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A few companies interviewed at the EV Taiwan trade show in Taipei describe the local economy as bad, which means affordable transportation becomes paramount, giving both electric and gasoline-powered scooters a big advantage over cars.

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Arriving here in the capital city, it’s immediately apparent why the locals love their motorcycles, which we would call scooters in the U.S. because most have gasoline engines displacing only 110 cc.

Meanwhile, most road-going motorcycles in the U.S. start at about 250 cc and range up to 2,300 cc.

Taipei is a fairly large city with a great subway and bus system, but sometimes you want to get somewhere quickly, on your own timetable, taking your own route, perhaps past your favorite dumpling shop. A bicycle doesn’t quite cut it in a city this size.

Sure, you could buy a car, but they make very few in Taiwan, which means you shop for an import. That’s expensive because tariffs and taxes drive up the price. Posters on several Taiwanese web forums say cars here generally are twice the price as in the U.S.

In other words, China’s expanding middle class is enabling millions of people to buy a car for the first time. The same can’t be said for Taiwan.

The market in Taiwan for more-expensive electric cars is even smaller, as the charging infrastructure is not yet in place and models have yet to win legislative approval for sale to consumers.

A few companies interviewed here at the EV Taiwan trade show describe the local economy as bad, which means affordable transportation becomes paramount, giving both electric and gasoline-powered scooters a big advantage over automobiles.

The Taiwanese government is pushing scooters with cleaner-burning engines that sell for as little as NT$50,000 ($1,659), and a small number of electric scooters can be had for similar money after government subsidies are factored in.

So it’s easy to see why Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, is home to more than 11 million scooters.

Scooters are big business here: Taiwan exported 334,621 of them in 2013 for a total value of NT$14.4 billion ($480 million). Scooter exports to the Netherlands and Colombia are up 50% this year.

For historical perspective, car production here grew from 165,000 units in 1984 to 339,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, scooter output in Taiwan ballooned from 677,000 units in 1984 to 1.1 million in 2013.

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at WardsAuto.com. He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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