Month July 2009

Month July 2009

‘Scoot coupes’ hit the streets as comfy mo-ped alternative

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Visitors to Hawaii can rent convertibles, four-door compact cars, Hummers, mo-peds, Harley-Davidsons — and now, scoot coupes, or three-wheel scooters.

Basically, it’s a scooter with three wheels (two in front and one in back) that can seat two and go up to about 40 miles per hour.

MiniCoupe Hawaii, a new business launched in February in Waikiki, occupies this new niche and plans to open a dealership soon to sell the scooters as well.

The business, owned by a San Francisco couple, is the exclusive dealer in Hawaii for Scoot Coupe, which is manufactured by Panther Motors in Florida.

Other cities on the mainland already rent out the coupes — in San Francisco a company rents them out as GoCars.

In Hawaii the coupe is categorized as a mo-ped, and thus, only a driver’s license is required to operate it. Helmets are available, but not required for adults.

Jacob Wankasky, MiniCoupe Hawaii’s sales manager, says the company has a fleet of about 30 that get rented out daily. Most customers are visitors but about 25 percent are local.

“;It’s very popular,”; said Wankasky. “;On a mo-ped you can’t ride together, so with these you can ride together and talk. They’re a lot safer than mo-peds.”;

East Oahu drivers likely have spotted the coupes coasting along Kalanianaole Highway or even as far up as the North Shore.

The scoot coupes are not allowed on major highways, including the H1, H2, H3, Pali or Likelike, although a few occasionally stray there by mistake. Wankasky says every customer is given an orientation, along with a map, showing where they can and cannot go.

People of all ages have been renting the scoot coupes, he said, but they have been particularly popular among baby boomers.

Tony and Mary Salazar of Los Angeles opted to rent a scoot coupe from MiniCoupe Hawaii for a half-day yesterday, instead of a rental car, deciding it was a more interesting way to see Oahu.

The couple was celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.

“;It’s open-air,”; said Marie Salazar at a stop near Diamond Head Lighthouse. “;It’s open, and not as fast, so we can see more.”;

“;It handles nice,”; added Tony Salazar.

For an additional $20, coupe renters can take a GPS-guided tour from Waikiki to Lanikai, complete with narrative information. The company also highlights stops like Leonard’s Bakery and Giovanni’s shrimp truck.

Two models are available: the standard edition and the limited edition. The latter has more luxury features, including an iPod hookup and a four-stroke engine.

The coupes retail for $6,299 to $6,599, according to the manufacturer’s Web site.