Action star Jackie Chan, co-star of "The Forbidden Kingdom," says his Chinese dealership for the Segway scooter is doing well — but Segway's owners are keeping his costs up because they won't let him assemble the battery-powered vehicle in China due to piracy fears.
China is a leading source of pirated goods ranging from movies and music to sporting goods and medications. Beijing has imposed tougher penalties and launched repeated crackdowns, but companies say violations are more prevalent than enforcement.
Such fears have prevented Segway's owners from allowing Chan to build the two-wheeled scooters in China, where costs are lower, said Chan at a security fair Wednesday in Hong Kong.
"They're afraid of people stealing the technology," Chan said, adding that he was confident Segway executives would change their minds as Chinese sales grow.
A basic Segway scooter is about $10,000 — pricey in a country where the average worker makes less than the equivalent of $100 a month.
Chan also said he didn't start the business to make money but to bring the clean technology to China.
"This is very little money to me. I don't rely on this to make money," he said.
Chan's business partner, Matt McGuire, said their dealership was aiming to sell 600 to 1,000 Segway scooters in China this year. McGuire said the Beijing Olympics would use about 100 scooters for security patrols and transporting grounds staff, and that the Beijing airport's new terminal has ordered four of the scooters.
Armed police in the eastern province of Shandong have also bought 30 scooters to patrol the Olympic sailing venue in Qingdao, he said. Among the Segway models on display at the security fair Wednesday were a police model and a camouflage-colored military version.
When the Segway scooter hit the market in 2001, American inventor Dean Kamen predicted it would make the car obsolete in congested cities. This has yet to happen.
Nevertheless, McGuire said Asian interest in the Segway was strong, with Chan's dealership growing "significantly" since its founding in 2006 and annual revenues now in the millions of U.S. dollars.
Chan also sells the scooters in his hometown, Hong Kong, as well as in Macau, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.