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Most manufacturers cut their teeth on small bikes. They figure out what works, what needs to be improved, what their customers want and go from there. But, in 1946, Piaggio became one of very few manufacturers to get it right first time when they designed the Vespa.
Built in response to the need for men and women to have access to affordable transport in post-war Italy, no-one could have predicted that, within a decade, this little scooter would sell more than a million units.
The Vespa was very much the product of aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio. He was charged with making a vehicle that could be easily driven by both men and women and capable of carrying a passenger and keeping the driver’s clothes clean.
With the Vespa, Piaggio passed with flying colours. The scooter even led to the coining of the Italian word “vespare”, meaning to travel to a location on a Vespa.
The original Vespa 98 and subsequently more powerful 125 gave Piaggio more than enough cash to bankroll new developments which they invested in the cute and quirky 3-wheel Ape and 4-wheel Porter commercial vans.
Since that very first Vespa, almost every model released, from the Vespa 50 to the later LX and PX models, has been incredibly popular with fans of the brand.
The Vespa ET4 is particularly well-known for having appeared in many Hollywood films. This has helped to extend the Vespa’s popularity into the modern day.
Even decades after the first Vespa model was put to market, Piaggio has continued to break ground. It was, for example, responsible for two world firsts in 2004: a gas-electric hybrid scooter and a tilting scooter that can more effectively grip the road through using two front wheels and a single back wheel.
However, for all the plaudits the Vespa has received, there is still far more to Piaggio than this line. In fact, the company has been responsible for an impressively long list of renowned scooter and motorcycle brands and models.
For example, Piaggio is the parent company of Aprilia, an Italian motorcycle brand historically known for making scooters and small capacity motorbikes, and which has also started making, in more recent times, large sportbikes including the 1,000cc V-twin RSV Mille.
Piaggio also owns the manufacturer Derbi, another purveyor of various motorbikes and scooters. Its models have included the road-ready Derbi GPR 125 2T and scooters Derbi Manhattan and Derbi Hunter.
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