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Milestones

Published on: Sept. 20, 2021, 7:06 a.m.
The glorious journey of the ‘wasp’
  • Vespa’s memorable ride across the globe

By S.M. Boothem

The Vespa was born on the 23 April 1946 in post-war Italy and is now celebrating its glorious journey of 75 years which also coincides with India’s 75 years of Independence. Piaggio first licensed the production of Vespa scooters in India in the 1960s. In 1983, the company produced the P series scooter for the Indian market. In the 2012 Auto Expo held in New Delhi, the iconic Vespa re-entered the Indian market.

Piaggio unveiled its range of scooters at the Expo. This became the first such venture of Piaggio in India without a local partner. For Indian markets, the Vespa was officially launched on 26 April 2012 in Mumbai. To mark the grand event, Piaggio India recently unveiled the 75th edition of Vespa – limited units of this specially crafted are available to customers across India.  In the last 75 years, Vespa models have gone through a complete transformation in terms of look and design.

“We, at Piaggio India live the Vespa culture of freedom, originality, spontaneity and innovation. Vespa has lived the idea of emancipation, independence and exploration with light mobility. Being always fresh, vibrant, young and unconventional, the Vespa 75th edition celebrates the iconic history and special values of Vespa and depicts them with special execution. We celebrate the value of independence through the Vespa 75th, at the same time India celebrates 75 years of Independence”, said Diego Graffi, CMD, Piaggio India. 

“Vespa is not just a vehicle, but a lifestyle icon that has gained global stature and transcended trends. Celebrating its 75 glorious years with a creatively designed Vespa 75 edition represents the most exciting journey into history while looking at the future of mobility through its values. The Vespa 75th will offer Vespa fans an opportunity to symbolise the values of freedom and originality,” added Sudhanshu Agrawal, Business head – 2W, Piaggio India. 

Piaggio invented the Vespa in 1946. Having successfully established itself in the worldwide two-wheeler segment, Vespa was launched in India in April 2012. The company has a plant in Baramati, Maharashtra, where it manufactures the iconic Vespa alongside the Aprilia SR and SXR range.  

  • Graffi and Agrawal with Vespa, a lifestyle icon

    Graffi and Agrawal with Vespa, a lifestyle icon

History and birth

After World War II, in light of its agreement to cease war activities with the Allies, Italy had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity. Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera bomber plane plant demolished by bombing. Italy’s crippled economy, and the disastrous state of its roads, were not immediately conducive to the re-development of the automobile market. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio’s founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy’s urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses. 

At the end of the war, Enrico Piaggio gave Corradino D’Ascanio, an aeronautical engineer, the task of designing a new type of two-wheeled vehicle. D’Ascanio built a completely new two-wheel concept which was totally innovative. Unlike motorcycles, he placed the engine on the rear wheel, a highly original concept. In September 1945, the MP6 prototype remained completely nameless until it was presented to Piaggio. Upon seeing the MP6 for the first time, Enrico Piaggio exclaimed: “Sembra una vespa!” (It looks like a wasp). Piaggio effectively named his new scooter on the spot – Vespa. 

Star connection

In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome – the popularity of the film helped boost sales. In 1956, John Wayne dismounted his horse in favour of the two-wheeler to originally get between takes on sets. Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and the entertainer Abbe Lane became Vespa owners. William Wyler filmed Ben Hur in Rome in 1959, allowing Charlton Heston to abandon horse and chariot between takes to take a spin on the Vespa. In recent times, Bollywood has taken a leaf out of the international page and used the Vespa in several movies. The Italian style, attractive and colourful Vespa is famous not only with Indian customers but also with Hollywood and Bollywood actors and is often part of their movies.

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