"The Piaggio company was founded in Genoa in 1884, by twenty-year old Rinaldo Piaggio. It moved from timber machining to the production of ship fittings, and later aeroplanes and seaplanes, built at that time in wood and canvas, first at the Finale Ligure factory and subsequently in Pontedera (Tuscany). Piaggio became one of the country’s largest aircraft manufacturers. For this reason, the Finale and Pontedera plants were considered strategic targets and were bombed during World War II."
"In 1946, as Italy embarked on postwar reconstruction, the rebuilding of the main Pontedera factory was assigned to one of Rinaldo’s two sons, Enrico, who opted for a full conversion focusing on personal mobility. He achieved his ambition, a stylish vehicle for the mass market, thanks to the extraordinary design work of his most talented aeronautical engineer: Corradino D’Ascanio."
The Birth of the Legend
"The brilliant inventor took as his starting point the prototype known as “Paperino” (Donald Duck), on which he implemented a series of revolutionary changes. He eliminated the drive chain, with the wheel driven directly from the transmission, put the gear lever on the handlebar, designed a monocoque frame and enclosed bodywork to protect the rider. In April 1946, the MP6 prototype took shape. Seeing it for the first time, Enrico Piaggio commented: \"Sembra una vespa!\" (it looks like a wasp). He gave the go-ahead for mass production of the first Vespa 98 cc, offering luxury optional features like a speedometer, a side stand and stylish white-trim tyres."
The Development of the Miracle
"Among those who understood the brilliance of the idea and the usual sceptics, the latter were soon to change their minds. Production soared: from 2,484 scooters in the first year, the total reached 19,822 in 1948 with the new Vespa 125. In 1950, with the first German licensee, output reached 60,000 vehicles. Three years later, it soared to 171,200, and the number of Piaggio service stations around the world – including America and Asia – rose to more than ten thousand. This magical period was only the start: soon the Vespa would be produced in 13 countries and marketed in 114 countries around the world."
A World Stage
"Having inspired a thousand copies and imitations, in 1953 the Vespa celebrated the production of the five hundred thousandth model while starring with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the movie "Roman Holiday". In 1956 shipments topped the one million mark. By 1960 they had risen to 2 million, then 4 million in 1970 and more than 10 million in 1988. To date, Piaggio has shipped more than 18 million Vespa scooters. Contributing to this success were scooters that have become legends, like the Vespa 50 in 1963 and dozens of models that, over the years, have renewed the myth. The Vespa 150 GS of 1955 was the first “sports” model to reach 100 km/h, followed by the 180 SS in 1965. The 125 Primavera of 1968 became one of the symbols of a generation that left its mark on the history of the world. The 180 Rally from 1968 introduced the new and more powerful front headlamp, the 50 Elestart of 1970 launched an electric starter system, while the imposing 200 Rally of 1972 became the Vespa for travellers exploring the world."
The Decade Of Change
"After the stunning expansion of the previous years, Piaggio began thinking of ways to adapt the Vespa to changing city lifestyles and traffic. In 1976 the 125 Primavera ET3 featured an electronic ignition system and 3 intake ports. In 1978 the P 125 X introduced a complete bodywork make-over, while the P 200 E had separate lubrication and, for the first time, direction indicators incorporated in the body. In 1984 the PK 125 marked the debut of automatic transmission, the most radical change since 1946. In 1985 the T5 Pole Position was the first "super sport" model, with an aluminium cylinder for better dissipation of the heat generated by the scooter’s high power. In 1989 the 50 PK N became the top performing "Vespino" - little Vespa - while in 1996 the ET4 125 was the first Vespa scooter with a 4-stroke central engine and automatic transmission: launched to mark the Vespa Jubilee, over the next two years it became the best-selling branded two-wheeler in Europe."
The New Millenium
"In the autumn of 2000 the ET4 50 was the first "Vespino" with a 4-stroke engine. It's record-breaking range (more than 500 km with a full tank) put the Vespa stamp on the millenium of the digital revolution. Meanwhile the Vespa returned to USA: ten years later, the Vespa LX/S would be the best-selling European two-wheeler in the States. The years between these two events were at a time of comebacks. From the timeless PX, which has topped the extraordinary figure of three million shipments in a career spanning more than 30 years, to the Granturismo, the first Vespa with a four-stroke, four-valve, liquid-cooled engine. From the GTS 250 i.e of 2005 to the GTS 300 super of 2008, from the S 50 and LX 50 4V of 2009 to the recently unveiled LX 3V and Vespa S 3V, the last few years have witnessed a succession of engine and stylistic improvements."
"Today more than ever, the Vespa is a global brand: the Pontedera factory turns out Vespa scooters for Europe and the Western markets, including the Americas; in Vietnam, the Vinh Phuc plant produces vehicles for the local market and the Far East countries; in India, the brand new Baramati plant, which opened in April 2012, serves the Indian market. The Vespa also continues to set the pace in terms of aesthetic and technological innovation. With the arrival of the LX/S and GTS/GTV families, production has more than tripled over ten years, during which time more than one million new Vespa scooters have appeared on the world’s roads. Today the 946 perfectly embodies the Vespa’s intention of continuing to provide a window on the future while honouring its legacy. The legend demands nothing less."