The Vespa turns 75 and at the same time celebrates the 19 million units produced, a record that no other two-wheeled vehicle can boast. Since that 23 April 1946, when Piaggio filed the patent for the new scooter, three quarters of a century have passed and the Vespa has spread all over the world. It has united young people from distant and different cultures in a single passion, as well as being the first truly global mobility brand. It has spread to very distant social environments, adapting to different cultural phenomena, being part of the customs that have changed over the decades. In the third millennium, then, its diffusion grew exponentially: in 2004 the total production reached 58,000 units, which became 100,000 in 2006, then 180,000 in 2017 and more than 200,000 in 2018. In the last decade more than one million and eight hundred thousand Vespas.
75 years of Vespa, 19 million models have been produced since 1946: images from the beginnings to the latest models
Today the Vespa is produced in three production sites: in Pontedera for Europe and the western markets, in Vinh Phuc, in Vietnam, for the Far East and India and in the ultra-modern Baramati plant, opened in April 2012, from which the Vespas for the Indian market. The European range covers four models, the Primavera, the Sprint, the GTS (up to 300 cc of displacement) and the Vespa Elettrica that looks to the future. Going back in time, however, we rediscover a story that began in Genoa in 1884, with the twenty-year-old Rinaldo Piaggio who founded the company of the same name. The sector in which it initially operates is that of the construction of naval furnishings, and then extends the activity to carriages, railway carriages, engines, trams and special bodies for trucks. With the First World War, Piaggio enters the aeronautical sector, a business in which it will operate for decades to come.
In the years leading up to the Second World War, Piaggio was one of the major Italian aircraft manufacturers. Precisely for this reason the plants of Genoa, Finale Ligure and Pontedera are a war target and are destroyed during the conflict. After the end of hostilities, Rinaldo Piaggio’s sons, Enrico and Armando, took care of the new start of industrial production. Enrico Piaggio opted for a total industrial reconversion, focusing on the individual mobility of a country emerging from the war. The Vespa was born precisely from his determination, first with the MP5 prototype “Donald Duck” which recalled the small motorcycles of paratroopers. But the style was not convincing and Corradino D’Ascanio was commissioned to review the project. The aeronautical designer did not like the motorcycle which he considered an awkward vehicle, bulky, with tires too difficult to change.
The peculiarities of the Vespa were born in this way. The direct drive engine to facilitate maintenance, the handlebar gearbox to simplify driving and the link suspension to change the wheel without problems, while the integral bodywork protected from dirt and did not force you to climb over to climb. When Enrico Piaggio saw the new MP6 prototype, which had a very large central part to accommodate the driver and a narrow “waist”, he exclaimed: “It looks like a wasp!”. The very first series was produced in two thousand copies with the 98 cc engine, followed in 1947 by the 125 cc. Within two years, production grew to 20,000 pieces per year, while in 1953 the annual total – including the Vespas produced under license – already exceeded
170,000 units. In 1956, just 10 years after its birth, the first million units built are already celebrated. A real revolution, which makes the Vespa famous all over the world. The Times defined it as “an entirely Italian product like no one had seen for centuries after the Roman chariot”.