The iconic scooter brand Vespa has been relaunched in India last month. The return of this scooter will bring back memories to lakhs of Indians especially in the age group forty five and above.Time was when one would had to wait upto five/six years after booking to get the delivery of the vespa scooter. It was the prefered two wheeler vehicle of the country and commanded a premium for many years. I myself have purchased a four years old vespa scooter at a a price of Rs 5500/- when its factory price was around Rs 4000/-
It was made in India, first,by Bajaj Auto and later on by LML Motors. The vespa killed the competing Lambretta scooter in India with its superior design,looks and smooth running. Vespa had become the darling vehicle of the Indian middle class and was considered safe for seating ladies and children. The one most seen sight was the father driving the vespa with the wife seated behind holding the young baby and the elder child standing in between the driver seat and the steering handle. Many a time one would see three adults on the vespa.
Vespa is basically an Italian brand manufactured by the Piaggio &Co Spa.The first vespa design/model was patented on April 23,1946,in Florence ,Italy. It was debuted in the 1946 Milan Fair and 50 nos were sold. The company sold 2500 vespas in 1947,more than 10,000 in 1948, 20,000 in 1949 and over 50,000 in 1950 .However in 1952,when the Hollywood film, Roman Holiday, featured Audrey Hepburn riding the pillion of the vespa behind Gregory Peck, the sales zoomed past the 100,000 mark. Thec popularity of vespa resulted in its being manufactured inthe mid fifties, under licence, in Germany ,UK, France, Belgium and Spain. By the early sixties it had been introduced in India, Brazil and Indonesia. By 1956 a million had been sold and touched two million by the sixties.By the 1970's four million were sold and nearly ten million were sold by the end eighties. By the time vespa celebrated its fiftieth anniversary it had sold nearly 15 million scooters worlwide.
From a single model in 1946, it has today a wide range of models with engine capacity varying from 50 cc to 250/300 cc, with most popular being 125 and 150 cc models. Now the company is into development of a range of hybrid scooters.
In India the vespa was manufactured by Baja Auto from early sixties till 1971 when the licence was not renewed furthur, but Bajaj continued manufacturing the Chetak model based on Vesap design till a few years back. In 1983 LML Motors and Piaggio formed a joint venture and manufactured vespa scooters till 1999, when the partnership ceased.
At the 2012 Auto Expo held in Delhi, Piaggio displayed a range o fvespa scooters and on April 26,2012 launched the Vespa LX125 model in the Indian market.At one time Vespa meant freedom,imagination and style. Does it do so today also remains to be seen.The Vespa has thus reentered India after a long gap during which motor cycles have become very popular and it would be very interesting to see how the Indian customer responds to the Vespa.The return of the iconic Vespa scooter will be followed keenly by everybody interested in two wheelers.