The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy—to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio—now Europe's largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles and the world's fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales.
From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.
The Vespa was the first globally successful scooter.
In 1884, a twenty year old boy founded Piaggio, a company based in Genoa. After a few years, the company began to produce rail carriages, goods vans, coaches, engines, truck bodies and, during the World War I, it even built airplanes and seaplanes. In 1917, Piaggio bought a new plant in Pisa and. after four years. a new one in Pontedera, Italy, where Vespa would be founded many years later. Even if this factory was heavily damaged by bombs, Enrico Piaggio had the resources to rebuilt it.After the war was ended, Enrico Piaggio wanted to create a product for the masses and above all, a low cost product that could be available to all people. In order to reach this goal, he produced a scooter called Paperino, meaning Donald Duck in Italian, based on a motorcycle the parachutists used in the past.The first step was made, so, next year a new Vespa motorcycle was officially launched. It was equipped with a 125cc engine. In 1946, the company sold 2484 bikes while next year the number increased to 10535. By 1948, the production reached 19822 and three years later 171200 vehicles with the Vespa signature were out. Four years after the Vespa has been on the market, the scooter was produced in 13 countries, sold in 114 nations and copied in USSR where the Viatka 150cc was pretty much the popular Vespa scooter.The first Vespa was powered by a 98 cc engine, produced 3.2 bhp at 4,500 rpm and could reach a top speed of 60 km/h. It was kept production for two years but , in 1953, Vespa 125 suffered a major engine improvement, the power output being increased to 5 bhp at 5,000 rpm, and the top speed was now 75 km/h.In comparison with the previous model, Vespa 150 GS could reach a maximum speed of 100 km/h. However, the company worked a lot on the scooter and new models were prepared for the next years. For instance, in 1963, the Vespa 50 was rolled out, being available in multiple versions. The last one, the ET4 50, which was released in 2000, was able to cover 500km thanks to its large tank capacity.Vespa has won a lot of awards, being considered the best Italian motorcycle just after Giancarlo Tironi, an Italian University student, reached the Arctic Circle on a Vespa. Moreover, Carlos Velez has crossed the Andes from Buenos Aires to Santiago del Chile on the same scooter. In 1980, two Vespas PX 200 crossed the finish line of the second Paris-Dakar rally.Due to the competition coming from other brands, Vespa needed to be revamped so a new model, the ET, was officially released. It was lighter than the previous models, it came with an automatic gearbox and could comes a series of engines from a 50 cc in either two-stroke or four-stroke, up to a 150 cc four stroke.In 2003, the company was close to bankruptcy, mostly due to the millions of dollars spent of plans and products which have never been released. However, the company managed to face the financial problems so the company still exists nowadays.
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