Vespa PX to return?

With rumors swirling that the 4-stroke LML Star/Genuine Stella sales are sparking a P-series competitor from Vespa, our pals at French site Scooter-Station asked Jean-Philippe Dauviau, Marketing Director of Piaggio France “Will the PX be produced again?”

Dauviau answers that several markets have requested it, and it’s likely, though it wouldn’t be a 4-stroke.

Rumors of a 4-stroke P have circulated since the 1980s, so one wonders why Piaggio has been unable to engineer such a bike. If demand was insufficient over the last 30 years, it’s no surprise they wouldn’t bother now. LML managed to build a bike that Piaggio seems to think is impossible, for far less than Piaggio would charge for it. LML sales are good in a few markets, but it’s still a niche product, especially in France and Italy. We’ve been arguing on forums for months now that it’s even LESS likely than ever that Piaggio would put out a 4-stroke P, and this looks like proof that we’re right. If anything, we can look forward to yet another limited edition of mildly more eco-friendly (ironically, probably reed-valved like the original Stellas) 2-stroke PX150s (in white, red, or black!) targeted at the Brits and Germans and ridiculously overpriced here in America (and–hello 1985!– not available in California).

Oddly, we’re starting to agree with Piaggio. They’ve moved on, let LML have that market. As Dauviau points out*, the modern Vespa is superior in every way, aside from simplicity and tradition, and a 4-stroke engine and partial tube frame blows the simplicity/tradition argument anyway. As far as styling, the P-series is no VBB or GS, and the modern Vespa S and GTS are both proof that the design of the modern Vespa can evoke the past AND break new ground in reasonable balance. Sure, we vintage Vespa fans don’t want to see things that way, but the compromises required to manufacture and import scooters these days will never allow our dreams to come true anyway. That’s what vintage Vespas are for in the first place, remember?

*Dauviau’s statements echo one of our all-time favorite Vespa foot-in-mouth debacles, and in hindsight, we’ll admit Sambuy’s opinion had merit, it was the timing of his argument with the release of new PXes that cracked us up, and if Piaggio does reissue the PX, it will be making the same reactionary mistake again. (In that light, I fully expect Bajaj, who has repeatedly slammed “nostalgia” and recently officially discontinued all scooter production, to announce a retrotastic Chetak any day now.)

14 replies on “Vespa PX to return?”

  1. I ride an ET2 to work every day and love it. Modern scooters are great. But it is definitely not superior in every way. The classic design with 10″ wheels, floorboards low and parallel to the ground and an effective lower seat height (by virtue of reasonable width) make the ergonomic aspects of the traditional chassis superior to any modern scooter in every way. Modern P-series machines with a good front disc brake and similar suspension to a modern automatic Vespa take the argument down to the engine. The P-series engine is as outdated as it is well proven. These aspects don’t quite counter balance each other. The modern CVT driven engine generally makes more power per unit of displacement and puts that power to the road in a much more user friendly manner.

  2. A reborn 2-stroke PX wouldn’t just be unavailable in California… it would be unavailable in Washington, Oregon, the northeastern states and any others that have adopted California emission standards. The whole country will be doing the California thing by 2016.

    Anyone who knows anything about the cost of manufacturing would be able to point to innumerable things on a PX that would make it hideously expensive to build outside of India or Vietnam. And yes, demand would be quite limited.

    But I would be very happy to buy something from Piaggio that’s designed and built in the spirit of the PX: easy DIY maintenance, removable panels (I’d be totally okay with plastic—cheaper, and more damage-resistant) and the classic manual transmission. So they buy the 4-stroke engines from LML. So what? Lotsa P-series parts come in boxes that say “LML” and “Made in India” on them…

  3. I’m coming around to the opinion that history is history and it’s time to move on. It was nice having the PX in production for so long, and I’d have no problem with continued production if it meant available spares forever (that might be the case anyway.) I think the 4T Stella breaks a barrier where it’s just not a P anymore. It may be a fine bike and create its own history, but from a practical standpoint, it no longer shares much with the P-series other than aesthetics. Here’s wishing it a long and prosperous future, but it’s a new beginning, not a continuation. (The) La Vita (that sounds weird) is another way to tackle the issues, and while it has merits (a fairly accurate representation of an even more classic body, and a more reasonable price point) it doesn’t fully succeed either. The Modern Vespa is another way to move forward it, and it too improves on some levels and fails on others. “You just can’t have everything,” as Stephen Wright said, “where would you put it?”

    I’ve always said “Vintage good, modern good, retro bad.” and I feel more strongly about that than ever. Just as with automotive design, we’re stuck with a ridiculous amount of varying worldwide legislation that makes good design nearly impossible, especially when you’re also constrained by predetermined manufacturing procedures and an institutional refusal to start with a clean slate and try anything truly new. When you look at the variety of engine designs, body designs, and general engineering feats of the 50s-60s scooters, you see nothing like that today, everything is a tube frame with a similar CVT engine and superficial plastic bodywork. Even the Vespas’ monocoque frame is a parody of the simplicity of the original, with a design clinging to tradition.

    Restrictions should BEGET good design, not prohibit it. A good designer like Corradino D’Ascanio looks at restrictions and sees innovation. Vespas had a goofy one-sided-fork and airplane wheels because that’s what was available. They were pressed steel because airplanes were pressed steel. They were olive green metallic because Italian military aircraft were olive green metallic. All of those limitations were turned into assets.

    What do you do when different countries have different turn signal placement laws that conflict with each other? I dunno, but whoever solves that problem (and a thousand others) will be on the path to the next great scooter.

  4. And Brooke, i agree that there are ergonomic issues with most scooters, but I don’t think old scooters handle ergonomics better, just differently. I prefer bench seats without a hump, but I really like having storage under the seat too. I like the shape of a primavera seat, but not the metal rod through the middle and cruddy springs and padding. I like a lot of footroom, but a 2′ wide platform on the bottom of a scooter probably isn’t very aerodynamic or practical with a tube frame these days. Obviously everyone has different expectations, but they’re all based on what has been done before, starting from scratch might find whole new solutions to these same questions. It might create whole new problems. The Vespa is magnificent but it leans to the right. A smallframe carburetor is a pain to access. 6v lights suck. 8″ drum brakes suck. We overlook these problems because they’re pretty, but if a $3800 modern scooter really handled, braked, and illuminated like an old scooter, we’d be appalled.

  5. Unfortunately, sound engineering is often trumped by the dictates of marketing. We have gas-electric hybrid cars because the Japanese are scared to death of getting diesel fuel on their hands (true!), even though diesels consume way less fuel.

    The vast majority of non-scooterists (who are going to be the ones to create a viable scooter market) are more interested in something that evokes a vintage vespa. Just like the RUBs want the classic Harley design. In the U.S., 2-wheelers with engines are toys, not transportation. They will probably remain so thanks to the half-century drumbeat of America’s safety establishment, which says everything is dangerous.

    As we’ve both noted, someone with deep pockets, tenacity and a revolutionary design (not to mention revolutionary marketing) is going to be the one to make riding a scooter a mainstream activity. I doubt I’ll live to see this happen…

  6. I think you argue yourself into a corner there. As with Stephen Wright, the issue of the underseat storage area and a narrow seat is a problem of having it all and nowhere to put it. You can’t have both. I believe if people were given the choice between a reasonable seating position and the ability to carry a gallon of milk they would choose a reasonable seating position. But people aren’t given a choice. They are given the ability to carry a gallon of milk covered by an enormous seat that makes the saddle effectively taller.

    Currently there are WIDER platforms that take up more space (empty space beneath plastic) because some ‘designer’ thought it looked nice. No other reason. But these wide platforms consume space and leave less left over for the actual user of the vehicle. And the Vespa engine design being outdated was the core of the last part of my comment. The lean and sometimes awkward parts placement is an issue where the modern SOMETIMES excels. Try and change a spark plug on an ET4. Just about as easy as working on a smallframe carb. And before that I wrote how modern P series bikes have disk brakes and sufficient suspension equal to a modern Vespa. Clearly a complete 40 year old machine is an antique. But the chassis (including suspension and brakes) of a modern P-series Vespa has significant advantages over a modern automatic Vespa. The difference is wanting it all and having found somewhere to put it. It’s just happened to be where the rider used to be.

  7. I know of a horde of 2T PX150’s brand new in crates, just waiting to be had.

    I heard a story about Peter Warrick, in his pre- Scooter Superstore days and in 2006 the Vespa PX 150 was no longer going to be brought over to the states. He contacted Moto Bravo of Atlanta, and wanted to purchase a shipping container full of PX’s, and have them shipped to Florida. The owner caled Piaggio, who scoffed and said they will only do that if he bought TWO containers.

    So he did

    They are still sitting on a hundred of these, brand new in the same crates they were brought over in. Last time I talked to Ty at the Midtown Atlanta store, they still had plenty of Silver, Red, and Black for $4000 each.

  8. My dear friends of scooter-station did well on this one. Anyway, less than 200 Stellas will be sold by the end of the year, in France even if the PX still got a strong image there.
    Driving everyday the streets of Paris make it clear : only a few people want a pure oldschool ride. We’ve been testing both Stella and La Vita (sold as Neco Italia) and both are very far from beeing accurate for our type of commuting. The LaVita is cleary a chinese built scooter, thus underpowered and fitted with poor suspensions and brakes.
    Vespa LX and GTS are selling quite better : with these models, Piaggio sell lifestyle as Harley does with motorcycles. But scooter users are more praticaly-minded than motorcyclists. As Illnoise wrote, todays restrictions must inspire new design. In its onw way, Honda PCX is a sort of 21st Vespa : easy to ride-affordable-styled-efficient-2wheeler. Something Piaggio should probably look at.

    More than 1 200 Hondas were sold in two month time … So maybe PX should just remain history.

  9. Yes, the reports of Stella sales in Italy and France seem like a nail in the coffin of widespread PX production. Like I said, it’s a niche market, a market better served by LML, honestly. Especially in the US, where most folks wanting a Stella for “credibility” are cheap, broke students and 20somethings that would never drop $5K on a ‘real’ P-series.

    If Vespa was REALLY smart, they’d work out a deal with LML to license their name again. LML jacks the price up $800 and makes an extra $400 per bike, Vespa makes $400 a bike for doing absolutely nothing, and it’s still almost a grand cheaper than a “real” PX150. And it would fuck over Genuine, which Piaggio would love.

  10. Uh, isn’t the 4-stroke Stella just an LML/Bajaj bastard love child? Hey Vespa, want to get a few Vintage riders to go to the dark side? Put a 4 speed manual transmission on the 300 Super. I’d remortgage my house for one of those.

  11. The 4T Stella is an LML Star, it has nothing to do with the Bajaj 4-stroke Chetak other than a few engineering similarities.

    A 4-speed manual in a modern Vespa is just as unlikely as an automatic 4-stroke vintage Vespa. It’d require a total redesign of the engine and target only a tiny fraction of what they see as their market. Frankly, Piaggio doesn’t care about converting a few thousand vintage scooterists to new Vespas, they want to get millions of European commuters on MP3s.

    The 4T Chetak was a failure. It sold alright in the small U.S. market, but no one else in India or the rest of the world bought ’em and they were discontinued after a couple years. The LML 4T Star/Stella has a better shot because it’s a more accurate copy of the P-series. But it’s still a small market better and as I said, I’m coming around to the argument that LML can better serve it than Piaggio.

  12. There is no doubt the GT and LX are a more reliable and safe to ride scooter but having rode my PX200 to work every day around London for the past 4 years I could never change even if it is biting my own nose off.

    I work in a piaggio dealership and have rode the GTS300 out for a month and it’s nippy but is incredibly dull at thesame time. I need the clunking of gears!

    I know that there is a new updated version of the PX due in early 2012 and am already saving for it. I will of course keep my old P range as we have many years ahead.

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