Kymco giving away Amerivespa trips

Amerivespa 2006 is, happily, shaping up to be quite the pan-scooter event. Starting life as the national Vespa rally combined with Denver’s legendary Mile High Mayhem rally, it also now encompasses this year’s Lambretta Jamboree and Stellabration. Main sponsor Kymco is giving away vacation packages to the Rally to ten lucky winners.

How big is the “Scooter Boom”?

An article from San Diego CityBEAT stood out from the other thousand “Scooters are booming” stories this week. Despite mentioning Audrey Hepburn (DRINK!), author Kelly Davis talked to multiple dealers, riders, and industry sources, and her research (unheard-of in scooter coverage in the media) gives some interesting hard facts we’d never seen elsewhere:

  • “The average scooter buyer is about 46 years old and makes roughly $50,000 a year, according to MIC numbers.”
  • “In 2004, when U.S. scooter sales approached 100,000, by comparison, Ford that year sold roughly 130,000 Mustangs alone.”

So while scooter sales (happily) continue to grow, they’re not necessarily “through the roof” as many of these articles would imply. Furthermore, this boom isn’t a young urban professional movement (as Vespa has insisted since their return), buyers are more likely to be middle-class, suburban baby boomers or retirees. That’s good news– perhaps this is sustainable growth, and a sign that scooters are being accepted by a wider range of riders.

It’s interesting that while most of these “scooter boom” stories focus on the Vespa (many are a direct result of Vespa’s public relations efforts), Vespa likely sold less than a tenth of the 100,000 scooters sold in 2004, and Vespa’s sales actually dropped between 2004 and 2005:

January-August 2005: 7200 units sold
January-August 2004: 7900 units sold
January-August 2003: 6500 units sold
January-August 2002: 4900 units sold
(from Powersports Business, October 17, 2005)

The same source reported Aprilia and Moto Guzzi sales were down 50% in 2004, which may be attributable to financial woes prior to their acquisition by Piaggio.)

The 2004-2005 slide is probably at least partially attributable to the introduction of Piaggio scooters in the US market (it’s unclear whether the numbers include Piaggio, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt), and it further seems unlikely sales haven’t picked up, perhaps exponentially, this year. These are semi-respectable numbers, on par with Vespa sales in the Fifties and Sixties “boom years.” But they’re certainly not great, considering the growing number of US Vespa dealers and the amount of money spent on marketing. One source estimates a big-city dealer is likely spending $100,000 a year on advertising, half of which is reimbursed by PiaggioUSA. That $100,000 figure also ignores Piaggio USA’s requirement (now increasingly being ignored) that dealers present their scooters in an exclusive (expensive) customized boutique. Considering dealer expense vs. profit per vehicle sold, it seems unlikely that even doubling sales in 2006 could cover the expense of a boutique. Piaggio’s move (in many markets) to traditional motorcycle/scooter shops (and less-pretentious marketing) seems to reinforce this theory, and may turn out to save them. 2006’s sales numbers will shed a good deal more light on the matter, if Vespa (and all scooter) sales aren’t notably higher, this may be a short-lived “boom.”

Piaggio museum:
“the great plan of a great architect”

Fuksas' model of the new Vespa Museum

At the recent Vespa 60th Anniversary celebration, Piaggio president Roberto Colaninno and Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas unveiled a model for an exciting new Piaggio Museum. Colaninno called the new museum “the great plan of a great architect,” a 60th-anniversary “gift” for the Vespa.

Fuksas is famous for his painterly approach to architecture and his skill in using existing structures to compliment his designs. The new museum is a perfect example, two layers of red polymer clouds will hover within Piaggio’s expansive Pontedera factory, containing the museum, archives, and a coffee lounge, giving visitors a panoramic view of the assembly lines below. The swooping bubbles of the museum emulate the curvy design of the Vespa (is that an ET4 headlight above?) and hopefully the museum’s function will equal its form, like the vehicle it celebrates.

Fuksas is also famous for keeping a reasonable budget and tight schedule, and again, this project fits the profile– announced on April 27, the museum is expected to be completed in 2007. His other recent high-profile projects include Ferarri’s headquarters in Maranello and the EUR-district Congress Center in Rome.

More photos in the 2sb Gallery (photos courtesy Piaggio)

60th Anniversary Vespa models: Surprise announcement

New Vespa GT60, LXV, and GTV

Piaggio surprised the world today by announcing three new Vespa production models based on the 60th anniversary custom scooters they displayed at the Milan show. The “Vespa GT60” is based on the GTS, but remodeled to emulate the original “Vespa 98” model from 1946. The Vespa GTV and Vespa LXV are retro-styled versions of the GTS and LX: the GTV is modeled after 50s Vespas–a saddle seat, exposed handlebars and fenderlight–and the LXV modeled after the classic Vespas of the 60s. If they make it to America, it’s likely they’ll be in very limited quantities, so call your dealer now, inform them about these new models that they won’t even have heard about yet, and then have them start a waiting list with your name on top.

We’ll add some more details and post many more photos in the gallery later today. No we won’t. we’re not Piaggio’s monkey. Everyone and their mom has posted more photos and specs, Google it. It’s not like they’ll be available here anyway.

Kama Scooter

Karma Scooter

For those of you that think that slow-to-load two-second-long Flash clips featuring two satin-clad chicks dry-humping each other on a Vespa LX would be hot, it’s your lucky day: The Kama Scooter. If they were trying to out-weird Bajaj advertising, they’ve done it. I feel stupid, and kind of dirty, for even posting this. Someone tell Piaggio UK that sending out press releases about a “viral ad”, labeling the site as “Amazing Viral,” and slapping sales messages all over it sorta destroys anything “viral” about it, that’s just called “advertising.”

What you missed if you’re not a hopeless loser that stalks scooters on the internet

The Vespa turned 60 this week. If you missed the news on 2strokebuzz, or here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here, I’ll summarize it for you:

Audrey Hepburn Jennifer Lopez symbol Italy espresso economical style wasp 1946 Vroooooom Can of Corn.

So this is just a reminder that we filter through the PR blather, endlessly rehashed wire stories, ‘Scooter’ Libby updates, high school athletes’ volleyball stats, and Indian stock market reports several times daily just to find those precious nuggets of trivia (“Piaggio is unveiling a commemorative bell tomorrow!”) you care about. Any time Brooke wants to write out his theories about the false economy of scooters, I’ll be happy to print it, because I’m getting really bored with the “As gas prices top three dollars…” stories too (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15— that’s only about half the stories from this week).

Vespa World Club Website

vwc_card.jpgLo and behold, the VWC has a website already. The logo is revealed (a ho-hum rehash of the 50th annivesary logo, and where’s the “cog!?”) as is the organizational chart and a “Statute” outlining club rules– in Italian, though the rest of the site is available in “Italiano (Italia)” and “English (United States)”, aka the correctly-but-oddly-translated “Piaggio English” we love so. It’s happily been taken for granted that current national clubs (indluding the Vespa Club of America) have been listed as VWC affiliates. The “Activities” section, where one would expect to find an international rally calendar, instead lists competition events, perhaps they’re standardizing the gymkhana for international competition? A login promises a photo gallery, forum, and, er, blogs, as if there aren’t enough scooter blogs. (The one you’re reading is one too many).

Leardi named head of “Vespa World Club”

“The key to the Vespa is that it has a soul,
It is not just a piece of machinery.�

leardi.jpgYou may remember reading those words last week during Piaggio’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Vespa. It’s a quote from Roberto Leardi who (we’ve confirmed) was named head of the new “Vespa World Club” at the 57th National Congress of the Vespa Club d’Italia. Leardi’s comment struck us as very insightful, and we hope that as he leaves Rome for his new office in Pontedera he keeps the soul of the Vespa independent from the balance sheet of the company that created it. Piaggio’s choice of Leardi is a good start, and we look forward to hearing more about the goals and organization of the new World Club soon.

FIV replacement announcement soon?

It appears that Piaggio may soon announce a new international Vespa Club sanctioning body to replace the FIV (Federazione Internazionale dei Vespa Clubs), which they mysteriously dissolved in December. The new body is rumored to be called “Vespa World Club” and is likely to be directed by popular Vespa Club Italy president Roberto Leardi. Unfortunately, comments from Piaggio CEO Rocco Sabelli, published in the November/December issue of the company magazine “Piaggiornale,” indicate that this new organization might be under even tighter control of Vespa’s marketing department:

“To this end [adding extra value to our brands], we will be launching merchandising programs based on each brand’s history and traditions for professional and market-oriented use of the Vespa Club, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi communities.”

Hopefully Sabelli’s comment describes an increased investment to support the independent rallies and clubs that keep the scooter scene alive, rather than a plan to co-opt the historic and colorful national Vespa Clubs and re-tool them into Piaggio marketing squads. In any case, EUROVESPA 2006 is still scheduled for Turin this summer, and proudly displaying the FIV logo on their site.

Return of the 5-speed Vespa transmission

The newest Scooterworks mailer offers a 5-Speed Transmission Upgrade for the Vespa P-series and late-70s largeframes. I remember talk of a five-speed kit that was available in the early nineties, but I haven’t seen one for sale in the last ten years. It’s not my bag to tamper with Piaggio’s genius, but if you’re the type who insists his amplifer “goes to eleven,” order now.

Piaggio Hybrids: more info

The Vespa LX50 HyS and Piaggio X8 125 HyS were designed in response to European Union specifications, as well as a growing number of urban zones that prohibit all emissions.

First it should be noted that the HyS prototypes feature all (if not more) of the conveniences and performance of their gas counterparts (albeit at a cost of helmet space and dry weight), and like US hybrid automobiles, generate electric power through braking and deceleration, which is in turn used to assist the gas motor, especially during acceleraton. This results in an alleged 25% increase in acceleration power, and an alleged 20% reduction in emissions. Not magical numbers, but respectable, and certainly a well-intentioned (or at least EU-mandated) step in the right direction. But there’s more.
Continue reading “Piaggio Hybrids: more info”

Piaggio Hybrids: Vespa LX50 HyS and Piaggio X8 HyS


Our report yesterday of “two prototypes” of Piaggio hybrids should have read “Prototypes of two hybrid models:” the Vespa LX50 HyS and PiaggioX8 125 HyS:

Vespa LX50 HyS photos
Piaggio X8 125 HyS photos


X8 125 4-stroke HyS

Combustion Engine
Single cylinder Piaggio Hi-Per 50cc, 4 stroke, 2 valve

Combustion Engine
Single cylinder Piaggio Leader 125cc, 4 stroke, 4 valve
Electric Motor
Functions as an electric motor as well as a generator, power 1 kW
Electric Motor
Functions as an electric motor as well as a generator, power 2.5 kW
Distance range
Up to 20 km (at 25 km/h)
Distance range
Up to 20 km (at 35 km/h)
2 standard 12V, 26Ah batteries for a total of 24V, 26Ah
3 standard 12V, 26Ah batteries for a total of 36V, 26Ah
Battery charger
Included in the electronics, allows the traction battery to be charged while running or by plugging into a 220V socket
Engine control
Drive-by-wire: the electronics interpret and manage rider’s demands based on the state of the system
Acceleration time reduced by approx. 10%
Energy recovery
System recovers battery power during deceleration and braking
Consumption and costs
Reduction of at least 20%. Using electrical recharge, consumption and running costs are half those of a traditional vehicle

More info about how they work.