Why Vespa scooters are so expensive and influencing? A comprehensive study

The biggest USP of Vespa scooters' design is they are simple yet stylishly attractive, cheap to run and easy to manoeuvre in city traffic.
By HT Auto Desk
| Updated on: 28 Dec 2021, 12:25 PM
Vespa scooters come with a timeless design that blends the retro charm with modern elements and features.
Vespa scooters come with a timeless design that blends the retro charm with modern elements and features.

While two-wheelers riders remain fascinated with motorcycles, the world of scooters has a completely different aura and charming glamour. Vespa with its eloquent beauty has always been able to grab a special position in the global scooter market. Introduced in 1946 and owned by Piaggio, Vespa scooters might be small in size, but they are big in terms of impact on modern scooter design and popular culture.

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Even there is a wide range of scooter designs adopted by the two-wheeler brands selling their products in the segment, Vespa's iconic retro design is as charming as it always has been. The Vespa scooters have had a strong influence on modern automotive design and popular culture as well.

In India as well, Vespa scooters have seen a pretty good response in the premium scooter segment. Not only that they sell a good number in the urban premium scooter market despite their relatively high price tags, but Vespa scooters have been influencing the new generation of electric scooters built by a wide range of EV startups.

What makes the Vespa scooters so expensive and influencing?

A Vespa electric scooter from Piaggio at the EICMA show.
A Vespa electric scooter from Piaggio at the EICMA show. (AFP)

Popularity invokes influence

Vespa has been a symbol of Italian style and effortless elegance. In Italian, the name means wasp. The major design element that catapulted Vespa scooters' popularity among consumers is the unisex styling, allowing them to be driven by finely dressed men and women in fashionable skirts. If the rider is riding short, sporadic distances across roadways with low-speed limits, Vespa scooters can become stylishly ideal machines.

The styling of Vespa scooters also represents a key milestone in industrial design and culture as it changed billions of people post World War 2.

Besides that, cult Hollywood movies too contributed to the craze for Vespa scooters. Namely, the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday, featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, where the lead duo buzzed through the Eternal City on a Vespa. This movie alone helped the company to witness soaring sales of more than one lakh units of Vespa scooters in 1953.

Vespa VX 125.
Vespa VX 125.

Timeless design

The development of Vespa scooters began right after World War aiming at building a lightweight two-wheeler that can appeal to the masses. The very first Vespa was dubbed as Paperino and it was built on a monocoque shell with a direct drive engine. Piaggio was not happy with it and asked aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio to come up with an alternative design, who envisioned the iconic Vespa 98.

The scooter came with a step-through entry and a comfortable upright riding position. This design allowed women with a skirt or dress on to ride the scooter. Also, the encasing ensured no grease stain from the engine off on clothes. The iconic design of the original Vespa 98 is what is globally recognised even today.

Innovation on two-wheels

Vespa scooters are not only about iconic style but innovations as well. In a war-torn world, it was a symbol of regeneration and innovation along with a package of design, smooth ride, ease of use, cheap and convenient personal mobility and a promise of a modern lifestyle as well.

An innovative four-stroke electronic injection engine ensures a perfect choice for city riding. Vespa scooters also pride themselves on road safety with their 220 mm double disc brakes, twin-channel ABS braking system and large 12-inch wheels. They also used to come with shorter 10-inch wheels.

Vespa scooters have remained appealing to the young generation consumers.
Vespa scooters have remained appealing to the young generation consumers.

Appeal to youth

After the turmoil of World War, Vespa scooters came as an influencing personal transportation medium for the youth and consumerism throughout the rest of the world. Low prices and popular appeal made them a prime object of desire for working young adults.

Besides that Vespa scooters also helped in uplifting the status of women in society during the 1960s. Prior to this, a woman riding a motorcycle was almost unheard of. However, its universal appeal, strategic product placement in iconic Hollywood movies helped it to become a symbol of feminism.

What do experts say?

The legacy of the Vespa scooters continues to live with full glory. These full metal good looking machines with retro charm are expensive, stylish and influencing as well.

Speaking about the reasons behind their popularity and expansiveness, automotive and brand strategy expert Avik Chattopadhyay said that Vespa is a fashion icon across the world and therefore charges a premium. "Technically there are scooters that are as capable but lose out on the legacy or brand value. Also, the production numbers are lower than the competition," Chattopadhyay further added.

Himanshu Jangid, Founder and MD, Cartist, said that the Vespa scooters were designed way ahead of their time with a solution for which customers were ready to shell out more money. He also said that over the years Vespa scooters have become a part of pop culture. "Vespa scooter is an iconic design and the first to give a solution to the world with a load-bearing motorcycle which means no central tunnel to climb for the rider which prevents them from dirt and winds, Jangid further added.

First Published Date: 28 Dec 2021, 12:25 PM IST

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