Italian Icon Vespa Was Designed as the Anti-Motorcycle
As those affected by World War II began to rebuild their countries and their lives, Enrico Piaggo had a vision for a contemporary and affordable invention that would revolutionize the way the Italians lived and got around.
Inspired by the American Cushman scooter, the first scooter design by the in-house Piaggo team was rejected by Enrico—he didn’t like that it looked too similar to a motorcycle. Piaggo wanted something new, different, and simple. He then hired outsider and aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, who turned around and designed an aeronautically-influenced scooter that was more compact and lightweight than a motorcycle. Upon seeing the scooter, Enrico proclaimed “Sembra una vespa!,” (“It looks like a wasp!”). The name stuck.
Vespas were immediately patented and created in mass production, and the scooter was launched to the public during the 1946 Milan Fair. In Italy, interest in these scooters was slow to catch on, but gradually more and more were seen on the streets. Vespas became international sensations in 1952 when one was featured in the film Roman Holiday, and these well-designed scooters have stood the test of time ever since.
Today, Italy is Vespa’s largest market, but even in the saturated, international scooter market, demand for the Vespa continues.
Below are some playful, vintage Vespa ads which show a few of the ways this timeless design icon was marketed to the public.