Vespa history and facts
Piaggio was established in 1884 as a train builder in Genoa, northwest Italy. The company steadily expanded its areas of expertise to include aircraft and motorboats.
Following the Second World War, however, Piaggio focused on developing two-wheelers to meet an urgent need for affordable and user-friendly transport. It launched the first Vespa in 1946 - the Vespa 98 - with the marque continuing to draw on the same iconic, step-through design to this day.
The Vespa fast became engrained in Italian culture – one million units were manufactured within its first decade of existence. Italian for wasp, Vespa’s growing popularity coined a new word, ‘vespare’, which means ‘to go somewhere on a Vespa’.
The scooter achieved global fame after Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were seen riding around on one in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. In 1962, surrealist painter Salvador Dalí decided to customise a Vespa with some of his artwork.
During the 1960s, the UK became the world’s biggest market for the Vespa as the scooter surged in popularity with Mod sub-culture. The UK is still the Vespa’s second biggest market, behind Italy.
By the scooter’s 75th anniversary in 2021, over 19 million Vespas had been produced worldwide, with two million made within the past decade. The Vespa continues to be immortalised in popular culture and features prominently in Disney Pixar’s 2021 film Luca.
Listed on the Italian stock exchange, today Piaggio is dedicated to making scooters, motorcycles and light commercial vehicles. Alongside Vespa, the company’s scooter and motorcycle brands include Piaggio, Derbi, Aprilia, Scarabeo, Derbi, Moto Guzzi and Gilera.
Piaggio’s scooters and motorcycles are made at a sprawling factory in Tuscany, central Italy. The company also has manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and India to meet demand in Asia.