Vespa history and facts
Vespa was the original scooter, designed to offer fast, cheap transport. Other mopeds have long emulated its classic step-through design, but Vespa continues to rank among the world’s best scooters.
Piaggio, the Italian company behind the Vespa, has remained true to the original concept. But it has constantly innovated over the years to incorporate new technology and provide more choice.
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.
But following the Second World War, Piaggio focused on developing 2-wheelers to meet an urgent need for affordable and user-friendly transport. It launched the first Vespa in 1946 - the Vespa 98 - and still draws on the same iconic, step-through design to this day.
The Vespa quickly became part of Italian culture – 1 million units were manufactured within its first decade of existence. Named after the Italian word for wasp, Vespa’s growing popularity created 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 subculture. The UK is still Vespa’s second biggest market, behind Italy.
By the scooter’s 75th anniversary in 2021, over 19 million Vespas had been produced worldwide, with 2 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:
- Moto Guzzi
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.