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Piaggio & C. SpA
Public company
Traded as BITPIA
  • Motor vehicle manufacturing
  • Motor vehicle distribution
  • Engine manufacturing
Founded Sestri Ponente, Italy (24 January 1884 (1884-01-24))
Founder Rinaldo Piaggio
Headquarters Pontedera, Italy
Area served
Key people
  • Roberto Colaninno, Chairman and CEO
Revenue Increase €1,295 million (2015)[1]
Increase €161.8 million (2015)[1]
Profit Increase €11.9 million (2015)[1]
Number of employees
7,510 (2014)[2]
Website piaggiogroup.com/en

Piaggio & C. SpA (Piaggio) [ˈpjaddʒo] via its subsidiaries designs, engineers, manufactures and distributes two wheeled motor vehicles and compact commercial vehicles under seven brands. Piaggio & C. SpA corporate headquarters are located in Pontedera, Italy. Piaggio's various subsidiaries employ a total of 7,053 employees who produced a total of 519,700 vehicles in 2014.[3] Piaggio operates six research and development centers and operates in over 50 countries.[4]


In 1882, Enrico Piaggio completes the purchase of land in Sestri Ponente (Genoa) to set up a timber yard. Two years later, in 1884, the company was founded by Rinaldo Piaggio. Piaggio initially produced locomotives and railway carriages. During 1917, in the wake of the World War, Rinaldo converts the company to the aeronautical and military sector. Piaggio engages in the production of MAS anti-submarine motorboats and especially of aeroplanes and seaplanes, initially built under Ansaldo, Macchi, Caproni and Dornier license, and later on Piaggio drawings.[5]

In the 1937 the level reached by Piaggio production is demonstrated by the 21 world records acquired between 1937 and 1939 by the aircraft and engines built in the new factory in Pontedera, where since the early twenties Piaggio concentrates its civil and military aviation manufacturing, culminating in the highly advanced four-engine P 108, a strategic four-engine bomber.

In 1938 Rinaldo Piaggio dies and the company – which has meanwhile become a company with many shareholders in the family, in addition to the entrepreneur Attilio Odero – is managed by his sons Enrico and Armando.[6]

In 1940 Piaggio manufactures trains, nautical fittings, aircraft engines and aeroplanes, trucks, trams, buses, funiculars and aluminium windows, but Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera plant completely demolished by Allied bombing and production activities are relocated to the Biella area. Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the redevelopment of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation. The idea was to design an inexpensive vehicle for the masses. Starting from Biella, based on a small motorcycle made for parachutists, the prototype, known as the MP5, was nicknamed "Paperino" (the Italian name for Donald Duck) because of its strange shape: but Enrico Piaggio did not like it, and he asked Corradino D’Ascanio to redesign it. Aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio – responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta – was asked therefore by Enrico Piaggio to create a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. The aeronautical designer didn't like motorcycles. He found them uncomfortable and bulky, with wheels that were difficult to change after a puncture. Corradino D'Ascanio's drawings had nothing to do with the Paperino: his design was absolutely original and revolutionary compared to all the other existing means of two-wheeled transport. With the help of Mario D'Este, his trusted designer, it would only take Corradino D'Ascanio a few days to fine tune his idea and prepare the first Vespa project, manufactured in Pontedera in April 1946. The vehicle had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger, and not get its driver's clothes dirty. Piaggio launched the Vespa scooter (Italian for "wasp") and within ten years over a million units had been produced. The Italian language gained a new word, "vespare", meaning to go somewhere on a Vespa.[7]


In 1956 the millionth Vespa is produced, Italy sees its first mass motorised mobility. With strong cash flow from the success of the Vespa, Piaggio developed other products, including the 1957 Vespa 400, a tiny passenger car.

In 1959, Piaggio came under the control of the Agnelli family, the owners of car maker Fiat SpA.

In 1960 Vespa reaches 4 million units produced and sold worldwide.[8] 

In 1964 the two divisions, aeronautical and motorcycle, split to become two independent companies as a result of the wide ownership by Fiat in Italian industry.[clarification needed] The aeronautical division was named IAM Rinaldo Piaggio. The aircraft company Piaggio Aero is controlled by the family of Piero Ferrari, who still hold 10% of Ferrari.

In 1969 Piaggio purchased the motorcycle company Gilera, one of the oldest European motorcycle manufacturers (founded in 1909), famous for its sporting achievements and world titles in the Motorcycle World Championship.[9] In 1971 Ape gets a steering wheel and becomes Ape Car, and in 1975 the company made the first prototype of an electric Ape.[10] In 1988 Vespa reaches 10 million units produced.[11]

New ownership[edit]

Vespa in a Todi street

Vespa thrived, until 1992, when Gianni Agnelli became CEO, but Agnelli was already suffering from cancer and died in 1997. In 1999 Morgan Grenfell Private Equity acquired Piaggio, but hopes for a quick sale were dashed by a failed joint venture in China.[clarification needed] In Italy, Piaggio invested 15 million euros ($19.4 million) in a new motorcycle but dropped it after building a prototype. By the end of 2002, the company had run up 577 million Euros in debt on revenues of 945 million Euros, and booked a loss of 129 million Euros.

Then came Roberto Colaninno, who said, "A lot of people told me I was crazy. Piaggio wasn't dying. It just needed to be treated better.[12]" Piaggio's financial position was in a bad shape, but its brand was still well known and its products were featured in many Hollywood films thanks to the Vespa ET4. In 1995, Colaninno had pulled off Europe's then largest-ever hostile takeover when he took control of Telecom Italia SpA. In 1996, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first model, Vespa reaches 15 million units produced and the new Vespa ET arrives. The first completely new Vespa for 18 years with a 4-stroke engine.[13]

In 1999 in Baramati, Piaggio plant for the production of the three-wheeler Apé is built in India for the domestic market,[14] while in 2000 the inauguration in Los Angeles of the first Vespa Boutique marks the return of Piaggio and Vespa to the United States. Also this year, in Pontedera the Piaggio Historical Museum is inaugurated together with the creation of the Piaggio Historical Archive, one of the most comprehensive company archives on the industrial history of Italy.[15] In 2001 Piaggio Group incorporates Derbi-Nacional Motor SA,[16] historical Spanish brand founded in 1922, having won 18 world titles and continental leader in the small displacement motorbike segment. In the same year Gilera returns to the Motorcycle World Championship and immediately wins an extraordinary world title in the 125 category with Manuel Poggiali.[17] In September 2003, Piaggio's debt was reduced by the 100 million Euro cash investment made by Colaninno through his holding company Immsi SpA. There was also 150 million shares converted by creditor banks. Roberto Colaninno becomes the new chairman of Piaggio with Dr. Rocco Sabelli becoming the managing director. Dr. Rocco Sabelli redesigned the factory on Japanese principles, and changed it so that every Piaggio scooter could be made on any assembly line. Unlike the turnaround recipe applied at U.S. auto makers, Mr. Colaninno did not fire a single worker – a move which helped seduce the company's sceptical unions. "Everyone in a company is part of the value chain," said Colaninno. All bonuses for blue-collar workers and management were based on the same criteria: profit margins and customer satisfaction. Air conditioning was installed in the factory for the first time, increasing productivity. He also gave the company's engineers, who had been idled by the company's financial crisis, deadlines for projects. They rolled out two world firsts in 2004: a gas-electric hybrid scooter and a sophisticated tilting scooter with two wheels in front and one in back to grip the road better. One of Piaggio's problems Mr. Colaninno couldn't fix from the inside was its scale. Even though Piaggio was the European market leader, it was dwarfed by rivals Honda and Yamaha. A year after restoring Piaggio's health, Colaninno directed Piaggio's takeover of the Italian scooter and motorcycle manufacturer Aprilia, and with it the Aprilia-owned Moto Guzzi, storied Italian manufacturer of motorcycles. In 2004, at the end of December, the final contract for the acquisition of the Aprilia-Moto Guzzi Group is signed. The most important European two-wheeler group is born.[18] In 2006, Piaggio floated on the Milan Stock Exchange, becoming a public company. In 2007 Piaggio Group officially arrives in Vietnam. The Vinh Puch plant includes R&D, welding and painting activities, as well as final assembly of the scooters, with warehouse, testing, quality control and office areas.[19] In 2009 the Piaggio Mp3 Hybrid makes its debut on the market which was first hybrid scooter in the world, integrating the conventional low-environmental-impact internal combustion engine with a zero-emission electric motor and combining the advantages of the two power trains.[20] In Baramati (State of Maharashtra), in 2012, the Piaggio Group's new plant for the production of Vespa's for the local market is inaugurated.[21] In 2013 the PADC – Piaggio Advanced Design Center opens in Pasadena (California, United States).[22] The Vespa 946 arrives also this year. In November, Piaggio launches the new Vespa Primavera, the latest evolution of the "small body" family. In 2013 the number of Vespa's sold worldwide reaches almost 190,000 units. In 2004 the figure stood at 58,000. In ten years of continuous progression over 1.3 million new Vespas have reached the streets of the world. Since 1946 over 18 million Vespas have been produced and sold.[23]

"Cultural Project" Piaggio[edit]

The "cultural project" promoted by Piaggio is aimed for the reconstruction and enhancement of the company's heritage and is composed by three initiatives: Piaggio Foundation, Historical Archives and the Piaggio Museum. In 2003 the Museum and Archives have been recognized as Best Corporate Museum and Archives for the Italian prize "Premio Impresa e Cultura".[24]

Brands and models[edit]

1962 Vespa 150 GL
Piaggio MP3 three-wheel scooter

Group brands[edit]


  • Piaggio 110 Bicycle bodywork(110 anniversaries)
  • Ape – 3-wheel micro light commercial vehicles
  • Piaggio Porter 4-wheel microvans and micro-pickups, same as a Daihatsu Hijet.
  • Piaggio Quargo 4-wheel microvans and micro-pickups,
  • Piaggio MP3 tilting 3-wheel scooter
  • Diesis 50/100 (50cc air-cooled two-stroke and 100cc water-cooled two-stroke) made between 2001 and 2005
  • FLY50/100/125/150
  • Free50
  • Typhoon 50 cc, 80cc, 125 cc (1995–2000;2012)
  • Sfera NSL (50 cc & 80 cc) 1991–1995
  • Sfera RST (RST standing for Restyle) (50 cc 2-Stroke & 125 cc 4-Stroke) 1995 – ??
  • NRG mc1-3 (50 cc) (mc standing for mark.)
  • NRG Power PureJet (50 cc fuel injection, water cooling)
  • NRG Power DT (air-cooled) and DD (liquid-cooled), both introduced in 2005
  • NTT (water-cooled two-stroke) made between 1995 and 1998
  • Liberty (50 cc two-stroke, 125 cc & 150 cc Quattrotempi)
  • Liberty S (50 cc 125 cc 200 cc)
  • Skipper ST (125 cc)
  • Piaggio Ciao (50 cc)
  • Si (50 cc)
  • Superbravo (50 cc)
  • Avanti (50 cc)
  • Grillo (50 cc)
  • Bravo (50 cc)
  • Grande (50 cc)
  • Boxer (50 cc)
  • Boxer 2 (50 cc)
  • X7 125 (European market), 250
  • X7 Evo (125, 300 cc) – announced 2009
  • X8 125 (European market), 250, 400
  • XEvo 125, 250, 400
  • X9 125/250 cc Evolution – the Evolution models superseded the previous X9 models in 2004, which were fitted with Honda engines
  • X9 500 cc Evolution with features not fitted on 125/250 cc models: hydraulic centre stand, integrated rider-to-pillion communication system, mobile phone charger in front dash cubbyhole
  • BV200/250
  • BV350
  • BV500 – neo-classic style, automatic transmission, top-speed 100 mph
  • Beverly (125 cc; 250 cc; 400 cc; 500 cc: Beverly is the Italian name for the BV models)
  • Medley 125cc, Medley S 125cc
  • Carnaby (125 cc & 200 cc)
  • Free 50 (50 cc)
  • Hexagon (125 cc; 150 cc; 180 cc; 250 cc)
  • T (125 cc; 150 cc)
  • Piaggio Velofax or Vespino 1995 to 1999.
  • Quartz (50 cc two-stroke, liquid-cooled)
  • Quartz (125 cc, two-stroke, air-cooled)
  • Storm (125 cc, four-stroke, air-cooled)
  • M500 (505 cc, two-stroke, microcar)
  • Ravi Piaggio Strom (125 cc, four-stroke) Joint venture of Piaggio with Ravi and available in Pakistani market
  • Piaggio Ape RR
  • Zip 50 cc two-stroke, air-cooled (pre 2000)
  • Zip SP 50 cc two-stroke, water-cooled (pre 2000)
  • Zip (Cat) 50 cc two-stroke, air-cooled (2000 onwards)
  • Zip SP 50 cc two-stroke, water-cooled (2000 onwards)
  • Zip 4t 50 cc four-stroke, air-cooled
  • Zip 4t 100 96.2 cc four-stroke, air-cooled
  • Zip 125 125 cc four-stroke, air-cooled

Electric scooters[edit]

The new plug-in hybrid version of the Piaggio MP3 will be equipped with a 125 cc petrol engine and electric motor, which offers about 141 mpg‑US (1.67 L/100 km; 169 mpg‑imp) and travels 13 miles (21 km) using battery power alone. This machine could be out in 2009.[25]

Piaggio/Vespa are also developing hybrid electric scooters. There are two models in the works, based on the popular Vespa LX 50 and the beefier Piaggio X8 125.[26]


External links[edit]