Behind-the-scenes of the new Vespa 946
Soraya Darabi and Lauren Benet Stephenson
The whimsical Italian Vespa embodies carefree fun and style with its sleek steel body and fetching colors—it’s made for zipping effortlessly from soirée to soirée. But as our team learned on an exclusive tour of manufacturer Piaggio’s headquarters in Pontedera, Italy, to take a sneak peek at its newest vehicle, the 946, it also has a well-respected and storied past, a history that is inextricably linked to decades of craftsmanship and finely honed details.
We visited the headquarters of Vespa manufacturer Piaggio and toured its assembly line not because we were invited on a press tour. Far from it—we begged to be allowed in. The company is famed for fashionable scooters, with passionate enthusiasts riding bikes as old as 70 years. For this reason, the Vespa has always been an unofficial mascot for our team at Zady. We revere it for its classic and timeless style, and—compared to its cousin the motorcycle—environmentally friendly omissions. So we were thrilled when Vespa approved our tour request and even welcomed a Zady sneak peek of the newly (read: today) unveiled vehicle, the 946.
As Creative Director Marco Lambri told us about his prized release: “Vespa has a unique and delicate history. If you make an ugly Vespa, you will be remembered for that for history. You must be careful working on a new Vespa release, because the brand is synonymous with design and fashion. Our brand receives a particular kind of attention. It has a strong history that couldn’t forget its origins.”
Our tour included the main factory building, which used to house up to 13,000 factory workers, who crafted every single part of each Vespa. (This remains true, with one tiny exception: The tires are now made in France.) The efficient operation churns out an astounding 900 Vespas per day, a statistic that’s all the more impressive after Marco explains to us that every single detail of the Vespa is finessed by hand. “Everything is done by hand, to make sure that it’s perfect,” he said.
Scroll through to learn how the Vespa 946 is crafted:
A Very Brief History of Vespa
The Vespa model we know today was first developed by the Piaggio company—which previously specialized in industrial and aeronautical design—as an efficient means of transporting aid during the reconstruction of ravaged post-WWII Italy. Its first publicly released model, the MP6, was playfully nicknamed “Vespa” because founder Enrico Piaggio thought it looked like a wasp (or a vespa, in Italian). Vespa has produced scooters since 1946, first for use by the Italian army. In 2003, there was a resurgence of the brand, and they produced 30,000 Vespas (at the time considered a great success). Last year, Vespa produced 165,000 Vespas, and they are now sold in more than 100 countries. Today 900 scooters are produced a day.
A Zady Q & A with the Creative Director of Piaggio
Marco Lambri has been with Piaggio since 2004. He has a degree in architecture and a distinct passion for “two wheels.” As a young child, his father gave him a small bike as a birthday present. From that moment on, he tells us, his life changed. Early into his career he began working in automotives as a designer at Fiat. While he worked on cars as his day job, on weekends his passion projects involved bicycles and motorbikes. When Piaggio asked him to join their team as Creative Director, he felt he’d been given a gift. “Two wheels are more personal than cars,” he says. “You are closer to the engine. You have a relationship with your scooter. It’s a tight relationship that cannot be described.”
Zady: How do you first approach designing a new scooter?
Marco: It’s like a recipe—all the ingredients must be in the right proportion.
Zady: Why this scooter, and why now?
Marco: The Vespa 946 is the gem that the company has been excited to announce for a while. It is the combination of past and future. We wanted to design a vehicle true to our history, but also a sign of what we want to become as a company.
Zady: And what part of the history would you like to hold onto?
Marco: We are proud to say that today everything is still produced in Italy, except for the tires, which belong to Michelin in France. Indian Vespas are made in India, East Asian Vespas are made in Singapore, to keep their production local to those markets. Still, the quality at each factory is the same. We hold onto that tradition.
Zady: And the innovative part of this new vehicle?
Marco: The 946 is a single cast of aluminum—except for the handle bar—because one piece is perfection. We use the most expensive [best] material you cannot find elsewhere else. For many years this model was in the works. The 946 was inspired by the Italian Renaissance, because it symbolizes our revival. It is made only in classic colors black and white to begin, to emphasize the shape and form of the vehicle over fashion. Many parts of the 946 are painted twice.
Zady: How do you want your customers to feel when they ride this scooter for the first time?
Marco: A bike is to feel like a horse—something that joins you to it. People used to think scooters are not as emotional as motorbikes, but Vespas… are different. Vespa is the mother of all scooters. We want them to feel like they are riding a piece of history.
Zady: What do you consider the most important aspect of your job as Creative Director?
Marco: To dream. To be curious. Curious about the past, the present and the future. To transform.