based in Pontedera
encompasses seven brands producing scooters and motorcycles. As the fourth largest producer of scooters and motorcycles in the world, Piaggio produces more than 600,000 vehicles annually, with five Research and development centers, more than 6,700 employees and operations in over 50 countries.
Founded by Rinaldo Piaggio in 1884
, Piaggio initially produced locomotives and railway carriages. During World War I
the company focused on producing airplanes.
During World War II the company produced bomber aircraft, but Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera plant completely demolished by bombing. Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo 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.
- For the full story, see separate article on Vespa
Aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle by Enrico Piaggio. 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. Consequently, in 1946 Piaggio launched the Vespa (Italian for "wasp") scooter, and within 10 years over a million units had been produced.
With strong cash flow emanating 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. Resultantly, as the wider ownership of Fiat in Italian industry, in the 1964 the two divisions (aeronautical and motorcycle) split to become two independent companies; the aeronautical division was named IAM Rinaldo Piaggio. Today the airplane-company Piaggio Aero is controlled by the family of Piero Ferrari, who also still holds 10% of the famous car maker Ferrari.
In 1969 the motorcycle company purchased Gilera.
Under new ownership
In 1959, Piaggio came under the control of the Agnelli family, the owners of car maker Fiat SpA
. Vespa thrived, until 1992 when Giovanni Alberto Agnelli became CEO - but Agnelli was already suffering from cancer, and died in 1997
. In 1999
, Morgan Grenfell Private Equity
acquired Piaggio, but a quickly hoped for sale was dashed by a failed joint venture in China
. 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: A lot of people told me I was crazy. Piaggio wasn't dying. It just needed to be treated better. Piaggio's financial was in a bad shape, but its brand was still well known and its product were featuring in more Hollywood films thanks to the Vespa ET4. In 1995, Colaninno had pulled off what was then Europe's largest-ever hostile takeover when he took control of Telecom Italia SpA. In October 2003, Mr. Colaninno made an initial investment of 100 million euros through his holding company Immsi SpA in exchange for just under a third of Piaggio and the mandate to run it. Chief executive Rocco Sabelli, redesigned the factory to Japanese principles, and redesigned the factory so that every Piaggio scooter could be made on any assembly line.
Unlike the turnaround recipe applied at U.S. auto makers, Mr. Colaninno didn't fire a single worker - a move which helped seduce the company's skeptical 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; and air conditioning was installed in the factory. 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; a scooter with two wheels in front and one in back which grips 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 2006, Piaggio floated on the Milan Stock Exchange, becoming a Public Company.
Brands and models
- Vespa ET2 (50 cc) & ET4 (125 cc & 150 cc) 1996-2005
- Vespa LX50 (50 cc) LX125 (125 cc) LX150 (150 cc) 2006 - Replacement for the ET series
- Vespa GT125/GT200/GTS250ie (also known as the Grand Turismo and Grand Turismo Sport)
- Vespa LXV125/LXV150/GTV/GT60 (special edition and Limited run Collector's Editions of the LX125/LX150 an GTS250 models)
- Vespa PX125/150/200
- Vespa Cosa
- Vespa PK 50/80/100/125
- Vespa ET3
- Vespa Primavera
- Vespa V90 & V50
- Vespa GS150/160
- Vespa SS180
- Vespa Rally 180/200
- Vespa Sprint
- Vespa Super 125/150
- Piaggio Ape 3-wheel submicro pickups.
- Piaggio Porter 4-wheel micro-vans and micro-pickups, same as a Daihatsu Hijet.
- Piaggio P180 Avanti business aircraft.
- Piaggio MP3 3-wheel scooter.
- Piaggio BV500 - neo-classic style, automatic transmission, top-speed 100 mph
- 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-features that are not fitted on 125/250 cc models: hydraulic centre stand - pics: integrated rider-to-pillion communication system - mobile phone charger in front dash cubby hole.
- BV200 / BV250 / BV500
- Typhoon (50 cc)
- Typhoon (125 cc) 1996-2000
- 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 Inj, Water Cooling)
- NRG Power DT (Air Cooled), DD (Liquid Cooled) Both introduced in 2005
- Zip (50 cc 2-Stroke cat & 125 cc 4-Stroke)
- Liberty (50 cc 2-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)
- Boxer (50 cc)
- Boxer 2 (50 cc)
- X8 (125 cc)
- X8 (250 cc)
- X8 (400 cc)
- Beverly (125 cc; 250 cc; 400 cc; 500 cc: Beverly is the Italian name for the BV models)
- Carnaby (125 cc & 200 cc)
- Free 50 (50 cc)
- Hexagon (125 cc; 150 cc; 180 cc; 250 cc)
- T (125 cc; 150 cc)
- Zip 2000 (50 cc 4-Stroke)
- Zip sp '98 (50 cc 2-Stroke, Liquid Cooled)
- Zip sp h2o (50 cc 2-Stroke, Liquid Cooled)