Latins said: “Mater artium necessitas”Enrico Piaggio, the industrial genius that in the immediate postwar, when everything seemed to be lost, invented the product that would have “completely revolutionised the mobility on two wheels.

This beyond being the story of a trademark, and the one of an illuminated business man, in love with the life he built up even in the tough moments, and without difficulties, developed his idea of the most famous scooter in the world, known with the trademark Vespa. The piece of art with the trademark Vespa GS 150 of the 1955, is located from 2004 in the Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA), in the architecture and design section.

The ideas of the young Enrico, always present in the scene of the frivolous life at the time, are encouraged by the creative hands of the engineer Corradino D’Ascanio: a pragmatic man, who wasn’t really keen on motorcycles, in fact seems that he “couldn’t bear them”. Corradino makes Enrico’s dream come true.

The two friends through the Vespa give a new vitality and identity to the Piaggio, anticipating the italian tastes and needs at the end of the 1940s and bringing prosperity to the company of Pontedera.

Vespa calls to mind thoughts bonded with the economic boom, the outdoor trips, the industrialisation and the “Sweet life”. To really understand what happened in that period and which were the positive aspects for the even nowadays worldwide known trademark, we should focus on the biginning of the last century.

Enrico Piaggio, born in 1905 in Pegli (at the time, it was an indipendent municipality of the “Great Genoa” of which became a part in the 1930s), becomes soon a brilliant young man just like his brother Armando Piaggio: he graduates in Economics and Commerce at the age of 22 , he immediately enters in the family company, Società Anonima Piaggio & C. founded in 1884 in Sestri Ponente, dedicated to the production of aeronautic and naval items; one of the most famous industries in Italy ( and people believe also in Europe) until the end of the 1930s.

Enrico joins the company after his brother which manages the Ligurian factories(of Sestri Ponente and Finale Ligure), specialised in the production of naval furniture, rolling material for railways and airplnes. In fact the young Enrico manages the aeronautical section located in Tuscany (Pisa and Pontedera).

The management and the business view of Enrico are initially the same of the father’s Rinaldo Piaggio, characterised by the attention to the research and the development, as well as the desire to make the Piaggio of Pontedera the ultimate centre for the aeronautical planning.

The thoughts of Enrico find initially realization with Giuseppe Gabrielli and Giovanni Pegna, two of the best Italian aeronautical engineers.

In 1931 people still feel the consequences of the Great Depression of 1929, despite this the young businessman, decides to strengthen the team of designers taking with him also the brilliant inventor and passionated aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, famous designer of elicopter’s propellers with variable pitch. 1

With the increase of the airplanes request, he decided by the political and economical expansion of Benito Mussolini, the factory of Pontedera expands itself hiring new people: from 200 workers in 1930, to 2000 in 1936.

A year later joins the company the engineer Giovanni Casiraghi which reveals himself as an ingenious designer of airplanes: we remember the model P108, the first four-engined bomber used by the Regia Aeronautica during the World War II.

NIn 1938, with the death of the father, Enrico at the age of 34, already manager of the aeronautical section of the company, respecting the split of the roles with the brother Armando, accepts the position of co-managing director.

In the following years the italian aeronautical industry undergoes a decrease of the production also noticed by Società Anonima Piaggio & C., among other things devastated by the multiple bombardments and without company material because of the frequent steals during the warlike period.

Enrico Piaggio risks his life a few days after the armistice of Italy for a pointless reason. The 25th September of 1943, while he was in the Hexelsior Hotel of Florence, refuses to get up, in sense of respect, during the radio speech made by the general (Fascist) Rodolfo Graziani who would have surely spoken badly of the Allied Anglo-Americans; in that occasion our man gets seriously wounded by an official of the Salò Republic, so he is transported in hospital close to death, where he underwent a kidney removal surgery, this operation saved him. A year later, he marries Paola dei Conti Antonelli (young woman with nobel origins, widow of the colonel and writer Alberto Bechi Luserna). Enrico welcomes her in his world with her daughter who takes the name Antonella Bechi Piaggio.

After that almost fatal accident, Enrico decides to give a new set up to the company: despite the world conflict left behind destruction and a hungry tired and disoriented population, he starts a line of new ingenious and very demanding projects.

The Piaggio’s Tuscan factories were seriously damaged and push Enrico to transfer the production to Biella, a less bombarded location by the Allied. At the same time, finds the strength necessary to produce new ideas of product: starting from satisfying the needs of the public who, at the moment are in first place, like moving for work, proceeding between the street’s ruins obstacles.

It was needed a new and simple means o transport, with the already described features, low-cost, available to everyone, also suitable for women until then excluded from this type of mobility. So, it was needed to realise mainly “ground and air vehicles”: only vehicles capable to move on two-wheels in “imaginary” streets.

Actually the man is hesitant about what to produce exactly, but the first prototypes arrieve in time: in 1944, during this period the industrial machines were transferred from Pontedera to Biella, technicians and engineers work promptly to the construction of a little scooter, named MP5 (Paperino), by the workers because of the ungraceful shape. However it was never produced because it wasn’t good enough to Enrico’s eyes.

He understands that to realise this product belonging to a “fantastic” world which had to sound also convenient, he has to choose a designer capable to thinks outside the box: with a free mind able to range and detach from the popular conception of a motorcycle, until then synonym of dirt and discomfort. So he entrusts the design to the already known Abruzzese engineer Corradino D’Ascanio.

The request of doctor Piaggio is very clear: “I want a vehicle able to convert Italy to the two-wheels, but i don’t want the usual motorcycle.” 2

Despite being reluctant and against motorcycles, the engineer D’Ascanio starts to work. He sais himself: “Knowing just a little bit of bikes, i was able to face with a new different mindset the problem and conceive this new means of transport based on intuitive parameters: I thought, first of all, that the future scooter, would have been useful to the people who, just like me, have never been a motorcyclist…”. 3

In a few weeks the new model of Vespa is born. It’s the start of a great love which still lasts nowadays.

The engineer consistently to his aeronautical formation, starts and ends the project of the scooter adding all his technical fly knowledge to the born product, showing from the start his original ideas in different parts, for example the little arm on the side front wheel, the supporting monocoque and the gearshift to the handlebars.

In addiction there are other inventions, for example the spare wheel, the little engine 98cc. ( which could guarantee reduced consumptions without interfering with the maximum speed of 60 km/h), the platform where the posterior brake is placed and the wide front monocoque as a shelter for the legs.

The vehicle appears to be for the time a true invention, furthermore he uses unusual materials for the kind of product, capable to give lightness and at the same time endurance. Also the name is brand new, people say that it takes inspiration by the engine’s vibrations and the shape of the vehicle seen from above, the new scooter is called Vespa. Seems that the same Enrico Piaggio, after seeing the first model, exclaimed: “It looks like a vespa!” 4

The 24 March 1946 the scooter debuts to the Mechanics Exhibition of Turin where many purchase deals are stipulated, next month the patent request is filed (click here to see the document). At the ed of the day the businessman, in a letter adressed to the Manager of production and all the employees, writes: “I have the pleasure to communicate that the first models received the general appreciation… I express to you my biggest gratification, and i’m sure that with the cohesion of all our strengths, we will be able to sign other important steps for our idustrial recovery.” 5

Enrico Piaggio believes so much in his product potential that the 8 of June 1946 the “Piaggio & C. Soc. p.a.” requests also the registration of the trademark Vespa (n. register 76231) to the Chamber of Commerce of Genova (click here to see the document). Today we know that the distinctive sign of Vespa is considered by the italian law as a historic trademark of National interest, from the past 50 years after the registration.

Taken by the passion of this new product and strongly believing in his business abilities, Enrico Piaggio wants to insert it on the market, for this reason he counts to take advantage of the good relationship with the aviator and fellow citizen Giorgio Parodi to intercede with Moto Guzzi, trying to use the distinction of the name and his deep sales network. The offer is refused by Carlo Guzzi, because he was against managing ideas coming from outside.

Despite the great commercial signals at the exhibition of Turin , the first production stock of Vespa (pre-streak of the Vespa 98, proposed at the price of 55,000 liras), didn’t get the enthusiasm wanted from the clients. The same thing happened with the luxury version full of optional (proposed at the price of 61,000 liras).

In fact, the sell of the first fifty models proceeds slowly, probably, because of the higher price respect to the possibilities the client had at the time. The product is for the most part handmade.

The stubborn businessman, who didn’t get discouraged by the situation, understands that one of the things to do concerning the production was to overthrow the unitary cost of the vehicle, for this reason he is not afraid to invest again, so he implements the new production line of the first 2,500 models.

Now, everything that should have been made with Guzzi, is done with Lancia: the scooter is exposed to their dealerships where it has success. In 1946 were sold 2181 models, and the next year, the sales quintuplicated, becoming 10,535 models.

The distribution of the Vespa in Italy gives the impulse to the mass motorization, because it becomes a product available to everyone , anticipating the arrival of the Fiat 500, that took place in the 1950s. The brilliant mind of Enrico never stops. In 1947 is commercialised the Ape Piaggio, a three-wheels manageable vehicle, thought exactly for the need to transport small goods in the postwar Italian period.

In 1948, with the coming out of the Vespa 125, starts an extraordinary phase of productive growing for the company and, after two years, Piaggio was able to earn the first licence regulations from the patent’s concession, marking the first gains given by the incomes of other motorcycles producers, the licensees of the patent: English, German, Spanish and French people.

The mirage of Enrico, become reality: the 6th of November 1953, carry out, at the Pontedera’s factories, the celebration for the presentation of the 500,000 model of Vespa, to the presence of the local authorities, the archbishop of Pisa and the owner of Piaggio with his workers. Three years later, they reached one million of sold models. Numbers that nowadays could make you laugh, but at the time they were astonishing.

Appearence and functionality fuse together in a masterpiece of Italian design. The Vespa, seen not only as a means of transport but as a myth, Status symbol, sign of an Italy that is following the right path, pushed by an unprecedented economical growing.

These are the years of the first washmachines, TVs, the Beatles and the Vacanze Romane, with which the phenomenon of Vespa becomes worldwide known. New factories in Spain, United States, Brazil and India are born. On foreign newspapers, Italy seems to be identified as the “Country of Vespa”.

Paolo Zanon, writer of the book “The sport soul of Vespa”, in an interview released in 2016 tells how much Enrico Piaggio has been ingenious even through the invention of the advertising campaigns concerning the motorcycle: beating the competition of the motorcycles Guzzi e Lambretta, proposing already in the 1950s new icons, women driving in a dreamlike landscape.

The innovation of the Piaggio also consists of the terminology used to attract the public to the product: for instance “Vespizzatevi” we want to give birth to the “fashion of the trademark” Vespa and also to the product. Vespa that, at this point is riding the wave of success, is purchased because of its pleasing appearence, convenience, cleanliness and adaptability to every person and situation.

In the second half of the 1950s, Enrico Piaggio as a true pioneer aims to develop new vehicles with the trademark Vespa, starting from cars. So it’s born the Vespa 400, a little “car”, designed again by the engineer D’Ascanio, officially presented in Montecarlo the 26 of September 1957.

The production lines are set up in Fourchambault (a French municipality of 4,815 inhabitants located in the department of Nièvre, in the region of the Burgundy/French county), at the factory “Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles (ACMA)”, French partner of the Piaggio company.

We are between 1958 and 1964, the car product doesn’t obtain results: the Vespa 400 revealsas a failure with a good part of the 34,000 models unsold. It seems that the final decision of not imposing it in Italy, “to avoid conflicts with Fiat”, is expensive for our businessman.

From the birth of Vespa onwards, the significant moments for the production of Piaggio are multiple: the first grand tourer, the Vespa GS 150 of 1955; the Vespa 50 of 1963 (known by Italians as “Vespino”), which marked a milestone in the history of the most famous scooter in the world (it was the followed, in 1969 by the success of the 50 special); the 90 Super Sprint of 1965 and to conclude, the 125 Primavera of 1967, a true object of worship for the young at the time.

During 1963 the Piaggio & C. S.p.A. . goes through an high tention period between management and workers, started by the decrease of sells (temporary) and which had repercussions on the production and employment. A year later, the two company divisions – the ground and aeronautical ones – become full-fledged indipendent between each other; the Piaggio & C. S.p.A. is born with the motorcycle section and the IAM Rinaldo Piaggio, afterwards Piaggio Aero Industries (today Piaggio Aerospace S.p.A.).

However, Enrico won’t be presenta at the relaunch phase of the company because he dies in the autumn of 1965, at the only age of 60, due to a sudden illness had in his own office, probably while a protest of workers was in action.

The growing process continues through the influence given by Enrico which remained impressed as a fire brand: in 1969 is taken control of the Gilera e & C. S.p.A., a well known motorcycle house of Arcore, reason of pride for the technology and Italian ability in the motorcycles business.

It’s up to Piaggio, leaded at the time by Umberto Agnelli husband of Enrico Piaggio’s adopted daughter ( from whose will be born Giovanni Alberto Agnelli), to acquire and relaunch the trademark Gilera.

Afterwards we have the introduction of new mopeds from the great success. These are the years of the del Ciao (1966), Boxer (1970), Bravo (1973) e Piaggio Vespa PX 125 (1977), “replied” by the same enormous version, an off the chart model 4 meters tall.

In 1980, the oldest bicycles trademark in the world is acquired, Bianchi of F.I.V. Fabbrica Italiana Velocipedi Edoardo Bianchi S.p.A., a prestigious trademark which remains inside the Piaggio group for many years.

Overcame the “hard” 1970s, the 1980’s decade is a period of growing for Italy, so new products are released in the market among which we remember the Sfera, the first scooter with a plastic body and an eye-catching appearence.

The 1990s mark the birth of the holding Piaggio & C. S.p.A. and the young business man, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, becomes the president. Follow in these years HexagonX8X9Nexus e Beverly, and the models Vespa ET, the MP3 and the Vespa LX 60.

Form 1997 and beyond for Vespa and Piaggio, these are years of important changes, Giovanni Alberto Agnelli prematurely passed away and he is replaced to take the lead of these two important trademarks Alessandro Barberis. Two years later, the shareholders of the Piaggio family cede the control of the company to the financial group Morgan Grenfell Private Equity. In 2003 a new transfer of property sees the acquisition of the company by Roberto Colaninno and the industrial holding Immsi S.p.A.; one year later, is purchased by the Venetian company Aprilia S.p.A. to which refer other iconic trademarks such as Moto Laverda and Moto Guzzi.

Ad oggi il gruppo Piaggio fa uso insieme a Vespa di molteplici brand di successo: Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Scarabeo, Ape e Piaggio veicoli commerciali.

Nowadays the trademark Vespa is still the most important of all the mentioned ones, in fact it is well protected in every part of the world. Since 1946, the year of the first application, it was registered by the Piaggio & C. S.p.A. in the various graphic and literal aspects, in the following countries: United States (Federal Trademarks) (114 trademarks); United States (Government Trademarks) (3 trademarks); Canada (75 trademarks); Mexico (47 trademarks); Bermuda (3 trademarks); Costa Rica (5 trademarks); Guatemala (10 trademarks); Honduras (2 trademarks); Nicaragua (6 trademarks); Panama (12 trademarks); Argentina (45 trademarks); Bolivia (4 trademarks); Brazil (62 trademarks); Cile (29 trademarks); Colombia (35 trademarks); Ecuador (21 trademarks); Paraguay (21 trademarks); Perù (48 trademarks); Uruguay (27 trademarks); Venezuela (39 trademarks); Dominican Republic (2 trademarks); Albania (4 trademarks); Andorra (5 trademarks); Denmark (12 trademarks); Estonia (3 trademarks); Russian Federation (4 trademarks); Finland (14 trademarks); France (5 trademarks); Germany (3 trademarks); Greece (18 trademarks); Irland (8 trademarks); Iceland (1 trademark); Italy (228 trademarks); Kosovo (4 trademarks); Latvia (2 trademarks); North Macedonia (1 trademark); Malta (1 trademark); Montenegro (1 trademark); Norway (1 trademark); Poland (5 trademarks); United Kingdom (34 trademarks); Romania (1 trademark); Serbia (1 trademarko); Spain (15 trademarks); Sweden (19 trademarks); Switzerland (12 trademarksi); UE Trademarks (204 trademarks); Saudi Arabia (10 trademarks); West Bank (Judea and Samaria) (3 trademarks); United Arab Emirates (26 trademarks); Jordan (6 trademarks); Iran (4 trademarks); Israel (28 trademarks); Kuwait (2 trademarks); Lebanon (7 trademarks); Qatar (7 trademarks); Syria (1 trademark); Algeria (2 trademarks); Angola (1 trademark); Ethiopia (2 trademarks); Kenya (1 trademark); Libya (3 trademarks); Madagascar (1 trademark); Morocco (2 trademarks); Mauritius (2 trademarksi); Nigeria (1 trademark); O.A.P.I. African Intellectual Property Organization (4 trademarks); South Africa (12 trademarks); Tanzania (1 trademark); Tunisia (17 trademarks); Uganda (2 trademarks); Zanzibar (1 trademark); Afghanistan (3 trademarks); Bangladesh (6 trademarks); Bhutan (2 trademarks); Cambodia (21 trademarks); China (65 trademarks); South Corea (32 trademarks); Philippines (15 trademarks); Japan (51 trademarks); Hong Kong (51 trademarks); India (90 trademarks); Indonesia (66 trademarks); Laos (1 trademark); Macau (7 trademarks); Malaysia (78 trademarks); Myanmar (8 trademarks); Nepal (3 trademarks); Singapore (26 trademarks); Sri Lanka (3 trademarks); Taiwan (105 trademarks); Thailand (3 trademarks); Vietnam (14 trademarks); Australia (16 trademarks); New Zeland (21 trademarks); All the intertnational trademarks (IR) (95 trademarks).

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