Piaggio to launch Vespa scooters by March 2010

Piaggio will launch its 100-150cc scooters by March next year, after the Italian firm restricted its India operations to light commercial vehicles.

Piaggio Vehicles India, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Italian two-wheeler maker, will launch its well-known Vespa scooters, followed by brands such as Gilera, Aprilia and Derbi, a small motorcycle.

For this, the company is setting up a Rs. 360-crore two-wheeler engine plant at Baramati to power its scooters, said a person close to the development.  Piaggio Vehicles currently makes Apé three and four wheelers, called Ape Truk in its Baramati plant.

This will be Vespa’s third coming to India. Vespa was considered a household name in geared scooters, thanks to Piaggio’s initial entry into the country through a licence-manufacture agreement with Bajaj Auto in 1960s.

On expiry of the agreement in 1971, Bajaj Auto started making geared scooters under Chetak and other brands, but Vespa continued to remain a generic name for geared scooters for many years. Later in 1983, Piaggio tied up with LML to make geared scooters, but the joint venture was called off in 1999.

The Indian ungeared scooter market is witnessing activity with the latest entrant Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) launching several scooter models this month.

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter leads the pack with monthly sales of 60,000 units, followed by TVS Motor with around 23,000 units. Hero Honda Motors, which is the market leader in the motorcycle space, sells around 15,000 scooters a month with a single model, Pleasure.

M&M launched three scooter models —Flyte, Rodeo and Duro — last month and managed to sell around 4,000 units. Scooter sales in 2008-09 stood at 1.1 million units. During April-August 2009, scooter sales stood at 5.6 lakh units, and the market expected to grow by 20% on an annualised basis.

Source: Economic Times