Before I moved to Shanghai, I lived in Rome, where scooters were everywhere and Vespas were the kings of the road.
Coming to China, I was surprised that while scooters are everywhere, there is not a Vespa, or even a moderately good Vespa clone, in sight.
I guessed that perhaps Vespas, which now cost anywhere upwards of $4,000, were simply too expensive. Anyone in Shanghai who could afford one would probably elect to spend the money on a car instead. Scooters were only aimed at the low-end of the market.
I’ve been secretly wondering, though, if the Vespa might ever make it out here and I finally have my answer. Roberto Colaninno, the head of Piaggio, the Italian makers of the Vespa, was in Shanghai recently for the Expo. He announced that a Piaggio joint venture with the Zongshen Foshan Motorcycle company would soon bring Piaggio scooters to China.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not going to be a Vespa. For some unknown reason, Piaggio has decided to try to break the market with its Mp3 instead.
For those of you not familiar with the Mp3, it is the world’s least romantic and ugliest scooter, with two front wheels that supposedly make it far safer when cornering. "The vehicle we have chosen presents a high technology and innovation content and has set new standards in active safety," said Colaninno.
Meanwhile, Vespas are being built just over the border in Vietnam and also in India. Will someone please bring them over here?