Long appreciated in the U.S. as an icon of Italian style, the vespa scooter is now making real inroads into the American mainstream. Last year, it became the top-selling European two-wheeler in the States, with more than 5,300 units sold.
NEW YORK – Even as recently as a decade ago, Vespa scooters were a rare sight in Manhattan. Not so today. Vespamania has officially taken America by storm. In New York City they're zooming along every street, parked up on every other sidewalk – just like in Milan or Rome. There is even a Vespa restaurant on Second Avenue.
In 2011, Vespa's LX model was the top-selling European two-wheeler in the States, with more than 5,300 units sold. The company that makes them, Piaggio Group, increased its market share of America's scooter market from 27.1% to almost 30%, selling some 10,300 scooters for a total of roughly 35 million euros.
The group's chief Roberto Colannino has also recently announced that a special motor design center will be opened in Pasadena, California as part of the scooter company's strategy of the "globalization of intelligence."
The Italian scooter has even made its debut on the political scene. On March 8, during a Washington D.C. fundraising dinner for President Barack Obama's re-election, the name of the cocktail served at the president's table was "I'm thinking about getting a Vespa."
Embraced by "mods' and artists alike, Vespas had long enjoyed a certain cult status in the United States. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City recently hailed it as a design icon.
The difference now is that the iconic Italian scooters appear to have finally gone mainstream. P.J. Clarke's, a popular chain of Irish bars, even featured a raffle for two Vespas as part of its various Saint Patrick's Day celebrations.
Read the full story in Italian by Glauco Maggi
Photo - Eduardo Pavon
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations