Two Wheels Beat Four: Piaggio's Plan for Vespa Sales

Continued from Part One.

While Vespa’s modified LX version will sell in India for the knockdown price of Rs 66,000 ($1,270), it will still be pricey compared to domestic rivals who are churning out popular models like the TVS Scoot Streak at just under Rs 40,000, according to the FT.

Nevertheless, Piaggio is confident it will carve out a niche among the rising middle class looking for a second vehicle, or just those looking to make a style statement. Scooters are expected to be particularly popular among women and the young. While a doubling of global production capacity sounds ambitious, 150,000 vehicles is only 1.25 percent of India’s 12 million annual two-wheeler sales market.

Indeed, of all wheeled vehicle purchases in India, two-wheelers still account for three-quarters of the total; and in spite of some of the lowest-cost base model autos in the world trying to lure buyers into four wheels, the two-wheeler market is still growing at 15-20 percent per annum.

Motorcycle and scooter sales are strong just about everywhere outside of Europe. In part, this may be the attractions of far greater fuel economy, but lifestyle and image choices may also be playing a part.

Back in the US, Harley-Davidson says the greatest growth both domestically and abroad is coming from riders who have never owned a Harley before, countering a long-held view that the firm’s brand was stuck in the past with an aging clientele.

Road safety activists will decry this newfound global enthusiasm for two wheels as a retrograde step, but as a one-time owner of motorcycles, I can see the attractions, both for the rider and for other road users — two wheels take up less room than four. While I cannot see any immediate likelihood of a snappy little Vespa enticing me out of my car, I will admit a Harley could be another matter.

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