Back in November 2011, Piaggio announced a new Vespa to their range, the Vespa Quarantasei, aka the Vespa 46.
My first impression was ‘what a stunning scooter’. It’s both futuristic and yet also manages to nod to the past, Piaggio explaining the name referred back to the last pre-production prototype, the MP6 and the first Vespa produced… in 1946.
By the Milan Show of 2012 the scooter had acquired indicators, the handlebars had been sterilised somewhat to accommodate things like switches and working levers, and the back end seemed to swoop up a little higher, under which Piaggio’s new eco, 3-valve, 125cc 4-stroke engine sat. It was almost ready for sale, and initial fears of it being an expensive, limited editon model aimed at the collectors market were founded. Oh dear.
So today, as we leave the summer of 2013 behind, search the internet and you’ll find a select few British scooter dealers selling the Vespa 946 at £7812.00. Remember, it’s a 125cc scooter. Piaggio’s own Vespa GTS 300 retails at around £4191.00, just to put it into perspective, so is this new 946 really worth it?
Well, it’s a hand-built scooter with a steel and aluminium composite frame, it has ‘class leading performance and fuel efficiency’, LED headlamps, LCD digital dashboard, ABS (Anti-Lock Braking system), TSR (traction control), 12″ wheels and front and rear linked hydraulic disc brakes, but there’s still the asking price of almost £8k for a learner legal scooter. For that money I could buy myself a GTS 300, a classic Vespa Rally 200 and still have enough change to pay for the insurance and road tax too, plus some petrol. Or for £3221 I could buy a Vespa LX125 which uses exactly the same engine, plus a vintage Vespa GS and also afford the Isle of Wight ferry crossing too!
Of course the 946 is not aimed at the likes of me and other regular Vespa riders, wherever they may be in the world. Instead Piaggio have elevated the Vespa brand beyond the city streets of commuters and enthusiasts and are now aiming it squarely at those with money to spend on collectables and the latest ‘must have’. Although I’ve seen one 946 at a scooter rally, I doubt many more will make an appearance, most being bought and squiralled away, never to turn a wheel on public roads…
Which is a shame, because I still think it is one of the most stunning Vespa scooters produced in recent years. The modern GTS won classic Vespisti hearts with it’s performance (as well of course with it’s generic Vespa stying and robust steel body), but the 946 doesn’t need to reach 80+mph to turn heads. It’s 125cc engine may not set the world alight, but it’s enough for most commutes and on a good day it will give many pre-1970 Vespas a shock in a head to head sprint. It could even outrun a PX200 on a good day… maybe.
The next question to ask is if the Vespa brand is taken out of the hands of those everyday people which helped create it’s reputation in the first place, then how long can the brand survive as the ‘ultimate’ accessory for the rich and brainless? This is not an attack at those with the finances to afford such a scooter; if I could I would. I’m just worried that the Vespa I know and love is being devalued by marketing departments and bean counters, which is a shame for the scooter that mobilised post-war Europe.
By the way, any dealers advertising the new scooter as the ‘Quarantasei’ really should buy themselves an Italian/ English dictionary where they’ll discover it means 46, the original name planned for this Vespa. However there’s another famous Italian also associated with the number 46, so this scooter became the Vespa 946…