The story of LML scooters is a chequered one, probably more so than any other Italian scooter that ended up being produced in India. But what lies ahead for the last manufacturer of geared scooters outside of Italy?
By the way, when we say “last manufacturer of geared scooters” we are aware Piaggio recently ceased production of their Vespa PX, but we have all of our fingers crossed that they and LML will soon put geared scooters back into production.
LML too I hear you ask? Well yes. Earlier in 2016 they temporarily suspended production for a couple of months, to carry out maintenance work and look at the ‘suitability of its facilities to produce three-wheelers’.
By all accounts they were closed longer than anticipated and have only recently re-opened. However, since then full scooter production has not yet restarted.
Following the collapse of their licence agreement with Bajaj in 1971, it took Piaggio a while to pluck up enough courage to re-enter the Indian scooter market. This they did in 1984, licensing Lohia Machines Ltd (LML) to produce a version of the Vespa based on their PX model, and Andhra Pradesh Scooters Ltd (APSL) to produce a smallframe Vespa using tooling from the 50 Special and V100. APSL soon packed up scooter production (they dabbled in assembling Lambrettas as well), but LML continued with variations of the PX (named NV, XE and later Star), PK (Sensation), T5 (Select snd Select 2) and Cosa (Supremo) Vespas, usually all powered with an economic LML version of the PX150 engine. This was until the mid-1990s when following the death of Giovanni Alberto Agnelli, then head of Piaggio, LML found a loophole in their contract and decided they’d be better off on their own rather than with the backing of Piaggio.
As such, for the last 16 years or so, LML Ltd (by now a separate company to the Lohia Group who are still a successful manufacturer of machinery in the textile and weaving industry), have been standing on their own two feet. Well actually, that’s not strictly true because from around 2004 they began to get into difficulties and following the staff being locked out of the factory in 2006, in 2008 they acted under the provisions of Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act to try to turn the company around. Since then they’ve received support from various financial institutions and investors, but despite a once prosperous Egyptian market and the until recently enthusiastic LML Italia, sadly LML hasn’t been the success that people hoped.
India’s First Gearless Scooter For Men!
A large market for LML was Egypt, and when local laws there almost outlawed 2-strokes overnight, LML were forced to take action; and so a hastily prepared 4-stroke version of their Vespa PX derived engine was cobbled together (note that Bajaj had beaten them to producing a modern 4-stroke, 4-speed scooter by about 10 years). The 150cc capacity version was fairly popular across the board, although the 200cc model they produced for the European market wasn’t particularly great (performance was good, but a couple of little problems let it down).
LML followed this with an automatic version of their Star scooter (the name now bestowed on their PX lookalike) which although it all the appearances of ‘making do’, wasn’t so bad for the money.
Unfortunately, not enough customers agreed so LML recently launched the Star Euro Automatic 150cc scooter on their home market, with budget drum front brake version too. Various tag lines such as ‘India’s First Gearless Scooter For Men’ and ‘Styled For Men’ in their advertising campaign all seems to play on the fact that by all accounts the Vespa LX is a popular choice with the ladies in India, so we presume this was LML’s attempt to attract the male market. Not sure that’s going to work to be honest, although utilising the colour schemes that mainly originated via the input of LML Italia isn’t a bad thing for their local market.
Stranger still however was their launch of the Star 200 4-stroke on the Indian market, an engine not that popular locally due to neither being frugal enough for those after ultra economy, nor powerful enough for those wishing to splash out on a sports model.
Interestingly, Indian reviews of LML scooters so seem to ring familiar bells and while we here in the UK may have charitably put a few niggles down to the fact it was cheap scooter from India, the local journos also picked up on, “The chrome surrounds around the indicators and the horn grill looks horrible to look and I feel they will turn black in no time”, “the rubber around the storage box is already turning white”, and “In order to succeed and fight with Current crop of scooters… LML would have to iron out the rough edges.”
Following the recent shutdown mentioned earlier, LML have re-emerged as a potential player in the burdening three-wheeler segment, a market already dominated by the likes of Bajaj, Mahindra & Mahindra, Atul, TVS and Piaggio, and to a lesser extent the Lambretta derived products of Kerela Motors and SIL.
What LML have to offer is yet to be seen, although the suggestion is the design is inspired by a Piaggio (or Bajaj) vehicle, and it will be powered by a 4-stroke engine of around 200cc, running on 4.00×8 tyres.
LML describe the forthcoming vehicle themselves as “A revolution which creates a new category in the load carrier segment,” and suggest there is a gap in the “small cargo load carrying segment” for a “more affordable, versatile and viable 3 wheeler that can address the changing need of the consumer.”
For more information try their main website, although it is only half working and out of date.
They do have a new website specifically for the forthcoming 3-wheeler, which contains a brief company history and teaser videos which sometimes play. It also suggests that LML may well re-enter the plastic auto scooter market too, speculating that 2017 will be the year.
We hope this is not the end of LML scooters we know it – at the very least their presence has seemingly kept Piaggio on their toes. However one can’t help but think had LML not killed the proverbial golden goose when they broke away from Piaggio in the late 1990s that things would be a little rosier all round. oh well…