Vespa History 1946-2003  
  May 2003  
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  The origins
Piaggio was founded in Genoa in 1884 by twenty-year-old Rinaldo Piaggio.
The first activity of Rinaldo's factory was luxury ship fitting. But by the end of the century, Piaggio was also producing rail carriages, goods vans, luxury coaches and engines, trams and special truck bodies.
World War I brought a new diversification that was to distinguish Piaggio activities for many decades. The company started producing aeroplanes and seaplanes. At the same time, new plants were springing up. In 1917 Piaggio bought a new plant in Pisa, and four years later it took over a small plant in Pontedera which first became the centre of aeronautical production (propellers, engines and complete aircraft) and then, after World War II, witnessed the birth of the iconic Vespa.
   
         
  From aeronautics to individual mobility: the transformation of 1946
The war, a radical watershed for the entire Italian economy, was equally important for Piaggio. The Pontedera plant built the state-of-the-art four-engine P 108 equipped with a 1,500-bhp Piaggio engine in passenger and bomber versions. However Piaggio’s aeronautical plants in Tuscany (Pontedera and Pisa) were important military targets and on August 31, 1943 they were razed to the ground by Allied bombers, after the retreating Germans had already mined the pillars of the buildings and irrevocably damaged the plants.
To rebuild the Pontedera plants, Enrico Piaggio asked the Allies, who then occupied part of the grounds and of the buildings still standing, to arrange for the machinery transferred to Germany and Biella in northern Italy to be brought back. This was done rapidly and Armando and Enrico Piaggio then began the process of rebuilding. The hardest task went to Enrico, who was responsible for the destroyed plants of Pontedera and Pisa.
Enrico Piaggio’s decision to enter the light mobility business was based on economic assessments and sociological considerations. It took shape thanks to the successful co-operation of the aeronautical engineer and inventor Corradino D’Ascanio (1891-1981).
 
                   
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