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(established 1884)

The most famous design associated with this large industrial design company was the Vespa motor scooter designed by the aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio at the end of the Second World War. It was a symbol of the democratic spirit that underpinned certain aspects of design in Italy in the early years of reconstruction. The Piaggio Company was founded by Rinaldo Piaggio (1864–1938) in Genoa and in its early years was involved in the manufacture of ship and railway fittings, automobiles, and later aeronautics. It expanded over the next half‐century, opening new factories in Tuscany, and, by the outbreak of the Second World War, was a leading European manufacturer of aeronautics, railways, and steamships. Complementing a series of record‐breaking aero engines in the 1930s was the MC2 railway locomotive, one of the company's more innovative designs of the 1930s. On Rinaldo Piaggio's death his two sons Armando (1901–78) and Enrico (1905–65) split the corporate responsibilities between them, with Enrico the moving force behind the launch of the Vespa in 1946. The Ape scooter‐truck of 1948 embodied similar characteristics of practicality and was a highly economic means of shifting goods in the urban environment, rather similar in spirit to Japanese designer Jiro Kosugi's three‐wheeled trucks designed for the Toyo Kogyo Company (now Mazda) in Hiroshima on which he worked from 1948 onwards. Not as well known as the ubiquitous Vespa or the highly successful Ape truck was D'Ascanio's design of the Vespa 400 small car launched in 1957, available in two‐ or four‐seat versions and powered by a 394 cc two‐stroke engine. However, only about 30,000 were manufactured. The company's success in two‐wheeled motor transport continued with the production of the Ciao moped, launched in 1968, based on similar ideas to those of the Honda Super Cub of 1958. The Piaggo company history is recorded in the large documentary and audio‐visual archives within the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, opened in 2000. Also on display are many Piaggio products.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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