Italy, more than any other country, is known for its motorscooters. In the movies, a photograph of Rome, or in a story about this sunbathed country, the motorscooter is an obvious feature in the Italian way of life. The name most often mentioned when scooters are discussed is Lambretta, and the story of this marquee is a study of the post-war industrialisation of Italy. The Lambretta, like many of its European brothers, is locked up and interwoven with a parent company that produces many other products in addition to its two-wheeled vehicles.
The story of this legendary scooter actually began in 1922, when Ferdinando Innocenti moved to Rome from his native Pescia for the purpose of building a factory. The product of this enterprising industrialist was steel tubing, and such ingenuity was involved that Innocenti's wares became renowned throughout Europe.
In 1931, Ferdinando moved to Milan, which had become the industrial centre of Italy, and a new and much larger factory was built. Mr. Innocenti developed a seamless steel tube for industry, and 6000 people were employed in this plant.
Then came World War II, and the factory was reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble. When Ferdinando viewed his war damaged homeland in 1946, he saw the roads torn up, cities levelled, and the populace left with little means of transportation. Like Mr. Piaggio, he reasoned that the answer to the transportation problem, was the motorscooter - a vehicle that would feature a low production cost, be inexpensive to operate, and would offer better weather protection than a motorcycle. The production of motorscooters began in 1947, after one year had been spent in developing and testing the prototype model. As well as the obvious Italy, Lambretta's have been made around the world, from their birth place in Italy to other countries such as Spain, India, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and more. Although some producers did market the Lambretta under differing names, such as the Serveta from Spain, the Siambretta from South America, they all share the family design that came originally from Italy.
Innocenti's demise came at a time when sales of scooters were slowing down due to small cars entering the market at affordable prices. BMC struck a deal with Innocenti for them to produce cars under license from BMC. Within this contract was a clause should Innocenti ever decided to sell, BMC had first refusal. The inevitable happened, Innocenti was sold to BMC, who quickly saw the Lambretta products as a gimmick. Long industrial strikes ensued, along with poor scooter sales eventually lead to the closure of the Innocenti factory in 1972. The factory was sold to the Indian government, and Scooters India Ltd began production using the Innocenti tooling around two years later. S.I.L stopped producing two wheeled scooters in 1998, and today survive on producing their own version of the Lambro three wheeler.