Imagine my surprise when, after having my ass kissed for several years, I attend a press event where I am scolded, along with several other journalists, by the manufacturer’s rep. That’s right, most manufacturers want to “make nice” with the media, for obvious reasons. Piaggio’s North American president, however, had a different idea. The media wasn’t doing a good job of selling motorcycles as transportation in the U.S. The traditional buyer here, of course, is focused on entertainment, not practicality. Piaggio wants that to change (although they still want the occassional buyer to step up for an expensive Italian superbike).
Piaggio has a point. Motorcycle journalism in the U.S. thus far has catered to the “enthusiast” who views a motorcycle as an object of passion and desire, not as a simple transportation device. In Europe, where Piaggio has sold approximately ten gazillion scooters (branded Vespa, Piaggio and Aprilia), the attitude is different. Scooters are a way of life, and two wheelers in general are a way of life, beyond entertainment. They get you to and from the places you need to go on a daily basis… without sucking the life out of your wallet (as most of you know, European gas prices have been dramatically higher than prices here in the U.S. for a long time).
The problem with all this was ironically illustrated by the Piaggio press event, itself. When I asked Mr. President whether Piaggio offered small, inexpensive scooters here in the U.S., he acted somewhat surprised and advised me that, of course, they did offer such machines (ever heard of the Piaggio Fly 50, with its 110mpg rating and 39mph top speed?). The irony? We were at this event, in large part, to sample the Piaggio product available for sale here in the United States. It was all carefully laid out for us in the parking lot, and after registering we could simply hop on anything we might like to ride, including Aprilia RSVs, big Moto Guzzis, and trendy Vespas. Unfortunately, Piaggio didn’t make available to any of us the small displacement, inexpensive scooters I had asked about (not a Fly 50 in sight!), apparently, because Piaggio believed we would have no interest in testing those scooters, and our readers would have no interest in reading about them!
For us, transportation can be combined with enthusiasm and passion, not only with regard to two wheeled vehicles (or, in the case of the Piaggio MP3, three wheeled), but also with automobiles. You will see us address the transportation aspect here at MD, but we will never forget the passion part. Having said that, don’t hold your breath waiting for the article titled “50cc Scooters Bang Heads: Who’s The Top Dog?”, but stranger things have happened.